Youth Messenger Online Edition

October-December

The Foundation of Character
The Foundation of Character
Ellen G. White

Never did greater responsibilities await the youth than await them now. Never was it more important that a right mold be given to the character of the rising generation. Upon every youth, God has bestowed varied capabilities, mental, moral, and physical; and He requires that those be cultivated and improved. We are formed for activity; every power of mind and body must be developed, strengthened, and increased by use. No one should feel that he is his own master, and can do as he pleases with his time and his intellect. Time and talents belong to God, and He has entrusted them to us, to be employed for His glory.

Christ has purchased us with an infinite price. All that we are, and all that we possess, is His. His mercy and tenderness have been exercised toward us throughout our life, and He justly claims our gratitude, our reverence, and love. He claims our obedience also. We should respect His laws in every particular. They are given, not to deprive us of any good but to guide our feet into safe paths—the paths of peace and happiness.

Furthermore, our love and obedience are due to God as our Creator. He who has bestowed upon us every blessing which we enjoy, He who has formed us, who understands our needs, and who rejoices in the happiness of the creatures He has made—He is entitled to our implicit faith and ready obedience. To obey God is to accept the guidance of infinite love and wisdom. It is to pursue a course which will ennoble the character and strengthen the intellect, and which alone will prepare us for a life of true enjoyment and real usefulness. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).

We are not placed in this world merely to seek the enjoyment of the present life; but, by forming a true and noble character, we are to prepare for the future, immortal life. Dear youth, you have a work to do which no other can do for you. Be determined that you will possess a right character. You cannot receive this as a birthright, you cannot buy it with money, you cannot procure it by fraud; but you may have it, if you will seek it in the right way. A noble character must be formed, must be built up by your own patient, painstaking effort, while you rely in faith upon the merits of Christ your Saviour.

None should look with indifference upon this important matter. We must not leave our character to be formed by circumstances. The farmer who through indolence or neglect leaves his field uncultivated reaps a harvest of briars and thorns. So the youth who slothfully neglects the cultivation of mind and heart will possess a deformed, unlovely character. He will not respect himself, and he will not be happy, try hard as he may.

The youth cannot afford to float carelessly along, exposed to the many influences that are ready to draw them away from the truth, from religion, from peace, and happiness, receiving any impression that Satan may choose to make upon the mind. There are stern battles to fight against hereditary and cultivated faults of character and disposition. Satan watches every opportunity to divert the mind from thoughts of God. He seeks to prevent us from searching the heart, from studying the law of God and comparing our life and character with its perfect standard. We must guard against his wiles. We should ever remember that life is short, and if we would attain to that perfection of character which Christ requires of us, every hour of our probation must be wisely improved as a treasure more precious than gold.

The formation of a good character involves hard work and severe self-denial; but it richly repays the effort. It is a resistance of the devil. It is the obtaining of daily victory over selfishness, pride, and folly, and the daily cultivation of love, mercy, and beneficence.

Satan is constantly seeking to strengthen the evil traits of character, that your influence may be exerted to lead others to a wrong course. Resolve in the strength of God to defeat his purpose. Set your mark high, and conquer self at any cost. Persevering, well-directed labor will succeed.

While excellence of character can never be attained except by your own exertion, do not forget that at every step you need and may obtain help and grace from Christ. He Himself passed through all the experience of childhood and youth, and He knows how to sympathize with the young. He will never forsake a soul that trusts in Him. He will listen to the prayer of the contrite and will be a present help in every time of need. Do not, then, become discouraged in your efforts. Labor more earnestly for a symmetrical character than for silver or gold. You will meet with disappointments and discouragements. Your efforts may not be appreciated, your failures may call forth severe censure. But do not yield to discouragement. The Saviour pities your weakness, He reads the desire of your heart, and He marks every sincere effort to do the right.

Then be of good courage. Look in faith to Jesus. Be much in prayer. While you are engaged in your work, at home, or at school, or even while walking in the street, let the heart’s silent petitions ascend to God. Have also regular times for prayer, and let them not be neglected. In this course you may be successful in overcoming the evils of your nature; you may enjoy peace, hope, and joy in Christ, and by words and example you may exert an influence to encourage others in the right way.

Do not fear to stand firm for the right under any and all circumstances. Do not think it uncourteous to meet with a decided “No,” those who would suggest evil thoughts, or would urge you to any act which God would not approve.

When "sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Proverbs 1:10). Do they sneeringly call you a coward, tell them that if it is cowardly to fear to do wrong, then you are a coward. The bravery that is evinced in sacrificing principle, for fear of ridicule, is a low, Satanic spirit that you should ever hold in contempt. —The Signs of the Times, August 23, 1883.