DEVELOPING CHARACTER BY CULTIVATING PROPER HABITS
Young people should try their best to pick up good habits. One such habit is making your bed in the morning. If I want to find out about a young man’s character, the first thing I would look at is his bed. This is a small thing, but what we are is more easily expressed in small things than in big things. In big things, we can perform or act as actors, but in small things, we are really genuine, expressing what we really are. I recommend the book Character to you that it may be a help in developing your character. The first three points of character presented in this book are genuineness, exactness, and strictness. To be genuine is to be what you are without any pretension. To be exact is to be accurate, without understatement or exaggeration. In married life, many separations and divorces are due to carelessness and inaccuracies. In the church life, inaccuracies can cause a lot of trouble. We must practice to build up our character by learning to be genuine, exact, and strict.
By practicing, we build up a habit. For example, some only dust the middle of a piece of furniture, neglecting the edges. But others dust the entire piece of furniture thoroughly. This is by habit. We must build up a habit of doing things thoroughly. We also should practice to be accurate. A person who does not practice to be accurate cannot rightly understand the Bible. If you practice to be accurate, when you read the Bible, you will read it accurately, because this is your habit. For example, 1 Corinthians 14:23, a verse which is very familiar to us, says, “If therefore the whole church comes together in one place.” The first two words are neglected by most readers. The word “therefore” simply indicates a continuation of the foregoing verse. But the word “if” indicates a great deal more. If the church comes together regularly, there is no need to say, “If the church comes together.” “If” indicates that the whole church does not come together regularly. Our practice corresponds to this verse. The New Testament way of practicing the church meetings was to mainly meet in the homes. Sometimes, the whole church came together, so “if” is used. This is an example of accuracy and strictness. If by practice you have been built up as a strict and accurate person, you will pay attention to each word of the Bible.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: Should we use our natural effort to build up our character?
Answer: No, we should not. As Christians seeking after the Lord, we do not need to do anything by our own effort. We should always do things first by prayer. This is the reason that the Bible charges us to pray unceasingly (1 Thes. 5:17). We should praise the Lord and tell Him that we are weak and unable to do what we should do. Then, after some prayer, we should exercise to trust in the Lord and look unto Him daily. If we are concerned about our character, we should pray, trust in the Lord, and look unto Him. We look unto Him to help us build up our character and to rescue us from our old habit. This is what is meant by endeavoring. In Colossians 1:29, Paul said that he struggled. It seems that it is we who are struggling, but actually, we trust the Lord to do things. When we say that we must endeavor to do things, this does not mean that we do things with our own effort like Olympic athletes. Rather, we endeavor, struggle, and even fight, not by ourselves, but through prayer, trusting in the Lord.
Question: Can outward rules and regulations like those in this training help us to develop character? These all seem to be outward. But to pray, trusting the Lord, looking to Him, seems to be more inward. Are both useful?
Answer: It is difficult to say that looking to the Lord is only inward. To look unto the Lord or to trust in the Lord is both inward and outward. We do have an attitude and we also hold such a spirit that we are looking unto Him, trusting Him to do things for us. Even this is a kind of character, a good Christian character. This is something every seeking Christian should have. All day long we should have an attitude that we are looking to the Lord, trusting in Him, and praying to Him. When we are such persons, our colleagues or co-workers who are with us daily and weekly will notice that we are people who trust in the Lord. This is our cooperation with the Lord. We are linked to Him, joined to Him, as one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). So, we must live such a life, doing everything by trusting in Him through prayer.
(The Experience and Growth in Life, Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)