“We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope,” Rom. 5:4, NKJV
Character. Scholarship. Leadership. Those are fundamental tenants of the doctoral program in which I am enrolled. As I reflect on these principles, I see that they not only apply to my educational journey but also to my spiritual journey.
Character is the core of our being. It’s the thing that determines if a person handles accomplishments with humility or pride. Character reveals if someone is trustworthy, honest, or values loyalty. Character is not who others think we are, but it’s who we are when no one is watching. While we can fool others sometimes, we can never deceive God because He sees our hearts.
In my doctoral program, scholarship refers to the program’s aim to train students how to have informed views (as opposed to believing something without knowing why) and then to appropriately apply what we learn. As I think about scholarship in relation to my spiritual walk, I am drawn to Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:15 (NKJV) to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As Christians, we must be assiduous about studying Scripture so that we can correctly apply the Word to our lives and share it with others. As we learn and internalize the Word, it will have a profound impact on our character.
Finally, leadership involves having influence and power over others. The Bible shows examples of how leadership was used for good and for evil. For example, when David was king, he used his power for self-serving interests when he took advantage of Bathsheba and subsequently arranged for her husband to be killed (2 Sam. 11). We also see positive examples of David’s leadership throughout Scripture. One instance that stands out to me is how David carefully instructed Solomon about Solomon’s new role before David passed away (1 Kings: 1–9). As king, David had led many others, but at that moment he was leading his son.
Leadership is multi-dimensional. A person doesn’t have to have a title to be a leader. Furthermore, one’s leadership can be passive (1 Pet. 3:1). The bottom line is that we never know who’s watching us and the impact that our behavior will have on others. It is important that leaders be persons of good character. As we see in David’s life, there’s a dichotomy of good and bad that can exist within a single person. Yet, even with his shortcomings, David was still a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).
Our character is shaped by our life experiences and how we respond to them. I’m not necessarily shouting “Amen” right here because experiences can be painful. It would be great to skip the experiences and get to the end result. (By the way, it would be nice to receive my doctorate by avoiding the tuition payments, long hours of studying, and writing of many papers, but that ain’t gonna happen!) Rom. 5:4 makes it apparent that our character is shaped by our trials. As you go through your character-building experiences, cling to the Word. Not only will you build your own spiritual muscles, but you have no idea how the way you walk through your journey will impact others.