I am convinced more and more that the rise of Atheism in our country rides on the noticeable loss of integrity in humanity. It is becoming harder and harder to find men and women of character who keep their word, honor their commitments, or even make commitments. Relationships are more disposable than the iPhone, and “ever after” is just for fairy tale movies–or so it seems. Behaving like an animal seems easier overall, so, accepting that maybe you are one is tempting. But Sons, this ought not be. Because there is a God, and because integrity is His character, and because you are made in His image, you can live a life of integrity, and so can your children.
Integrity is defined as: “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.”
Notice the words “steadfast adherence”?– This is the kind of perseverance that does the right thing despite others’ opinions.
What is the moral or ethical code? Well, that is what we find in the character of God. He is full of purpose, creativity, design, goodness, love, and steadfastness. Any actions we commit that violate our purpose, or our neighbors’ purpose become actions outside of integrity. Remember, people are sacred to God.
I am not asking you to do something easy. No, on the contrary, I am asking you to engage in a battle that with your comfort, desires, and weaknesses that you will continue throughout your lifetime. Integrity will ask you to do the right thing when no one else around does.
Think about it a minute. Integrity asks you to build a giant boat called an ark when no one else in your neighborhood is doing it. The project extends for over a century–not just a month or two–but over 100 years! There has never been a flood, nor rain from the sky, and you look like an idiot. (Noah)
Integrity asks you to keep your promises to your family, when no one else around you cares at all. You will work hard, you may struggle, you will go without, you may lose sleep, you will be tempted to give up, and give it all away. People around you will always make you some pretty nice offers–alcohol addictions, affairs, “extra work projects”, ways to cheat, to lie, to get by with minimum requirements in character. They may even all seem less “stressed” than you.
Psalm 73 paints this picture of the frustrations of living a life of integrity. Verses 2-14 say this:
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
Someday you might be where this Psalmist is.
The integrity of the boat builder seems worthless until the fountains of the deep burst open and the heavens begin pouring out rain in torrents that flood the entire face of the earth. It’s then that the people realized his boat was built large enough to bring them along, and be a refuge—too late.
The integrity of the family man/woman seems like a frustration until the friends around them are on their third, fourth or fifth marriage, and their children are sitting in prisons and rehab centers. It is then that you will see the benefit of honesty, boundaries, hard work, and faithfulness. But integrity, when lived out in relationship with God Himself goes beyond the here and now.
When you live a life of integrity, you do not always see the outcomes right away. Sometimes the full fruit of your life is seen two or three generations after you, but don’t get me wrong…your integrity is noticed right now by those around you. Believe me, I have talked with your teachers. How you choose to live, and whether you live a life that is in keeping with God’s moral code and ethic, makes a huge impact in your world and mine.
No, I didn’t say it was easy. Steadfastness is characterized by trouble, pain, and struggle that accompany perseverance. It is also rewarded by peace, blessing, redemption, and joy for those who know you and whose lives you touch.
Verses 16-28 gives us the payoff:
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
(Bold emphasis mine).
Some days it may look fruitless to live a life of integrity before the Lord. Maybe those around you who don’t really care about character will be living it up, and doing just fine from appearances. Or maybe, as the Bible tells us, they are sliding quickly down a slope that they will not be able to stop, but that will deposit them firmly at God’s judgment seat.
The Bible is clear. If you walk with God, you will never walk alone. He will always be with you. When you are weary, and are tempted to jettison your commitments, you can call on God to strengthen you and give you courage to finish what you started. Remember, even Jesus called out to God for strength when He was facing the cross. Some assignments seem too overwhelming to accomplish, but God will help you.
Integrity looks like the Son of God carrying a cross up a hill to be executed for the crimes He did not commit–our crimes.
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When people are longing to see God at work in our world, one of the first places they will look is at you and me; and when you have God at work in your life, there is no excuse for living a life of poor character.
Remember Sons, this life isn’t all that there is. There is an eternity yet to live. So love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength while you live, and when you stand before Him when your life is over, you will have no regrets–only joy.
What is integrity worth? Everything.