Integrity or Necessity … a rewrite!

“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room … and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

Advertisements

A young lawyer right out of law school was fortunate enough to have a very rich father who rented him as a graduation gift, entire floor of a beautiful downtown New York high rise building. The suite came fully furnished with some of the finest oak furniture. His father had even purchased a full library of law books that filled a whole wall toward the front of the suite.

As he went into his new office he went over to his executive leather chair fit for only the very best highly successful lawyers and sat down. He leaned back and began to day dream some more, picturing himself working cases and arguing before juries and then heard a person come in the front door into the empty reception area. Quickly leaning forward he grabbed the telephone and began pretending he was speaking with someone on the other end of the telephone about a law case. Knowing that the man in the reception area could hear him he spoke louder than normal trying to appear as important as possible. He was able to keep up this act for about two to three minutes before he finally hung up the telephone.

After hanging up he walked out to the reception area and apologized for keeping the man waiting. Still trying to impress the potentially new client he went on to tell the man that it was very hard to keep up with all the telephone calls while he was searching for another prominent attorney to bring on board with him. The brand new lawyer told the man that just any other attorney would not be good enough, he only wanted the best.

After going on about just how important the call was the he had just been on he asked the man how he could help him. The man smiled a bit and told the young lawyer that he was only there to hook up his telephones.

The lack of integrity is all about pretending to be something you are not!

On a regular basis, newspapers will headline various ethical probes in Washington, DC and around the country. When we hear the word integrity, in our minds we associate some moral code that one needs to have incorporated into their life. We generally want those in working in government using our hard earned tax dollars, those in schools teaching our children educational values, those who we look up to as our spiritual leaders and even those in our families, to have integrity. When we say that someone is a person of high integrity, we mean that person will make a personal choice to uphold themselves to consistent moral code, regardless of costs to them. To me, integrity stands opposed to hypocrisy. For the Christian man or woman, integrity is an imperative. Jesus was a man of integrity because He spoke honestly. His actions validated the truthfulness and accuracy of what He said.

Election year is going to be soon upon us. We want a person of integrity in the White House. The word integrity is derived from the Latin adjective ‘integer’ meaning whole or complete. We want to see in our political leaders this wholeness coming from qualities of honesty. We want to see in our spiritual leaders a consistency of character that shows us integrity. Our spouses want to see in us words and actions that result from values, beliefs and principles we claim to hold. The old adage of “Do as I say, and not as I do” is integrity corrupted.

Looking at King David’s life, even with all of the flaws, it is easy to see integrity running like a golden thread throughout his life. He was considered a great leader of integrity because he had a steadfast adherence to God’s moral code. And when he failed miserably, he then tried to hide his crime of passion which finally ended in murder, what did he do when exposed? His integrity came to the surface and he confessed.

Daniel was another man of integrity. Listen to what God wrote about Daniel: “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Because of jealousy, his colleges) tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. [Daniel 6:3-4 NIV] He was a hostage to a foreign power in a foreign land, but in the face of this he did his job with integrity. Those around him classified Daniel as a man of exceptional qualities, so much so that the king recognized this foreign prisoner as someone he could trust above anyone else in his whole kingdom. King Darius found in Daniel an excellent spirit and attitude [v. 3]. I know that this is a worn out clique, but it still seems to be true: “We can only fake a good attitude for so long before our real attitude comes to the surface.” What makes a person successful in the sight of God, who sees into the heart, is what we are like when alone where only God knows our actions. That is what integrity is all about.

Because Daniel’s attitude was in the right place, he was faithful to what God gave him to do [v. 4]. In today’s political and business environment, to find a man or woman in whom no corruption can be found is rare indeed. Whether I am in business, politics, homemaker or ministry, the question is always the same for God. Am I trustworthy as to my promises and not negligent in what I do? The practice of integrity produces unworldly wisdom.

