Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 6, 1964

Moulding Character

Gordon Wilson

Into what mould have you been cast? Are you shaped like unto Jesus, or do you more closely resemble the god of this world? Jehovah is the Master Sculptor, but there is much for us to do in developing our character. We must be supple and pliant in His hands, We must say, "Thou art the Potter, I am the clay." Turning to the sacred pages of inspiration we can learn much about the kind of persons the Lord would have us to be.

Character has to do with what we are. What we are will be demonstrated in what we do. Therefore, our character will show in our deeds. Good people can look at the way we live and know what we are, really are, inside. It is hard to fool everybody in the world, and impossible to fool God.

Not only will our character determine our actions, but conversely, our actions will help to mould our character. By actually practicing righteousness a person may reach a decision to continue in it. The more we do good the nearer we shall come to being good. No one can live the Christian life in earnest without realizing that it is the best life in the world, and the only life in which there is any genuine happiness.

Character is an attribute of the heart "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." Christ said, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things" (Matthew 12:35). Purity of heart is essential to purity of life. If we think only good things, how can we do that which is evil? Listen to Paul: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

The heart of man includes his will; that part which purposes or determines. The will must be governed for it plays a very important role in moulding character. Will to be evil and that is what you will be. Will to be good and you will be good, consequently will do good. The most pitiable man in the world is that man who has no willpower. Weakness, vacillation, infortitude, and recurrent lapses into sin, are his most marked characteristics. Young people should begin early in life to practice self-control in exercising the will. Those who are older should not give up the struggle, but like Paul. "Buffet (your) body daily, and bring it under subjection." By exerting the influence of the will we can strengthen our character. Only let us remember always to conform our wills to God's will.

Even though character depends upon the will, generally speaking, we do not wish to disregard the effects of environment, training, and circumstances on one's character. If character springs from the will, it is also true that motive governs the will. Why should a man will to be good? What motivates some to want to be evil?

Environment is very important. This includes background and associates. Paul said, "Be not deceived, evil companionships corrupt good morals" (I Corinthians 15:33). How many do deceive themselves into thinking that they can associate constantly with evil companions and choose for themselves intimates of reprobate mind without suffering the effects of it? We cannot surround ourselves persistently with persons who openly and knowingly have rebelled against morality and Christianity without becoming tainted in some way. As Alexander Pope said,

"Sin is a creature of such frightful mien

That to be hated needs but to be seen;

But seen too often, familiar with her face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace."

We surely need to be careful about the friends we make and the places we go.

Training also effects character. What I am taught that I should be is usually what I want to be, therefore will be. A great responsibility is upon the parent, the Bible class teacher, the preacher, and the elders of the church, to train those in their charge in such a way as to develop the best character. Solomon declared, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Perhaps the greatest method of training is by setting proper examples. Parents who maintain no dignity in front of their children need not expect to rear them into serious-minded adults. When a father and mother make a practice of gossiping and backbiting, how can they think that their children will be discreet when grown? But if a youth learns to respect his parents, as he grows older he will also learn to respect the things they believe in and stand for. He will want to be like them in their best characteristics.

We must also consider circumstances and their influence on character. This includes many things that we do not have the space to discuss here. It is possible for circumstances to arise and events to occur of such a severe nature that it will shake one loose from his environment and make him forget the training he may have received. The sudden death of a close friend may sober a fickle-minded person greatly. The thrill of seeing for the first time some great monument of nature may cause an individual to want to draw closer to God, though he may have been quite indifferent before. There is no doubt that circumstances may have a tremendous and permanent effect on character, but it is equally true that the strength of one's character will determine how he will meet circumstances, and what effect they will have on his character.

— 1364 Manzanita Ave., Chico, California