Imagine a very large stone needs to be moved. How will you do it?
You might try to move the stone with great strength. Others might try using intelligence and a well-developed strategy. Still others might try creativity, or ingenuity.
All of these approaches lack one crucial ingredient. Let me explain.
When I was a young man, I was approached by a gentleman from my church—Mr. Jones, we’ll call him. He told me that he had been doing some work out at the church campground and that that there was a large stone that needed to be moved before the job could continue.
“Will you help me move the stone?” he asked.
I remember feeling a great deal of pride in that moment, and agreed to help. He picked the right man for the job, I thought as I began considering all of the ways I would move that rock. I was a strong boy, winning championships for the wrestling team. I thought I was rather clever, creative, and a leader. The day continued as usual and thoughts of rock moving fluttered from my mind.
The next day I was with friends, not really doing anything in particular. We were drinking slushies (flavored ice) at the local general store, giving ourselves brain freezes (look it up)—in other words, just wasting time.
All of the sudden, Mr. Jones drove up beside us. He got out of his car, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Shaun, I have been looking for you. You were not there when we said we would meet.”
In that moment I shrunk in shame, realizing that I had totally forgotten about moving the stone. I immediately apologized.
Mr. Jones was quick to forgive me, but began to speak to me about something very important: character.
What is Character?
That afternoon, I learned that large rocks are not moved by strength, intelligence, creativity, or ingenuity. They are moved by character.
It is not a word we hear very much about these days. I have recently learned it is a difficult word to translate into Finnish, and it is a rather elusive concept.
A person with character has moral strength and firmness which are rooted in and committed to truth. For Christians, character is a commitment to knowing and living to the Truth of God’s Word, and doing so even if it comes at a cost.
This is well illustrated in the well known passage of the three Hebrew friends in the Old Testament book of Daniel.
Jerusalem had been sacked by the pagan kingdom of Babylon and a select group God’s people were taken back to Babylon to live and assimilate. A few were were chosen for special service to the king: Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
After the friends’ commitment to God caused jealousy amongst the other palace servants, they sought ways to kill them. They tricked the king into throwing anyone who would not bow down to him into a fiery furnace. Because of the three friends’ character, they refused:
The story reveals that the three friends’ character was rooted in truth: it was against God’s law to bow down to anyone except him (Exodus 20:5). More than a commitment to that truth, the friends were resolved not to compromise God’s truth. We must not only study God’s truth to be less ignorant, but we must ready to stand for it.
When we are moving toward a goal, we often find a moment where compromise will get us there a bit faster. Without a pre-commitment not to compromise on truth, it is all too easy to reason with ourselves and makes excuses: “It’s just a small compromise! Nobody else will find out. It’s only temporary.” We all know how these end.
The friends also counted the cost for their commitment to truth. It is not often the truth costs us our lives, but we may well need to look foolish, lose a friend, lose a business deal, a promotion or a job. The friends were willing to lose everything for the greater joy of obeying God.
Facing the challenge—the “stone”—of a palace set against them, the Hebrew friends did not overcome by mere strength or ingenuity. Ultimately, it took character.
We all have large stones in our lives, those things that hinders God’s glory. They may be personal addictions or a struggle with jealousy and pride. They could be relational problems with your spouse a boss, or the injustices of human slavery or poverty. With stones like these, how do we cultivate the kind of character that will be able to move them?
The bad news is that you cannot. It is impossible. Our character will never be moral or firm enough to accomplish them.
But there is Good News. There is one who lived among us with perfect character, who never sinned, who never failed to do the right thing: Jesus Christ. He lived and, though an innocent man, he died on the cross. He was laid in a tomb, and a stone was rolled in front of that tomb.
On the third day, the most important thing took place: The stone was moved and Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus, with his moral perfection and his absolute resolve to obey God’s truth and purpose—in other words, his perfect character—moved the stone.
Because the stone was moved and Jesus rose from the grave, he has the power to move the stones in our lives and in our world. When we trust in Jesus’ perfect life and death in our place, God changes our hearts to enable us to grow in his character.
This Easter, if there are stones you know you need to move, turn to the One who also already moved the infinitely bigger stone on our behalf when he overcame death. Turn to Jesus.
To discuss more about what it means to put your faith in Jesus, to grow in Christian character, please get in touch.