So Many Words

We are diving into our Character Formation Series (Breaking Bad, Becoming Good) in a big way. I love the conversations that have been generated. The feedback from so many people about themes and issues God has moved to the front burner of their attention is great.

We all know character and virtue are important. But like all good things, it takes time and energy to focus on character formation. That is why we are doing this series. We mapped out 10 weeks in 2020 for this theme. We could have devoted the entire YEAR to this theme.

The more I read, think, learn, and pray through these matters, the more pathways open up.

When I prepared for the message on GRIT, I had little idea just how much there was in this core virtue. I found out very quickly how big and wide the word is.

This is a needed detour.

In the 1920s a leading psychologist named Gordon Allport was developing a new field that would become known as Trait Theory. If you have even taken a DiSC test or a Myers-Briggs test, those tools are focused on helping you identify your primary traits and personality styles. Allport and his colleagues read through a dictionary and came up with a list of over 4,500 words that defined traits. Of course, you can’t work with 4,500 traits, so Allport began to categorize and lump together these words in clusters.

More recently, in 2000, another team of researchers did something similar. They narrowed character down to 140 unique virtue terms. Well, we can’t even work with 140 unique terms. That is simply too many sermons – almost 3 years of messages!

When I was planning this series I looked at every major list of virtues in the Bible. To that I added the short lists from several primary models in the realm of psychology. I looked at a few of the ancient philosophical lists of virtues. That is why each devotional for a new week has a major text for you to read, so you become more familiar with the lists of virtues in the Bible.

I then began to cluster these words into a smaller number of core virtue clusters. When I was done, I had about 15 clusters. So, I could have designed a series that would look at 15 reasonably different virtue clusters. In the end, I narrowed it down to SIX choices.

Six virtue clusters was a manageable number, although now we had a lot of material to cover as we talk about any particular cluster.

End of detour.

I really felt this with GRIT.

Look at the acronym as I set it up. There are three sub-clusters within GRIT. There is (1) Resilience, (2) Intentionality/Inspiration, and (3) Tenacity/Toughness. And in each of those columns, there are specific words that deserve even more attention.

Therefore, every week you have some ground to cover as we help you unpack and explore these virtues.

Each person encounters the Spirit of God speaking and leading according to our own particular need and the specific agenda God has for each one of us. Listen to the Spirit. Notice which words resonate or stir most powerfully for each week. Then, keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25).

Here is a little exercise you can do right now.

Under Resilience, Intentionality, and Tenacity, pick the ONE word that is most powerful for you. Now define that word in one or two sentences. Ask: “How am I doing displaying that virtue in my daily life?” Then pray for the Spirit of God to form the virtue powerfully in you.

My prayer is that you would become ever more GRITTY by God’s good grace.

Pastor Brian


Brian Rice
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