Integrity starts and ends with the “law of God” [v. 5]. The verse does not say that directly but it is implied. Real integrity comes only from learning about the kind of integrity that God has in mind. What is interesting is that Daniel’s enemies had to manufacture a circumstance where Daniel’s pursuit of integrity to God’s law was tested by civil law.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. [Daniel 6:10] His praying three times a day to God was not a sudden act of civil rebellion. Daniel did nothing more than do what he had always done. When he learned of the decree, he did not rush home and raise panic prayers to God. What is important to God is our consistent walk with Him, and that is what Daniel did in the face of death; “just as he had done before.” Those qualities of integrity: exceptional attitude, faithfulness and personal purity where the disciplines that enabled him in the moment of crisis to not panic and to continue to be “giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Without the foundation building blocks of faith, his attitude, his faithfulness and his trustworthiness would have gone out the window. Without the building blocks, the history of Daniel would have been far different. When the crisis comes, have you been building on the right foundation?

Trials

‘Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials.’ James 1:2

Trials are one of the common denominators for being human. However, my trials and yours are going to look and feel different because we are different. We all react differently to physical, financial, and relational trials. The operative word here is “when” not “if” we meet various trials. Trials can come about when we refuse to listen to counsel. Trials might result of someone we are connected with making a mistake [a spouse gossips] and we are caught up in the it. Trials can build over time [such as a disease] or crash in on us suddenly [like the unexpected death of a loved one]. Some trials will be public while others will be private. With a certainty all trials will test our faith. And all trials will bring us to a crossroads. The crossroad is the decision to resist the trial or to embrace this as an opportunity to grow more Christ-like. The most common response we start with is “Why is this happening to me?” Peter answers this age-old issue by telling us that  ‘…don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.’ (1 Peter 4:12 NLT). It is a matter of application. It is one thing to say that I believe in the sovereignty of God and quite another allowing God to be sovereign while we are experiencing a trial. Listen to the counsel of James under the inspirations of the Holy Spirit: ‘Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…that you may be perfect and complete.’ (vv. 2-4 NAS). Trials have a way of clearing out the religious baggage we accumulate over time if we are willing to go back to the basics of our faith. Am I willing to stop whining about the trial and get quiet before God? Am I willing to cease my activity and spend some time listening to the One who wants me to mature?

What do we do when tempted?

Here is the narrative about what Jesus did when He was tempted:

Matthew 4:1-11  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Mat 4:5  Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”  Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Mat 4:8  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.   And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was marked by His baptism by John the Baptist.  But before He could be allowed to start, there was one more test from God His Father.  The Holy Spirit led [some translations will read “drove”] Jesus into the wilderness.  This was not a friendly place to be.  He was alone and there were wild animals that lived in the area.  Once the Holy Spirit had taken Jesus to the location picked by God, Jesus started a fast that lasted 40-days.  But the fasting was not the primary trial.  After 40-days, a malevolent angel approaches Him.

We are not given much data from the Scriptures as to the physical appearance of the devil after his fall.  But the words used in the Bible give some clues.  Devil means slanderer in the Greek.  In the language of Hebrew, it means “adversary.”  He is an arch-enemy of God and is determined to undermine man’s spiritual interest.  Matthew’s narrative is focused on what Jesus experienced and not on the evil one providing the temptations.  It is clear from the narrative that the devil wants Jesus to act on His own outside the will of His Father.  Jesus makes it clear by His responses that anyone can keep themselves from temptation if they focus on God and the Word that He has given us.  Every quote used by Jesus was well known by the Jewish people.  There is a clear lesson here for us today…but on with the narrative.

The devil thinks that Jesus will surely fail during one of three temptations.  First the accuser tries to get Jesus to take matters into His own hands by creating bread…40-days without food would make for a famished man [v.3].  Jesus responds with a God-principle and does not take the bait.

Next the accuser tries to tempt Jesus into manipulating God to respond to Jesus doing an act of suicide.  Again Jesus quotes another God-principle…reminding the devil that he was on dangerous ground.

Having failed twice, the devil now tries the temptation of power because he knows that power corrupts men because of their pride.  One can almost sense from the narrative that the devil feels sure that this is the temptation that means success for him.  But Jesus gives a command for Satan to immediately leave followed by a reminder of the 1st commandment…a command from God Himself.  Satan leaves on Jesus’ command but his pride causes him to wait for another opportunity.

There would be other opportunities.  Jesus walked and talked a life before God that was based on choice.  He did not let hunger which put Him into a weakened state to and dominate His thinking.  He kept His eyes on His Father.  We face choices all the time.  Do we think about where they might be coming from?  Satan wants to accuse us.  He wants to divide us.  He wants us to take our eyes off of Jesus and look elsewhere for help.  Everything about our life is a matter of choice.  Follow Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.