Character Building

James 1:19-20 says 19wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

Though these verses are short we can learn some valuable lessons about character that all Christians should work on possessing. As you read through this today ask yourself if you have them.

The first word we see in verse 19 is wherefore. This wherefore shows us that it is a continuation of the preceding verse. Verse 18 talks about how we are born through the word of God by His will that we should be firstfruits unto Him (see yesterday’s lesson for more). Thus we can conclude that this verse is saying that because we are born again we should do what is contained in verse 19. This is further emphasised by the phrase “my beloved brethren” which shows this verse is talking to believers.

The verse continues “let every man”. It doesn’t say let some men, or let only the chosen men; it says every man. The lesson contained within these verses is for everyone as an individual. This is for everyone!

Reading on we find the first character criteria we are to obtain: “swift to hear”. As a servant is quick to hear the masters’ call and a mother to hear her baby’s smallest cry, so must the believer be swift to hear what God has to say. Reading through your bible you are certain to come across things God tells you to do, and being a swift hearer you should be swift to act. However, while God is our priority, a Christian should also be listening out for any need of any nature. For example, last week in church a lady was coughing, a friend of mine, being swift to hear, went and got her a glass of water. What was he doing? He was hearing a need and meeting it. How are your hearing skills? Are you swift to hear or are you spiritually deaf?

The next character criteria is “slow to speak”. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you have two ears and one mouth for a reason’? It’s pretty much saying that we should listen twice as much as we speak. All too many of us are arguing with God’s word, if not verbally then in our hearts and minds. Reading through Proverbs you will soon discover that silence is often a sign of wisdom. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all. Often people will blurt out a retort which gets them in a lot of trouble. To exemplify this I offer you a personal story. In my younger, unlearned days I was witnessing to a friend and we somehow got onto the topic of creation and evolution and things like that. Before I knew it we were in a debate which took us far away from the gospel and ended without getting back to it. Now that I look back that was such a wasted opportunity! As he brought up the subject I could have passed by it and focused on the gospel but instead I got side tracked. If I had kept my mouth closed about the subject then maybe my witnessing would have been more effective. I should have been slow to speak. How slow are you to speak? Do you go on debating when you should be focusing on the important matters? Do you cause arguments by what you say and the way you say it? Are you slow to speak or a spiritual loudmouth?

The final character criteria we see is “slow to wrath”. Now this is a soft spot for a lot of people! It amazes me sometimes how short-fused people can be, especially among the Christian community. I think to the garden of gethsemane. Peter in the garden was the complete opposite to what we find in this verse by being slow to hear, quick to speak and swift to wrath – he chopped another man’s ear off! It is sad to say that many church fights (a phrase i really don’t like saying) have started through short tempers and ill-chosen words. Wrath is not always aimed at man though. How many of us are guilty of getting angry at God or His word for revealing our sin to us. A man who breaks a mirror because he doesn’t like what he sees in it is like a Christian getting angry at God because He has revealed a truth about them and their sinfulness. How quick are you to wrath? Do you blow up every time someone says something nasty? Do you throw a punch before throwing a second chance? Do you close your bible and get in a bad mood when God convicts you of a sin in your life? Are you slow to wrath or a spiritual brawler?

Verse 20 expands upon this point. “for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” We are to understand that there is a godly anger against sin; and if we love the lord we are to hate sin, but man’s anger does not produce Gods righteousness. In fact man’s anger is the complete opposite of the patience God wants to produce in our lives (James 1:3-4). When people see you as a Christian getting angry at every little thing what witness does that present? People will see you and see the lack of patience, the lack of trust, the lack of faith and the lack of self-control. Man’s anger does not work for the righteousness of God. Consider it on the flip side of the coin. If people see you calm, cool and collected through constant antagonising then they will see your patience, your trust, your faith and your self-control. These things work for the righteousness of God.

Look at your own life today and ask yourself some questions. Compare your heart to this verse and see where you rank. I’m speaking to myself here too. How swift are you to hear, how slow are you to speak and how slow are you to wrath? If you find yourself lacking or not even possessing these traits then I pray that you ask God to help you in these areas. If you like study Proverbs and see what it has to say about these matters. How you control these 3 things in your life are a witness to the people around you. Use these things to bring about the righteousness of God. If you can master these things it will make your life a lot easier. Give it a go and see what it does for you. When someone does something to annoy you remember this verse. When someone tries to start an argument remember this verse. When you hear someone in need or God talking to you remember this verse. Write this verse upon your heart and live by it; it will do wonders! – Andrew.

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Posted on September 9, 2012, in Andrew's Thoughts for the Day and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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