In his insightful book, After You Believe, N. T. Wright explains that very few people end up heroes by accident. He doesn’t mean people set out to be heroes. No. People set out to be good people or honest people or caring people. In order to become that kind of person, they consistently make countless small decisions along the way to be that kind of person, so that by the time crisis hits, they act out of the character they have already developed. At that moment of crisis, their actions look as if they “just happened” but in truth, it’s not as simple as that.
In religious language, we call such people, people of virtue. Almost everything in our culture today works against becoming a person of virtue. Primarily, we are a culture that has lost patience for such personal development. Long gone are the days when we believed the best things in life come to those who wait. After all, those glass ketchup bottles are now all made of squeezable plastic.* Why? So we don’t have to wait. But some things can’t be had quickly. The way of Christ takes time to become second nature for us who are proficient in the way of sin. Becoming a person of Christian virtue takes making a thousand small decisions during good times and bad so that when it really matters and the stakes are higher, you do what virtue requires almost automatically.
The Hebrew children were people of virtue. When the stakes were high, they did what was right because that’s who they had become through a lifetime of faithfulness. We can become people of virtue, too. Not by the making of one grand decision to be faithful, but rather by making a thousand consistent decisions along the way. What can you do today that will help develop a character of faith?
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5.
*If you don’t get this reference go ask someone over thirty or watch this: