Integrity is the foremost measure of character between you and me. The dictionary will define integrity as an adherence to a code of values, but even that is ambiguous. Integrity means that you will do what you say you will do and I do what I say I will do. Anything less and the bond between us begins to fray and eventually snap. When it finally breaks it’s much like the rupture of a taut Achilles tendon. The two ends will curl away from each other and must be stretched under great pressure to even come close enough to begin the net back together. There is much pain and a long period of time elapses before the bond is trusted again, if it ever is.
Well, actually there are two. I and I. You and me. Integrity is the foremost measure of character between you and me. The dictionary will define integrity as an adherence to a code of values, but even that is ambiguous. Integrity means that you will do what you say you will do and I do what I say I will do. Anything less and the bond between us begins to fray and eventually snap. When it finally breaks it’s much like the rupture of a taut Achilles tendon. The two ends will curl away from each other and must be stretched under great pressure to even come close enough to begin the net back together. There is much pain and a long period of time elapses before the bond is trusted again, if it ever is.
In leadership, whether in the church or in a secular setting, surveys have demonstrated over and over that the most important character trait in a leader’s integrity. If people are going to follow a leader into battle or into ministry they must know that the leader’s word is rock solid. They do what they say they’re going to do. Always. Without excuses. Even if it requires sacrifice on their part.
They are often misappropriated verse in the epistle of James speaks to the impact that integrity can have.
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:18
It is as easy to claim to have faith as it is to pound your chest and claim the solidity of your integrity. Because we do not exist in a vacuum it’s also easy enough for those around us to evaluate our claims of both faith and integrity. If we claim faith in the God of the universe and His Son Jesus Christ but live lives contrary to the obedience and character demanded of a recipient of his magnificent grace that our faith is certainly questionable. In the same way, proclamations of integrity fall on deaf ears when our actions demonstrate that we cannot be trusted. The Christian leader who finds themselves in this position also has a ministry that is over before it starts. God is not going to bless something that begins by bringing dishonor to His name.
Our hope would be to be found like Israel’s leaders Samuel. After having led Israel for decade after decade Samuel stands before all the people and lays himself bare. (1 Samuel 12:1-4) He states without hesitation that if he has wrongly taken anything from anyone he will repay. If he has cheated or oppressed anyone he will make reparation. If he has been less than honest in any of his dealings he will confess and make right any illicit bargain. “I will make it right” are Samuel’s farewell words before Israel and his God.
The people reply “you have not cheated or oppressed us,” and “you have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel had integrity.
It was not unusual for Jewish religious leaders to rehearse their covenant history with God in writing, or verbally in worship. The fickle loyalty of the human heart had loved and loathed with equal vigor again and again throughout the whole of their relationship with God. Typical of this ever changing relationship, the psalmist records this:
Thus he brought them to the border of his holy land,
to the hill country his right hand hand had taken.
He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.
But they put God to the test and rebelled against the most high;
they did not keep his statutes.
Like their father they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. (Ps 78:54-56)
Christians often wish aloud to be restored to an age of signs and wonders, claiming that their faith would be impenetrable to doubt if they could just see a single miracle. Saving the miracle of changed lives that surround them for a later discussion, we need only read this psalm or the Old Testament to know that this is bunk. The human heart is, above all else, dedicated to self.
The Christian will say aloud that ‘their heart belongs to Jesus’ but in practice, they are fully aware of the parts they hold back for themselves. We put our faith in God who is unseen and the corruption of our heart is such that we continue to harbor doubt about whether or not He might come through for us. We read our bibles and see that time after time, God has been perfectly faithful and yet we wonder if this is the day when He will not. We wander in a desert of our own making.
There is no such thing as a part-time Christian. Christ lives in us but did not displace us. Paul’s words to the Galatian church remind us “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) The struggle is internal but must ultimately end in our surrender of the parts of our hearts that we insist on keeping to ourselves. The signs and wonders we seek are inside of us and ready to be displayed only at our own humility. Problem with anger that you want to disappear? Bend the knee and turn it over to Christ in you and see it reworked. Unable to control some personality aspect? Give it to Christ in you and see it changed. Allow the Holy Ghost to completely overtake your heart and the signs and wonders will be before you constantly. Belief will grow to the benefit of all.
Grace and peace to you.
image by kmakice
“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:23-24
“Whatever you ask.” Does our faith extend this far in our prayers? Has the Holy Spirit so fully enveloped our thought and permeated our soul such that we have absolute confidence that whatever we pray we will receive? Our pulpit speech reveals otherwise. Many Christians have heard the litany of justifications and cautions that seek to soften this proclamation of our Lord. The qualifications of this promise include its expediency and whether or not it is according to God’s will.
As we diminish the expansiveness of ‘whatever’ into smaller and smaller categories the depth of our faith and trust in Christ’s promises follows. We pray small things and hope rather than praying for the world and trusting. We claim to believe the Bible, every word, and yet we look at the promises of the Lord and somehow can’t bring ourselves to fully believe them.
Our prayers must emanate from a belief that we have already received what we ask. This is a demonstration of complete confidence in the promise of God. Though a delay may occur in reality before the event of receipt, your assurance that what God promises He does completes the prayer. In this mindset we find how little we have availed ourselves of this privilege, how small our faith has become, how much disbelief has crept into our hearts.
Trust, pray, believe!