The Pursuit of Character

pursuit_characterDave Loney was listening eagerly to Prayer of Jabez author Bruce Wilkinson at the 2006 Promise Keepers Canada conference. He was speaking about God-given dreams, recalls Loney, and about following those dreams. When Wilkinson invited those who identified with that message to stand, “I just jumped to my feet.”

“I figured I was going to be the only one, but the whole auditorium stood up,” he says.

The experience solidified Loney’s conviction that “God gives every man a dream. Whether or not we’re willing to obey—whether or not we’re willing to trust God—is a different issue.”

Wilkinson’s message also affirmed Loney’s long-time vision for working with men.

Two years earlier, Loney had written Sweating from Your Eyes: Emotional Fitness for Men. Anger, he’d discovered, is the only emotion many men feel comfortable expressing. The book provides a blueprint for helping men deal with anger, cope with fear and anxiety and become more loving, stable and passionate in their roles as husbands, fathers and leaders.

From his home office in the EverGreen Ranch—a converted barn just outside of Guelph, Ontario, retrofitted with straw bale insulation, geothermal heating and a view of the wooded countryside—Loney continues to coach men in groups and one-on-one.

Using the Birkman Method, he helps men reduce unhealthy stress and focus on the issues that will lead to personal and business growth. “I work from strategic planning all the way through to the inner man,” he says.

“I enjoy helping men see the big picture, and also sort out the issues of the heart,” which he describes as being “about character development: ‘What is my purpose?’ ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am really made for?’ What am I doing?’ ‘How should I grow?’”

Loney says character development— learning to be the man God has called you to be—leads to spiritual maturity. “Spiritual maturity is learning how to step aside and watch what God does and work with Him,” he explains, recommending the Henry and Richard Blackaby classic Experiencing God as a “wonderful study on lining up your actions with what God is doing.”

Loney believes that spiritual maturity leads to better decision-making— especially when it concerns God’s vision for our lives. “As we get older, our ability to vision longer and our enthusiasm for the bigger vision gets greater. I’ve also learned the bigger vision is going to take more time.

“Then the question isn’t ‘I’ve got a bigger vision, but is it for now?’ Then the question becomes ‘what do I need to do first?’”

Men need to overcome two major hurdles when following God’s vision suggests Loney: fear and control. The first step in overcoming fear is to break the vision into steps—which can also be away in staying in control.

“We need to work with God, not our own plans. We need to collaborate with God and with others to accomplish what God brings our way versus saying ‘the first step is…and I’m going to make sure that happens,’” says Loney.

“It’s easy to get off the path of what God wants us to do.”

In fulfilling God’s vision, Loney also encourages men to move beyond the here and now to the eternal. He was reminded of this while listening to a band playing at the Ark, a monthly gathering of artists and musicians at EverGreen Ranch. The songwriter, speaking to a mature individual, said “you’re just cutting your teeth.”

“The world’s orientation is that life begins at birth and ends at 70 or 80 years. Eternal life is just the beginning of our journey,” says Loney. “We have another mission after we pass through this life to eternal life.

“Am I living [that] resurrected life now? Am I living an eternal life here? Am I bringing the Kingdom of God into the world?” asks Loney. “Or am I allowing [fear and the world] to get in the way of my mission, my purpose and my call that God has given me?”

Robert White is a freelance journalist from Guelph, Ontario.

The article above was featured in the SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 issue of SEVEN magazine.