Growing up we’ve all sung the song about the wise man and the foolish man. What was the main difference between the two men? While one decided to build his house on sandy ground the other decided to build his house on solid rock to ensure a strong foundation. Like any strong building needs a strong foundation, a strong character also needs a strong foundation.
“That is all well and good, but how do you form a strong foundation? I am no longer an infant learning and forming habits” you may inquire. “It is by small things that our characters are formed to habits of integrity. It is only by exercising principle in small transactions of ordinary life that we are tested and our characters formed.” Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 23).
As seen by the examples of the above-mentioned youth, we see that while they were faithful in little things in their early life they, through the help of the Holy Spirit, were preparing for the greater test that lay ahead waiting for them.
A good character must be built up brick by brick. Those characteristics which will enable the youth to labor successfully in God’s cause must be obtained by the diligent exercise of their faculties, by improving every advantage Providence gives them, and by connecting with the Source of all wisdom”—Gospel Workers, p. 59. “Strength of character consists of two things—power of will and power of self-control. Many youth mistake strong, uncontrolled passion for strength of character; but the truth is that he who is mastered by his passions is a weak man. The real greatness and nobility of the man is measured by his powers to subdue his feelings, not by the power of his feelings to subdue him. The strongest man is he who, while sensitive to abuse, will yet restrain passion and forgive his enemies.”—Messages to Young People, p. 413.
Our character qualities distinguish us and set us apart from the billions of others on this planet. We know that people with good character are held in high regard, but how much is a good character worth? Is it worth your reputation? Wealth? Or fame? In fact, it is stated that “an upright character is of greater worth than the gold of Ophir.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 223.
“Young men and women should regard a good character as a capital of more value than gold or silver or stocks. It will be unaffected by panics and failures, and will bring rich returns when earthly possessions shall be swept away”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 656. Our characters are the only things we can take to heaven and “Without it none can rise to an honorable eminence”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 223. It is the only quality that can distinguish us as His own people. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” ().
If a good character is essential for entrance into the eternal kingdom, how can you and I acquire this entry ticket? “Character is not inherited. It cannot be bought. Moral excellence and fine mental qualities are not the result of accident. The most precious gifts are of no value unless they are improved. The formation of a noble character is the work of a lifetime and must be the result of diligent and persevering effort. God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 223.
“A noble character is not the result of accident; it is not due to special favors or endowments of Providence. It is the result of self-discipline, of subjection of the lower to the higher nature, of the surrender of self to the service of God and man.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 488.
“The mental and moral powers which God has given us do not constitute character. They are talents, which we are to improve, and which, if properly improved, will form a right character. A man may have precious seed in his hand, but that seed is not an orchard. The seed must be planted before it can become a tree. The mind is the garden, the character is the fruit. God has given us our faculties to cultivate and develop. Our own course determines our character. In training these powers so that they shall harmonize and form a valuable character, we have a work which no one but ourselves can do.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 606.
As the pressure to stand out and make an impact on the world mounts, it is easy for us to look for inspiration from great leaders or social/historical figures, but let us be sure to look in the main source of inspiration. The Bible presents a plethora of examples of youth who have overcome insurmountable obstacles. “In perfecting a Christian character, it is essential to persevere in right doing”—Messages to young People, p. 46. By forming a strong character with a solid foundation based on Christ, we can surely make an impact on the world.