Integrity makes us or breaks us. Integrity is a consistency between private and public life, being what you claim to be and doing what you said you would do. You are on the inside what you are on the outside. It is life lived with consistency, and it is the reason why Paul was able to entrust the ministry into young Timothy’s hands.
In 2 Timothy 1:3–5, Paul wrote to Timothy, saying:
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. . . . I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
Timothy’s “sincere faith” and Paul’s maintaining “a clear conscience” stand out to me, revealing that both Paul and Timothy had no secret agendas in the ministry. They served from sincere hearts with honest motives.
“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). And Psalm 51:6 (NKJV) echoes the importance God places on this character trait: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts.”
These verses show that God desires His children to wear no masks and live with no pretenses. When we live a life of complete integrity, we follow God’s path and walk under His blessings. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity [or pretense]” (Proverbs 11:3).
I want to highlight four areas of our lives and ministry that must be marked by absolute integrity.
Integrity in Your Finances
Handling money is often the primary area in which integrity is found lacking, and unfaithful stewardship is the number one destroyer of so many in ministry today.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money.” Notice He did not say, “You cannot serve both God and the devil,” or “You cannot serve both God and the world.” Paul told Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice it does not say “some evil,” but “all kinds of evil.”
Integrity in Your Work
Why did God choose David to be the king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16:5, 10–11)? One reason is that when nobody was watching him he was faithful with his work. When he was out there in the wilderness watching over his father’s sheep and a wild animal approached, he did not say, “What can I do? I’m just a small boy and my stronger brothers aren’t here to rescue the sheep. I’ll just climb a tree and watch, even if the animal destroys part of the flock.” No, David went after the wild animals, killed them and saved his father’s sheep. He was faithful with his task. Even though there was no one looking over his shoulder to see what he did every minute of the day, he understood the importance of walking in integrity before His Lord.
We must live with the same understanding and let it direct the way we spend our day and do our work.
Loyalty Is Crucial
God puts great emphasis on the loyal heart, advising the wise man to “let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3–4, RSV, emphasis mine). Through this verse we see that loyalty is not just something that is cooked up, but weaved into the fiber of our hearts. And, by nature, loyalty is often costly.
Look at your life. Are you loyal to the church or organization that the Lord has called you to serve?
Often the first thing we do is complain, criticize and tear people down without taking even one day to stand in the gap, pray and agonize before the Lord for them. G.K. Chesterton summed it up well when he said, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
Integrity in Your Speech
Are you careful with the words you allow to come out of your mouth? So often, either by intent or carelessness, we do such great harm by the words we speak. We have forgotten that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21), making it so important for the servant of God to hold to integrity in the things he says and the words he listens to.
Many start the race, but only those who abide by the rules laid out beforehand will receive the prize. Integrity is the rule of ministry. We must be an honest people, full of integrity in our financial responsibilities, our work, our loyalty to others and our speech. By living this, we can be sure to stay on the narrow road, and all that we do will not only be blessed by God, but bring glory to Him as well.
Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.
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