God’s Definition of Character Success


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The foundational principle for character success as a Christian servant leader begins with seeking, accepting, and embracing God’s definition of success for your life, which is always an incarnation of his redeeming love to the world. In essence, success is achieving your unique calling and purpose in God.

This requires self-surrender, courage, humility, and accepting life experiences and outcomes that conflict with your own and the world’s definition of success. 

Once we understand our purpose and direction, we must utilize God’s grace and love to be a “hearer and doer” in order to complete our mission to the best of our ability, trusting in God for the outcome.

In essence, this is a lifelong sanctification process as we grow in Christ’s likeness by learning to love God and others unconditionally, as he loves us unconditionally. Below is a seven-component model of the elements of Christian servant leader character. The foundational elements include:


1. Practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, and small group fellowship

Let us address these sequentially. Prayer is the ongoing intentional communication and conversation with God through a variety of forms, throughout our day.

This entails daily intercessory prayer at a regular time and ongoing informal prayers as led by the Holy Spirit and circumstances. We cannot begin to understand, gain, and practice Christian servant leader character without an ongoing commitment to a dynamic and vital relationship with the Lord.

The difficult and nuanced moral decisions that we all must make require the Lord’s guidance through prayer. The next element is a mature understanding of God’s Word and the associated principles through the systematic reading and study of the Bible.

Understanding increases through a combination of individual reading and the tutelage of our pastors and mentors, who help us develop a balanced exegetical and hermeneutical understanding.

Reading of Scripture in isolation increases our vulnerability to deceptive and inaccurate interpretations. Church attendance is another critical element of our growth in knowledge and learning to love each other in a relationship.

Finally, Christian fellowship in the context of a small group is essential to living the Christian faith and obtaining the support and encouragement to love and live as Christ did.


2. Knowledge

Knowledge is the ongoing growth process of gaining a “heart and mind” familiarity, awareness, and understanding of biblical moral principles (“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” Hosea 4:6 [all Scripture is the New Revised Standard Version, NRSV, unless noted]). Understanding is clearly captured by Psalm 119:34: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.”

Knowledge is primarily cultivated through the active pursuit of the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, and small group fellowship. However, one of the key elements of Christian servant leader character resides in the practice of humility regarding knowledge.

Knowledge divorced from a humble heart “puffeth up,” leading to arrogance, complacency, and overconfidence. The Holy Spirit reinforces a powerful truth: the more knowledge we accumulate, the greater our accountability for its application along with a higher intensity of spiritual warfare to impede our ability to apply what we learn.

Even with God’s power, support, and guidance, there will always be a gulf between what we know and our ability to consistently apply and live it out, given our sin nature; hence, the only rational response is modesty and meekness of spirit.


3. Belief

Belief is a free-will agreement regarding the legitimacy and efficacy of biblical moral principles. However, knowledge and belief, while necessary, are not a sufficient condition. “Even the demons believe” in God (James 2:19), but they refuse to obey, illustrating that intellectual agreement is not enough. Another example relates to forgiveness.

We may know that forgiveness reduces anger and dysfunctional stress and believe that it produces beneficial health and spiritual effects, but given the intensity and power of the negative, emotions tend to choose the spirit of revenge over obedience.


4. Motive

The motive for our actions is the foundational element of moral character. Vain and sinful motives can give birth to grand and noble actions in the eyes of the world, and vice versa.

The foundational biblical moral motivational principle is the integration of love into all life domains (1 Corinthians 13). One of the greatest character challenges is cultivating the desire and practice of discovering the true impetus and nature of our motives through ongoing and spirit-led prayer and self-awareness analysis.

This struggle reflects the continuing, powerful nature of self-deception regarding areas of sin and weakness, in conjunction with spiritual warfare strategies of the demonic realm that accentuate the shortterm costs and minimize the benefits of failing to address the true root cause of our problems and motives.


5. Godly Means

Ideally our behavior should possess deontological and teleological integrity (means). Godly character requires that for an action to be moral and ethical, it should meet the dual standards of conformance with the “letter and spirit” of biblical principles (deontological or principle-based integrity) and promote the greater good of the persons involved (self and others, teleological integrity).

