"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence. But we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Merely having a piano in a home and having a child bang on the instrument will not nurture a child into becoming a classical pianist. To become excellent in playing, the child must be instructed over a period of many years, hours must be given to practice and learning music. Playing and playing and playing again is the course of action that produces skill and excellence.
Proverbs tells us that "a skillful man will go before kings." Regarding character, wisdom and soul strength, all people must also be instructed, have many years to practice and apply the teaching before an excellent character and life skills are developed.
Our God is a Holy God and His desire is for us to be people who reflect His character: His love, His excellence, moral purity, love, wisdom from His word, integrity in relationships, in the ways we conduct our behavior and actions. One who loves God will reflect growth in holiness continually as they grow closer to Chrits.
Proverbs tells us, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until the full day.”
Strong Biblical integrity grows slowly over a long period of time—brighter and brighter—as we grow to more maturity. Yet, it comes from loving God with our hearts, and subsequently, seeking to ponder how to please Him. We ponder Jesus, His ways, His heart, His stories and seek to grow in those ways from our heart—not from performance to a rigid standard or rule.
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, Ephesians 4:15
Yet, I have observed that many adults never had such Biblical training and so they are operating in their Christian life from a vacuum.
As many people know, I have often said,
“In the absence of Biblical convictions, people go the way of culture.”
So, an adult who does not live from a grid or a well of biblical foundations of truth will be subject to legalism on one hand—man made rules that teach a formulaic performance of Christianity. This legalism produces a harshness of judgment of those who “fail to live by the rules.” Often legalism brings false condemnation because we find it difficult to live up to arbitrary standards, as we are imperfect people.
Lack of Biblical convictions and orthodox understanding of Christianity can also lead to lenient or permissive application of Christianity, losing a sense of the holiness and righteousness of God, that He would have us grow into. The more we love Christ, the more we will be like Him, so that people will know Him better by being in our company.
Contemporary Culture Mitigates Against Excellent Character
Because our culture is so given to crudity, sexual permissiveness and a devaluation of human beings, (abortion, loss of love for having children, mercy killing of those who are aged or infirm), with secular media determining the values of children and adults, many reflect callousness and a lack of honor for humans, those created in God's image.
Couple this with a lack of intentional training on the part of adults, parents towards their children, with moral compromise at every turn, lack of wisdom and discretion, and many children are at a disadvantage in their lives because they have never developed a strong moral character, or seen a strong model of integrity in the life of the adults around them.
What I find it that there are many adults who are at a disadvantage because they grew up into adulthood without a corpus of wisdom, character training, truth and an understanding of holiness and righteousness. And so they, also, are disadvantaged in understanding how to live a godly life.
That is also why so many of us find Christians the ones hurting us or disappointing us, because these immature or uninformed new or young believers don't know how to love, communicate, get over their scars in life or how to discern wisdom, because they have never seen it modeled or heard it taught.
A child or adult who is not trained and taught to exercise strength in righteousness, truth, work ethic, relationships and integrity, will often be at a disadvantage his whole life, because instead of his character serving him, his lack of training and ignorance will detract from his ability to live an excellent life. Poor choices lead to bad consequences that bring baggage and burdens potentially for a whole life.
God is a God of redemption so he can forgive and restore, but we must live with the consequences of poor, unwise and compromising choices if we do not live by the righteous ways of God.
I am often amazed at the fact that people feel they can separate their faith from their behavior.
Carefulness needs to be applied here. I am not speaking of legalistic, rules of men, but the ways God teaches us are wise, the ways His word if filled with instruction so that we can move towards maturity.
Then when their lives are filled with the difficulty of indiscretion, they shake their fist at God and ask Him why He has treated them so harshly, when the truth to guide their lives was in scripture all along. God leaves us responsible to respond to His word, and when we behave foolishly, there will be consequences. The father of the prodigal son did not prevent his son from abandoning reason and leaving Him, but He was there to restore His son when his son humbled himself and came home. So it is with God, He is always willing to welcome us, to restore us, but choices are not without consequences.
