A Test of Character

At 6:00am, one cold morning, a missionary candidate walked into the office for a scheduled interview with the director of a mission board. He sat in the waiting room until 10:00am when the director finally showed up. Without a word of explanation about the four hour delay, the director said, “Let’s get to the test. First, spell ‘cat.’” The surprised applicant replied, “C-A-T.” The director then asked, “How much is two plus two?” “Four,” the young man responded.

For a few moments, the director silently stared at the applicant. “Congratulations,” he said, “You have passed the test. We would be delighted to have you serve with our board.”

“I don’t understand,” the candidate replied, “How could what you have learned about me in this interview convince you that I am qualified to serve as a missionary?”

“Oh, I learned a great deal about you from this interview,” the director said. “Your willingness to come to the office at 6:00am demonstrated self-denial. Waiting for me for four hours without a word of complaint shows me you are patient and have control of your temper. Not scoffing at the simple questions I asked, indicates that you are a humble man. You are just the type of person we would like to have serve with us!”

Friends, I am not sure that type of interview provides sufficient information to determine whether that individual would be a good missionary. However, potential employers can learn important things about us by watching our response to adverse or irritating circumstances. How we respond to the unpleasant situations we face in life reveals important aspects of our character. Yet, sometimes our reaction to even slight adversity leaves much to be desired. Some folks complain about having to go out at even 9:00am if it is a cold morning. Waiting in line, not for four hours, but four minutes, causes some of us to lose our cool. Other people treat almost any question they are asked as “stupid” and seem to be intent on putting down those who ask the questions. These are all evidence of weakness in character.

Adversity does more, however, than reveal our character. In Romans 5:4, the Apostle Paul tells us that we can “rejoice in our sufferings” because they improve our character. In a sense, our ability to deal with adversity often gets better with practice. When the Lord sustains us through a difficult time, it tends to increase our confidence that He will do so when adversity strikes again. Many important lessons of life are learned best in the crucible of suffering. That doesn’t make adversity any more enjoyable, but it enables us to respond with patience as we wait for God to use difficult circumstances to help us become more and more whom He has called us to be.

Friends, how we choose to deal with difficult situations is a true test of character. Whether the challenges we face this week are large or small, we need to ask the Lord to help us respond in ways that would honor Him and encourage others. We can also thank Him for important lessons we are learning in the midst of adversity.

Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church
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