The means employed to reach a goal must be ethical and moral. Be a hearer and a doer (James 1:23)! 6. Moral and God-honoring ends (goals) that promote God’s will. Men and women of character pursue God-honoring goals and ends, not out of obligation or duty, but out of loving obedience and conviction.

Moral motives and means are not sufficient from a character standpoint. The ends pursued must glorify God by being obedient to his will for our lives and the lives of others. The ends, means, and motives can be moral and still remain outside of God’s will.

For example, I may desire to become a youth pastor to serve God and bless others by helping children (moral motives). I can employ moral means by working my way through school, gain a degree, and obtain a youth pastor position. However, if God’s will is for me to become a teacher to inner-city adults, then I remain utside of his perfect will.


7. Wisdom

Wisdom is the ultimate fruit of Christian servant leader character. It entails godly self-awareness, mature decision making, and reasoning skills that honor the higher order principles as we face nuanced value conflict situations led by the spirit (John 18:17–27; John 21:15–18).

For example, in situations in which there is equal evidence or justification for a “second chance,” or punishment in the workplace, it is important to receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit and promote the higher order principle.

In some instances, the situation warrants overlooking the offence, while in others, discipline or termination is the appropriate course of action. In many cases, it will require both elements to provide a balance between discipline and encouragement.

A vital and vibrant relationship with the Holy Spirit requires seeking his presence and hearing his voice. Fully-developed Christian servant leader character requires surrendering all to God: the righteous and the sinful aspects of our lives, our weaknesses and strengths, our temperaments, gifts, abilities, and accomplishments, as well as our abject failures and sins.

Christian servant leaders manifest a high degree of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1998). However, Christian servant leadership embraces an even higher order of reasoning: that of spiritual intelligence. What are some of the key differences? The foundation of emotional intelligence is in mainstream psychology embracing the conventional, scientific “time and chance” evolutionary understanding of human nature.

Conversely, as Christians, we believe that God created the universe and set in motion all of the cosmological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that comprise our world. As such, we posit that there is an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent higher power that plays an active role in human affairs.

This provides an additional level of analysis - the spiritual to help explain human behavior. For example, the explanations and  recommendations for coping with stress that are based in naturalistic, emotional intelligence fail to address situations that appear (or are) hopeless in the natural.

Without a belief in a higher power, we can slip into despair. Hence, our belief in God’s supernatural power to alter the physical laws, to be with us and protect us in a seemingly hopeless circumstance, and our ultimate confidence in heaven and the afterlife provide a measure of comfort and courage to face all forms of trials and tribulations.

Let us examine another area of mutual interest between emotional and spiritual intelligence—that of forgiveness, love, and giving. Emotional intelligence embraces forgiveness for its physical and emotional health benefits and for the overall promotion of relationship harmony.

However, emotional intelligence fails to address the agape level of unconditional love, giving, and forgiveness that frees us from the reactions of others. Only the Holy Spirit provides the courage and wisdom to truly love, give to, and forgive our enemies and those that hurt, persecute, and betray us.

When we forgive, give to, and love with no expectation of return, we enter a different level of freedom that protects us from the inevitable failures, weaknesses, sins, and disappointments associated with our fallible human relationships.

Finally, spiritual intelligence adds another dimension to the healthy pursuit of excellence: that of obeying the will of God. We can only achieve ultimate peace by humbly following God’s path for our lives, irrespective of our level of external and internal success.


Application  Questions

1. What are some key obstacles in your life that keep you from being a more consistent “hearer and a doer”?

2. Select one of the obstacles and develop a simple action plan for overcoming them. The first step is to recognize their presence and ask God for the wisdom and the will to make changes. For example, if one of the obstacles is a mixture of God-honoring and sinful motives for assuming a leadership role at work, ask for forgiveness for the sinful motive of using the power to punish an enemy and strive to love, serve, and support as Jesus did with Judas.

3. Reflect on your progress. How successful have you been?

4. What additional steps will help you to repent and love unconditionally?





Be a People Person, Gery E. Roberts pg. 3-7

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