The Problem of Ignorance
I was never trained to persevere through hard times, nor to understand that I had a capacity to be stronger than I knew, or that life was hard, or that motherhood would require me to be unselfish for the rest of my life. When I entered motherhood, I was simply unprepared and untrained.
I believe that many women like me struggle with motherhood, marriage and the burden of raising children because they have never been stretched or trained in character and are morally weak, complaining and undisciplined.
An undisciplined soul often reacts to pressure with complaining, anger and frustration. We blame others for our own unhappiness and difficulties. Often, a lack of strong character and a developed work ethic is at the bottom of depression in young women. (There are many other reasons of course--loneliness, lack of community--but that is for another article--or book! :))
I know that I was also never trained for such hard work, and so struggled to meet the ideals I held in my heart because I had never been trained to be strong in character--I was spoiled in many ways and so had to learn character along with my children--and it was more difficult as an adult who had become lazy and self-centered--and I didn't even know it! I had been quite indulged and was unaware of my own lack of character--I wanted to blame my struggles on everything else except myself!
We are living in a culture where compromise is an accepted norm in marriage, in choices of movies and television, books read, in work, manners, leadership, and responsibility.
Also, addictions and lack of discipline of every sort are the norm and acceptable, so that character is not even affirmed or valued. Addiction to food, substances, social media, pornography, television, gaming, gambling, and every sort of pleasure that eats up the beauty and possibility of life is tolerated. In surveys, it is often found that believers are just as apt to divorce, abandon their children, become addicted to pornography, and to live an immoral lifestyle as those who do not profess faith in Christ.
The heart, not behavior, is the key to living a righteous life.
I find that so many parents are mostly anxious that their children cease to have "bad" behavior. They just want a formula for disciplining their children that will make them easier to deal with on a daily basis, so that they as parents can have an easier life.
Yet, as I observe many families, children, and moms in all of our travels and teaching, I find that there are fewer and fewer children who have an internal sense of composure, self-control, wisdom, and manners, because they are not receiving this kind of instruction at home.
Their moms, even the stay at home ones, are busy with their own agenda and pastimes, distractions- and the adults have a great lack as well.
A child or adult cannot grow beyond their teacher’s ability to model ideals and truth lived out in real life. So, if those in church are compromising, or parents are living a hypocritical life, wanting their children to “be good” while they are living a life of compromise, compromise will become the norm. "I'm ok, You're ok, " becomes the valued mantra--let's not judge anyone.
Yet, if we are created in God's image, shouldn't we, as believers, be the most excellent in our behavior, character and influence? Doesn't scripture teach us to lay down our lives for the sake of others--in this case, our children? Doesn't anything worthy always require great sacrifice, vision and hard work?
The next few weeks, I will be addressing the importance of training in character qualities and how this training develops a foundation of strength for the life and soul of an adult as well as a child.
For this summer, I will be reposting articles and adding to them teaching foundations. When we have a grid of knowing Biblical foundations, we will know how to live godly lives.
I have gone through the 24 Family Ways for parents to use with children, but this summer, I want to give the adults a refresher course using the 24 ways as a reminder or possibly first time instructor of foundations for them that lay a corpus of Biblical truths s from which to live life wisely.
I am excited about this series! It has been bubbling up as I have talked to many moms over the past weeks, and observed behavior of adults in several situations, and discussed many of these issues with my own children.
Training excellent character into the very fiber of all people takes intention, perseverance, commitment, wisdom--and honestly, it requires God's character growing in our lives.
I hope/pray this series will be of great encouragement to you, as this character training gives children and adults discretion, confidence and integrity in living life for the glory of Christ.
I will be using The 24 Family Ways in this series, as it is what Clay and I wrote for our own family's study of Biblical values. Any adult studying this for your own personal gain will grow.
I would like to give away 5 copies of the 24 Family Ways, our own family's foundations of how to live the Christian life in our home. But if you want to keep up with what I will be teaching on my blog, you might want to go ahead and order yourself and children a copy, so that you can know how to follow my summer blog post.
This will be a sort of summer inspiration course for you--and you don't even have to prepare--it is all there for you to read and ponder and apply.