In his blog "10 Character Flaws that Can Derail Even Good People", Dr. Brunner identifies ten common weaknesses that can lead even the highly talented down-hill. They are enviousness, defensiveness, aloofness, volatility, eccentricity, [sense of] entitlement, unreliable character, eagerness to please, morally scrupulous, [and] making destructive comments.* To this list I would also add laziness, pessimism, unrealistic optimism, gullibility, critical spirit, grumbling spirit, the lone ranger attitude, a stick-it-to-the-man outlook (my personal favorite), a lack of self-control, and perhaps the most common of all, a lack of personal integrity (behaving one way in public and another way in private). All of these are character flaws which, left to themselves, will rob a person of their present and their future.
I got a glimpse of what weak characters look like after basic training. I was stationed in Fort Leonardwood, Missouri for five months. Three of those months were basic training and two where advanced training. Once a soldier graduates basic and moves onto advanced privileges are awarded. The most envied, of course, is the off-post pass. After nearly three months on base troopers eye the horizon of civilization with an eager gaze.
During basic training a few of my fellow trainees were Christians. Others attended church regularly and one became highly interested in spiritual things. However, once the off-post passes where granted these same Christians were off to the bars and clubs with all of their non-Christian buddies. Saying no to the crowds was impossible for them. They had to fit in. They had to feel liked. They had to be happy. Suffering for Jesus was too much of a burden so they caved to the pressure and became the opposite of what they had been only days before.
But not all was bad. Another soldier named McCan, an enthusiastic body builder, refused to be a part of the status-quo. He preferred to be alone than to go with the crowd. He wasn't a loner but he wanted to do the right thing even if no one noticed. He had character. He had backbone. And he wasn't even a Christian. The experience taught me something of the value of character. Many said they loved Jesus. They quoted Bible verses, prayed, and went to church as often as they could. But when faced with suffering they easily bent to the pressure. No character. No spine. They were unable to stand the test.
I wonder how many professed Christians are unprepared to stand the test ahead of them. I am not just talking about the final crisis. That one is coming yes, but with or without it every human being must endure hardship this side of heaven. How many of us are prepared to endure the test ahead of us? Excessive hours spent in self-gratification, idleness, and pleasure weaken our characters. Time given over to the pursuit of money, success, and romance. The mind engrossed with the latest Netflix releases. The mornings spent in useless Facebook and Twitter chatter instead of prayer. The evenings given over to theological and doctrinal debate, religious ramblings, and spiritual cynicism. Countless hours dedicated to conspiracy theories, worthless speculations, and minor issues of religious disguise. All of it weakens our moral capacity, our resolve to stand for Jesus and suffer for his cause. While not all of these are evil in moderation (I am a Facebook-lover) how often we idolize them at the expense of talking with Jesus, spending time reading his words, and sharing his love with a broken world.
Then comes the crisis. Shallow roots and weak knees become evident. They cave under the pressure. Apostasy, denial, and betrayal of the savior are the result. For too long they have lived for self and now they are called to die for Jesus and they buckle. You cannot die for Jesus without having lived for him first. This is the future many are headed towards. But it doesn't have to be. There is another way.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23It is through a relationship with Jesus that we can be strengthened to face the trials ahead. It cannot be done through will power or motivated by fear. It is only through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit that we can experience the transformation of character. This transformation is a work of grace and it prepares us to shine like Jesus when trials come. Do not make the mistake of thinking that trials are overcome by God injecting you with strength to make it on your own. God is not interested in injecting us with Holy Spirit steroids so we can be strong enough to endure the test. He wants to live in us and through us. He wants his grace to shine through our lives, attitudes, and characters so that he can be glorified. Relationship. A raw, honest, authentic relationship with God. That is the key to a transformation that glorifies him even when no one is watching.
*See more at: http://www.doctorbrunner.com/10-character-flaws-that-can-derail-even-good-people/#sthash.GL3QozT8.dpuf