Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.     – John Wooden

I have one of those inspirational quote a day apps on my iPhone, and this quote from Coach Wooden came up yesterday.  WOW!  It hit me as such a solid foundational truth, and one that is so challenging and personal to me, that I took a screen shot and made it my lock screen image so I will be reminded of it daily.  It seemed pithy and relevant enough to me that I thought it worth sharing with you on my blog.  And so I sat down at my laptop, found a catchy image to accompany it (we are visual creatures, are we not?), and began to write.  “This is such a rich truth that there must be some passage of scripture that would drive this point home more deeply,” I thought to my self.  And so, I opened up, and the Holy Spirit hit me with this gem…

“And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”     Romans 5:4-5 (Contemporary English Version)

This really grabbed my attention, because I am all about finding and sharing HOPE, as you may have guessed by the name of my website, and would certainly know if you have ever visited my office.  (See exhibits A-C from my office below)  And this verse explains where we can obtain the best kind of hope, “a hope that will never disappoint us.”  GREAT!  So real hope that is absolutely dependable to pay off in the end is a product of character.  Brilliant.  Have the right character, get real hope.  Got it.  But it hit me that verse 4 begins with “And,” and this means we are joining Paul in the middle of an inspired thought, so I would do well to go back to the beginning of his topic in order to get the real point.

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“By faith we have been made acceptable to God.  And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God.  Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand.  So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all!  We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”     Romans 5:1-5 (Contemporary English Version)

WHAT?!!  Hold up, there, Paul.  Gladly suffer?  I’m looking for hope, and was kinda thinking joy usually gets sprinkled in with that deal.  What’s up with the suffering business?  And “gladly?!?”  WOW!

The truth is my Real Hope ultimately comes through Christ by faith.  I am powerless to save myself, and I am simply too depraved in my sinful nature to ever present myself as acceptable before the throne of the Holy God.  Jesus came to open the door for me.  Thank you beyond all my words, Lord!  But if I want to have real abiding peace in this hope through Christ, I must live with His upright character.  And if I want to develop that kind of high character, I must practice it by enduring suffering.  It is through the fires of trial and temptation that my heart is refined with the kind of fire than can produce high quality character.  I may be able to put on a good show with my public actions that lead to a noble reputation.  But my true character is revealed in the motivations, desires, and words of my heart that are always in God’s plain view, regardless of who else may be looking or seeing the truth about me.  Will I stand on His Word and seek His will and His righteousness and His glory?  Or will I look to my own strength and whatever I can find for myself to make ME feel better or to escape the pain of the suffering.

And I can attest to this truth.  I have lived most of my life with a high reputation.  Most people tend to like me and think well of me.  And sometimes this really is a reflection of the character of Christ living in me.  But other times, it is simply a reflection of how well I can impress people.  Big whooptie-do!  Like that’s of any eternal value.  I know that when I have been living in a place of low character, being motivated by my sinful nature (pride, fear, resentment, lust, greed, etc), rather than by the Holy Spirit of God living in me, I have been stripped of my peace.  And when peace is gone for long enough, hope begins to drain away after it.  By the same token, when I am living with character that is fueled by and reflective of the Living Word of God, I am filled with great peace, hope, and joy.  And when I am living this way, I am really rather unconcerned with what others think of me (my reputation).

Thank you, LORD, for eternally washing me with your blood, your love, and your grace.  Thank you this season of my life for bringing me back to your Word for daily bread.  Thank you for gently, yet firmly, taking my eyes off of the glitter of this world and leading the gaze of my heart back to your glory.  And thank you this week for using an old basketball coach and an iPhone app to remind me how worthless is the pursuit of reputation, and how priceless is the pursuit of character.

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