There’s an old adage that says, “Reputation is what people say you are; character is what you are.” Character is what you do in the dark. Character is determined by what would transpire if you knew you’d never be found out. Character is the making of a man of God.
I read a story recently about Coach Cleveland Stroud and the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School. Rockdale High School is in Conyers, Georgia. They had just had a tremendous basketball season: 21 wins, 5 losses. They were on the way to the Georgia boy’s basketball tournament and what they were sure would be a state championship.
Ironically, the new glass trophy case that was purchased for what they knew was a cinch is bare in the school gymnasium. The Georgia High School Association deprived Rockdale of the championship after school officials said that a player who was scholastically ineligible had played 45-seconds in the first of the school’s five post-season games.
Coach Stroud said, “We didn’t know he was ineligible at the time. In fact, we didn’t know it until a few weeks ago. Some people,” he contended, “have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45-seconds and the player wasn’t an impact player. But you’ve got to do what is honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games but they don’t ever forget what you are made of.” That is what you call character.
Ability will enable a man to go to the top. But it takes character to keep him there. Character is what the Psalmist spoke of when he referred to the man that would swear to his own hurt and change not.
Character refuses to give in to pressure. Character does not just go with the flow. Character is not socialized by peer pressure. Character is what God is interested in.
Daniel and the three Hebrew boys were 500 miles from a teaching priest, 500 miles from the remnants of the temple, 500 miles from the godly influence of their parents. But their convictions and character were the same in the courts of Babylon as they had been in the dusty streets of Jerusalem. They had what you call integrity.
Joseph’s brothers took his freedom. The slave traders took him into bondage. Potiphar made him a slave. Potiphar’s wife painted him as immoral. Forgotten in prison, yet never once did Joseph lose his character. He was the same in the prisons of Egypt as he was under the scrutinizing eye of his father in the tents of Jacob.
Homes are built on character. Nations are built on character. Institutions are built on character. Churches are built by men and women who are not for sale.
If there are examples of character in the sports world, how much more so should there be examples in the church?
Bits and Pieces told the story of Ruben Gonzales, who was in the final match of a professional racquet ball tournament. He was a champion and he was supposed to win. In the fourth and final game, at match point, Gonzales made a super-kill shot into the front wall. The shot won it for him. The referee said it was good. One of the two linesmen affirmed that the shot was “in.” After just a moment’s hesitation, Gonzales turned and shook his opponents hand and declared that his shot had skipped into the wall, hitting the court floor first. The result was that he lost the match. He walked off the court. Everyone was stunned. The next issue of National Racquetball magazine displayed his picture on its front cover. People could not imagine why he did it. A player with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his hand, yet he disqualified himself at match point and lost. He was asked by the magazine why he did it. Gonzales said, “It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is character and regardless of the cost that is what we’ve got to have in the church. The only one who eternally counts knows and He is the one I must face when hidden things will be “shouted from the housetop.”