Choosing Character Today for the Crisis Tomorrow

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Monday, February 22, 2021
Tents set up under an overpass amid Texas freeze, choosing character today for the crisis tomorrow

Choosing Character Today for the Crisis Tomorrow


Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and actor Matthew McConaughey were two of many athletes and celebrities making donations for those in need during last week’s winter crisis in Texas. The Mavericks’ Mark Cuban and Luka Doncic were among team members who contributed $1.25 million to help.

CNN reports that, like these celebrities, neighbors across the state stepped up to serve others.

One such neighbor is Jim McIngvale. The Houston furniture store owner who opened his stores in previous years to those fleeing Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey opened them again last week to those seeking warmth, shelter, and food. While driving to church on Valentine’s Day, he said, “I saw some cops putting a sheet over a homeless guy who had frozen to death. That really got me. I decided then that I’d open the stores to everyone if it got really bad, and it did.”

One lesson from the crises of the present is that we must prepare for the crises of the future. 

The New York Times reports that “extreme cold killed Texans in their bedrooms, vehicles, and backyards.” What we saw last week is not an isolated case: scientists are warning that an overall rise in extreme weather is creating new risks to America’s aging infrastructure.

More Americans have died from COVID-19 than perished on the battlefields of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War—combined. And like the weather crisis in Texas, the current pandemic may portend the future: the Wall Street Journal warns that “the world must move urgently in 2021 to develop strategies and systems for fighting diseases that could be even deadlier than COVID-19.”

In other words, the time to prepare for a crisis is before it happens. When it strikes, it will be too late.

Women dressed as elderly adults to get vaccines

A jet engine caught fire after takeoff Saturday, scattering debris in an area north of Denver, but the plane was able to return safely to the airport. The flight did not cause the flaw in the engine—it revealed it. Meanwhile, two women who dressed up to appear as older adults in order to get coronavirus vaccinations were caught by authorities. The pandemic did not create their character—it revealed it.

In better news, today is the anniversary of the US hockey team’s astonishing victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. Years of preparation and sacrifice we did not see led to the victory that made history.

Pipes that were exposed before last week’s polar vortex burst when it arrived. To see what is in a tea bag, put it in hot water. To see what is inside a bottle, shake it up.

I’m sure that my wife, Janet, is looking forward to my return to the office this morning after a week of extreme “togetherness.” However, I am grateful to report that days spent huddling in front of our fireplace drew us closer together. Fault lines in our marriage would have been exposed and exacerbated.

The Bible is filled with examples of people who were transformed by God and whose character then rose to meet dire challenges. Moses the murderer met God at the burning bush and stood up to Pharaoh, rebellions, and crises. Peter the denier (Matthew 26:69-75) became the preacher of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). Paul the persecutor became God’s apostle to the Gentile world.

How can we join them?

How to "teach transgressors your ways"

Crisis is inevitable in this broken world (John 16:33), but preparing for it is optional. Our problem is that change is hard. Paying a price today to face a crisis tomorrow requires discipline and sacrifice.

But the cost is worth paying. Not only will tomorrow be better if we seek character today—today will be better as well.

David looked to the day when “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13). But first, David had to return to God. After his catastrophic sin with Bathsheba, he had to pray, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (v. 1). He had to ask the Lord to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (v. 10).

Then he could “teach transgressors,” for he had been one. He could lead “sinners” back to God, for he had returned to God.

The most powerful witness is not the person who has never fallen but the person who is empowered to get back up. That is the person other fallen people see and seek to emulate. The student who makes an A on the test is the best student to help others prepare for the test. The cancer survivor is the best encourager of cancer patients.

How to make headlines in heaven

Do you want character that triumphs in crisis? Do you want your life to make a transforming difference in the lives of others?

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the urgency of character for the future of our culture. For today, let’s focus on our next personal step. If you were to be more the person Jesus intends you to be, what would need to change? What is your next step into Christlike character?

Ask God if you, like David, have “transgressions” to confess, then confess what comes to your mind and claim your Father’s forgiving grace (1 John 1:9). Now ask him for strength where you are weak, courage where you are afraid (2 Corinthians 12:9). Live in submission to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) that you might manifest the character of his Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

And when the next storm arrives, you will be the one making headlines of grace—if not in the news on earth, in the hallways of heaven. And in the eternal souls you will draw closer to Jesus. 

Including your own.

NOTE: The Apostle Paul was right: Jesus can transform you “by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). That’s one reason I felt led to routinely address ten challenging questions of our day from a biblical perspective in our book series titled Biblical Insight to Tough Questions. The newest volume of Biblical Insight is now available, and you may request your copy today.

Publication date: February 22, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Montinique Monroe/Stringer

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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