Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Initiative

  Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:


Richard Hollerman


Do you generally wait for things to happen to you or for you–or do you actively seek opportunities to grow and learn and do the works of God?

Initiative may be defined as “the power or ability to begin or follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.”[i]  Although the term is not found in Scripture, the thought and meaning definitely occurs throughout the Word of God.  It has been said that initiative is “seeking and doing what needs to be done before being asked to do it.”[ii]  Again, “initiative is using the energy of God (grace) to achieve the will of God, as directed by the Spirit of God.”[iii]

When you see that a work needs to be done, do you avoid doing it?  Do you wait for someone else to do the task?  Maybe you procrastinate doing the job and wish that it would go away.  In contrast, if you know that something should be done and that it should be done right now, that is the very opportunity for you to immediately and without delay to do the job.

James says, “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17).  Jesus gave a parable and concluded, “That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes” (Luke 12:47).  Our Lord plainly said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (11:28).  All of this speaks of initiative–doing what needs to be done when it should be done, and without complaint.

It takes initiative to learn of the will of God.  One must take the Bible in hand and read, even study, and take notes on the reading.  It takes initiative to memorize Scripture, review it, and use it.  It takes initiative to give thanks in the morning, at night, and throughout the day, including mealtime.  One must have initiative to see a need in the body of Christ and then seek to meet that need through doing good.  Paul writes, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”  He then added, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

Whereas the disobedient and unbelieving are “worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16), we are to be an “example of good deeds” (2:7), are to be “zealous for good deeds” (2:14), are to be “careful to engage in good deeds” (3:8), and are to “learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs” (3:14).  All of this will require extensive initiative in our life.


We know that God took the initiative in creating the world, in providing for His creatures, in planning for our salvation, and for guiding the course of history through the years.  Christ took the initiative in coming to this earth, working as a carpenter, teaching and preaching, and eventually dying for our sins.  We likewise are to actively take the initiative in carrying out the work of God according to the will and ways of God.

We find the following questions to help us search our heart and life regarding this virtue: (1) Do you show initiative by rising early in the morning and seeking the Lord? (2) Do you take initiative to seek direction for your life in God’s Word? (3) Do you show initiative in memorizing and meditating on Scripture? (4) Do you show initiative in asking forgiveness and being reconciled with your enemies? (5) Do you display initiative in building and using a prayer list?

(6) Do you participate in other initiatives to do good works? (7) Do you take initiative in sharing the Gospel with others? (8) Do you exemplify initiative by keeping your home and car in good repair? (9) Do you take initiative to search out the fatherless and the widows in your church and neighborhood and discover what their needs are? (10) Do you exercise initiative in learning how to write down the truths that God is teaching you?[iv]

This is especially important as we walk through our daily life.  Do you show initiative in cherishing your wife, helping her to achieve spiritual maturity, and doing household tasks with a smile?  Do you take the initiative in serving your husband and fulfilling your wifely responsibilities?  Do you show initiative in doing your duties as a child in the family and even doing more than your father or mother asks of you?  Do you take the initiative in nurturing, teaching and training your children, home educating them, and guiding them to learn skills and habits that will be useful in the future?

On the job, do you take the initiative in doing what the supervisor wants even before he requires it?  Do you see people around you and take the initiative in introducing yourself to them, greeting them, helping them, teaching them, giving gifts to them, and even sharing the gospel with them?  All of this should help us to take the initiative in being servants of the Lord and doing good deeds as God’s children.

[i] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[ii] The Power for True Success, p. 117.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] The Power for True Success, p. 119.


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