I've come to realize over the years that education isn't everything. Really, what worth does a high school or college degree have if your child (now an adult) is lazy, feels entitled, is dependent on society to make his decisions, or even worse, is a bully who cares nothing for the feelings of others? Even more so, what worth is anything your child may gain if he or she fails to take that crucial step of admitting sin and seeking the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers us all?
An adult who lacks the qualities that we defined yesterday as character, and which are the fruits of the spirit that work themselves out in our lives when we come to a saving faith, is not going to have an easy or eternally fruitful life. Some may achieve powerful positions if they learn to manipulate others instead of putting others first as scripture commands, but of what consequence is that power if there is no love? Others, who refuse to follow the admonitions that "if you don't work you don't eat", and "to always work as if working for the Lord," may wind up with a string of failed jobs, a lack of employer recommendations, or in a dead end position. These poor employees will certainly not have the creativity or initiative to start and run their own business, so that they may be a servant to no one, which is what I desire for my own children.
A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with an older gentleman who turned out to be a personnel consultant. He travels all over the country looking for young college graduates who might be potential employees for certain influential companies. He said that these days there are so many graduates who exit school with a 4.0+ average (due to weighted courses) and stellar test scores (due to the many "how to beat the..." books), that it can sometimes be tough to identify the stars...but he also said he has found that the top notch interviewees are always those whose character shines the brightest which is evident in the section of their resumes that tells what they did with their free time.
Did they volunteer for a charitable organization or start their own creative endeavor? Did they prove that they can work well with a team of individuals and contribute innovative ideas? Are they reliable and trustworthy? Cooperative and considerate? Self-controlled and sacrificing? Diligent and determined? He told me that the companies he consults for will choose a candidate with imperfect grades and test scores, but strong evidence of positive character traits (as in held a job while in school, started their own small company, did missions work, ran a fundraising marathon, etc.) over the "paper perfect" candidate every time.
If you ask me, that all sounds like the employers of today (and tomorrow) are looking for employees with good CHARACTER. Why does it seem to surprise people today that having good character is a marketable trait? Being the top of your class, with the best grades, climbing over anyone who stands in your way just isn't enough these days. In fact, it turns out, it isn't even necessarily wanted by those who are the real quality employers. Back when my parents and their parents were growing up, the development good character was a necessary quality for success, not an exception. What happened?
Well, this series of posts is not really a forum for me to go on about how changing societal norms are pulling the rug out from under our proverbial feet, but I do want to say that my husband and I know that we want our children to be different. In the world, but not of it. In the Word...and loving it.
It has been my experience that when you spend time alone WITH GOD and with others who are spending time WITH GOD, then good things start to happen. Hearts change, people change, character improves, and things run more smoothly and effectively.
I don't want you to get the idea that I believe in the development of good character traits in the worldly way that has become somewhat of a fad, especially in the public school system. Do you remember how about ten years ago the schools were preaching "self-esteem?" Have you noticed that now there is a movement towards developing character instead? What happened to make them change their tune? A generation of self-absorbed, entitled, and indulgent young people, maybe? Falling test scores? Less discipline?
In any case, this trend isn't inherently bad, but the secular world's reasons for promoting character just aren't the same reasons I have as a Christian homeschooling parent for teaching character, and because of that, the method will not be the same.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Psalm 111:10
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17
I personally believe that the primary instruction manual any of us have is the word of God, the Bible. If you look in the Bible, you will find plenty of instruction on how to build up godly character.
Romans 5:1-5 states: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Colossians 3:12-17 says: Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Galatians 5:22-25 tells us that But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
You can pull out your own copy of the Bible and find many more examples yourself. I am sure you probably already know many of them. However, I am suggesting that we must go farther than a passing acquaintance with a few Bible verses. Not only do we need to "be doers of the word and not hearers only" (James 1:22), but we must also heed that familiar verse in Proverbs 22:6 that admonishes us to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." and Ephesians 6:4 "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
This will not guarantee that everything will always work out the way we might wish it to. But when we are living out the scriptures and praying for the Lord's wisdom and discernment in raising our children to have godly character, we can at least be sure we are following the leading of the Lord. He gave us His word for a purpose, and it was a greater one than as a place to collect church bulletins in and write in family marriages and births...
While there might be trials ahead, since we are all sinners, and every person must make their own choice to follow Christ, we can fully rely on God and put our hopes in Him, instead of in man-made ideals and prizes. Our prize is an eternal one, and our goal should be to develop in our children an appreciation for that freely given gift they may receive and also for the value of others to our Lord. When that appreciation leads to good character which benefits us all, then I can say "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4
Join us tomorrow to hear how we work on developing character in our home, and for an extensive listing of free and favorite resources.
Schedule for the week:
Wednesday--How can we develop good character in our children? (with links to character-building freebies and our favorite not free character training resources.
Thursday--How reading aloud to your family will help strengthen character and your family. (With many links to online/downloadable free quality literature and audio books)
Friday--When do we train for character and who benefits...Developing character in your children through serving others.