I have long held to the belief that character isn’t formed in crisis, it is revealed. My qualifier is that difficulties and crises are not the same thing. There is a twofold process, the way we respond to difficulties, and daily life in general, forms and shapes us. The way we have been shaped is what will be revealed in a crisis.
When we are born again, the most important choice in our life, the Spirit begins a process that requires our cooperation. The Spirit works to form Jesus’ character in us (Galatians 4:19, 5:22-23), a process that requires our active cooperation. When we step from time into eternity and appear before the judgement seat, we will all give an account for how we have responded to His shaping. We will all have failures; however, I think the main thing He will be looking for at that time is how much of Jesus was revealed in and through us in our earthly life. This process is outlined in both 1 and 2 Peter.
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:22–25 (NKJV)
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5–11 (NKJV)
The quotes above are lengthy and to have a fuller grasp of the context in 2 Peter I recommend reading all of chapter 1. That aside, we can see in 1 Peter that the way we grow is by walking in obedience to the Spirit, responding rightly in the little things. In 2 Peter we are exhorted to be diligent to see these godly character traits growing in our lives. The growth comes about through our active engagement with the Spirt, daily drawing on His grace and trusting that He will enable us to do what Paul wrote, walk, keep in step with the Spirit.
An important note here, the Spirit generally works to form Christ in us through our interactions with others. If we pay attention, we will find that we have numerous opportunities every day to reveal Jesus in our responses to those around us, even if they can’t hear us and we are driving in rush hour traffic! I have had many opportunities while driving to have Jesus’ character both formed and revealed in me. I am sure you had yours. At times Jesus has been revealed, other times I have had the opportunity to instantly repent over my thoughts or deeds.
While I have not always had the right response, I have had enough of them to see Jesus revealed. Very recently I was turning left onto a busy road. I was at the front of the line and the light turned green, I began pulling out and as I was crossing the second lane, peripherally I saw a large pickup coming at high speed through the red light, I instantly stopped. My heart response was not to be angry at the other driver but to be thankful to the Spirit for alerting me and likely saving my life and that of the other driver.
Another example happened decades ago. We were driving home from church after the Sunday service and something had not gone well nor according to my expectations (I was the pastor). I don’t remember what I was lamenting, I do remember my wife’s words very clearly, “You always give up.” Was that ever encouraging! Okay, not so much. Was it true? Not fully, I didn’t always give up, yet I had a habit of ‘giving up’ or withdrawing from difficult situations rather than pushing through. My wife’s comment hit home, partly because it was shared as an observation not a judgment, and because I looked to the Spirit to respond it shifted something inside of me. Rather than taking offense I reflected on what she said. I made a decision to respond differently that created growth and the further revealing of Jesus in me.
I share these examples to illustrate a process. I am confident that in every decision I have made and every interaction I have each day, that Jesus will not be revealed. I am also confident that because I have developed a habit of submitting to His leading that in most of my interactions each day, Jesus will be revealed. Developing a habit in the little moments creates a character that will be manifest in the big moments. We all have numerous opportunities each day to cooperate with the growth opportunities He provides so that we can look forward to what Peter wrote, having an ‘abundant entrance’ into eternity.
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:11 (NKJV)