“It is important that in any kind of ministry…we always insist on character before gift.”
There was a season in my life over ten years ago when I attended several Christian conferences along with revivals in Pensacola, Florida and Argentina, in hopes of receiving a great touch of the Holy Spirit and growth in spiritual gifts. Today I still want God to anoint me to speak prophetically, to physically and emotionally heal those who hurt and to have the gift of faith which moves mountains, but not at the expense of godly character.
If I can’t have both spiritual gifting and godly character, then give me godliness any day over spiritual gifts. Don’t get me wrong, spiritual gifts are wonderful. I love to see God move in His power and might. But not without godliness at the helm.
Character is the foundation, the stabilizing force, while spiritual gifts are the structure which demonstrate God’s power. Godliness is the substance which supports or carries the gifts of the Spirit. Godly character is the character of God in us; it’s who God is, while manifestations of the Spirit are what Jesus did. Christ-likeness is the cake, while gifting is the icing on the cake.
God shares what He cares about in I Samuel 16:7. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” God is more concerned about what’s inside of us, our character, than the outward appearance of our gifts.
I remember in high school having to study language for two years and thinking how useless it was to spend so much time learning something I didn’t think I’d ever need. It wasn’t until I went down to Mexico on a short-term mission trip that I was grateful I learned Spanish. Knowing the reasons behind something is often the motivation we need to pursue it.
Why is godly character so important? Without godliness, we offend others. Without godliness, we misrepresent God not only to those who know Him, but sadly to unbelievers as well. Without godliness we’ll burn and crash in ministry. (Ministry is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Godly character is needed for the long haul, to finish the race.) And most importantly, without godliness we grieve God’s heart.
So what does godliness look like? Galatians 5:22-23 describes it well. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Love is extending grace and forgiveness toward those who hurt you. Joy is having a contagious, happy heart. Peace is being at rest in the midst of the raging storms of life. Patience is endurance without murmuring and being calmly diligent. Kindness is delighting in helping others be happy. Goodness starts with a pure heart and ends in virtuous qualities and moral works. Faithfulness is being loyal, dependable, and true to your word. Gentleness is mildness of temper, being tender hearted. And self-control is ruling over your fleshly desires.
In essence, godly character is becoming more and more like Christ. He encompasses the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Oswald Chambers writes: “The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness.” The fruit of the Spirit is a checklist to see how close we look like our heavenly Father.
I’d rather see someone love their enemies than heal the sick. I’d rather see Christians full of integrity, being the same in private as they are in public, than being full of words of knowledge. My desire is to see both godliness and divine gifting in believers. Pairing godly character with gifts of the Spirit produce the greatest glory for God. Seek to develop your spiritual gifts, but especially pursue Christ-likeness.
“God is more concerned about our character than our comfort. His goal is not to pamper us physically but to perfect us spiritually.”
Paul W. Powell
1. What are you most concerned about? Moving in spiritual gifts or living a life of godliness?
2. Using the fruit of the Spirit as a checklist, how Christ-like are you?
3. Which of the fruit of the Spirit do you want to develop? What specifically does that look like in your life?