Paul writes to Titus, “In everything set an example by doing what is good – ‘be a pattern and a model of good deeds and works’ (AMP). In your teaching show integrity – ‘be incorruptible in your teaching’ (TM), ‘unadulterated’ (AMP), seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned – ‘showing gravity [having the strictest regard for truth and purity of motive] with dignity and seriousness’ (AMP), so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us – ‘then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around’ (TM)” (2:7-8,NIV).
One picture that has etched itself into my imagination over the years has been that of a single house standing after the fifth most costly hurricane Ivan struck the shores of Galveston, Texas in 2004. They say that this cyclone kicked up waves that reached 90 feet high. One lone house braved this destructive storm, and remained firmly intact on the beach head. It had what we would call, “structural integrity.” It survived the wind, the waves and the flood: its foundation was not undermined when it was tested.
I believe that the strength of an organization like Kelowna Christian Center Society is found in the core integrity of its people. We have entered critical times, and we are facing a season of varied challenges. It is in these times that our integrity is put to the challenge, and we find whether character and convictions or circumstance and preferences rule our lives.
Charlie Brown said, “Most of us like lives of ups and upper ups.” However, the Bible doesn’t promise that. It does promise us a hope and a future, and calls us to be people who “do not faint in the day of adversity….” (Pr 24:10). In difficult times, we need to be found strong, and our strength is found in the “structural spiritual integrity” God provides.
Integrity means “to have an adherence to strict moral and ethical principles; to function with soundness of moral character, free from corrupting influence or motive; honest; in nature, operating from a wholeness, entire, and incapable of being diminished, sound, unimpaired, or in perfect condition; incorruptible, uncompromised.”
One who has integrity is a person who has strict moral and ethical principles and soundness of moral character. People of integrity are free from corrupting influence or ulterior motives. They are honest, internally whole, and cannot be diminished by challenge. They function in an unimpaired, incorruptible manner and cannot be compromised.
The opposite of integrity is the word hypocrisy, referring to an actor who plays a part on stage: literally, “one who performs behind a mask.” Hypocrisy is the credibility gap between the state of the inside and the outside world, between character and personality, between what we know to do as right and what we actually do, between our talk and our walk. It has to do with degrees of pretension. It takes a long time to establish a life of integrity, and reveals itself in our workmanship, our values, and our sense of duty.
Unfortunately, if there is any hypocrisy, it can be undermined in a Hurricane Ivan mono second. Faulty foundations are exposed in an instant. Cracks emerge for all to see. Porous material reveals a lack of substance and strength that cannot sustain the strain of the moment. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to walk our Christ’s integrity in our hearts.
What we need in these times is a deep spiritual sincerity anchored into a vibrant relationship to Christ, a freedom from hypocrisy. Sincerity is a picture word that alludes to vases that were formed on the potter’s wheel, baked in the fire, and then, sent to market. To evaluate the vase’s sincerity, it had to come through the fire and pass the test of light.
Insincere vases cracked under the heat, and potters would fill in the cracks with wax. To evaluate whether something was sincere or not, the buyer would lift the vase into light. If there were any cracks, the light came through the wax and exposed its insincerity. It was considered something without integrity, compromised, unsound, and ultimately, unusable. It could not take the heat or the light: we must be able to sustain both.
James 1:3-5 gives us some keys to overcoming in times like these. The Message translation says, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.”
The first key has to do with “attitude.” Consider it joy when you encounter adversity of any kind. Some people are more naturally optimistic, and find it easier to handle extreme challenges with faith. However, all of us need to take this spiritual position seriously: don’t let the enemy rob you of your joy. Joyfully encounter every issue.
The second key has to do with “action” – exercise your faith in God, His Word and promises. Don’t allow the enemy to develop in you a place of fear and anxiety, or dislodge you from your confidence. Guard over your heart and mind, and activate your faith. If you are low on faith, the Bible says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). So, get into the Word, get the Word into you, get His Word into your mouth, and declare that Word into your situation.
The third key is to choose to “endure.” The exercise of your faith will strengthen your spirit, enabling you to persevere when others quit. Endurance does not mean “patience or an ability to tolerate or survive.” It is an overcoming term, the ability to keep moving forward, making progress, when others are drawing back. Endurance is the “quality of character in the face of difficulty and provocation that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial” (Vine’s). Scripture makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 13:10 that “God is faithful to His nature and character not to allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear or endure.” He promises to “provide a way of escape for us – an exit strategy, a way in the wilderness, a landing place where we stand upright.”
The fourth key has to do with “character” of a “life of integrity.” If we will allow our faith to work, and keep committed in our heart believing in a good and godly outcome, James says that we will be “perfectly developed, lacking in nothing” and we will be able to radiate integrity to our world. We will not be spared what others face, but we will be able to overcome and not be overwhelmed. We can possess a break-out and breakthrough power, resurrection strength, grace that enables us to grow faster, go further, climb higher, or push the limits of possibility past our fears and discouragement.
Jesus is our example of a life of integrity. The Holy Spirit invades us with Christ’s integrity and character, stamping His image and imprinting His character upon our hearts and minds. We are called to express this integrity in all we are and in all that we do. That integrity will sustain us in the midst of the greatest storms that come to rock our world.
Jesus entered a turbulent and chaotic world that first Christmas. He lived a life that demonstrated what the power of a life of integrity – submission to the Father, commitment to His team, loyalty to the eternal plan, and commitment to the cause and purpose of His coming – can accomplish.
May the Lord be gracious to us all in 2016 as we commit ourselves to be a people and an organization of great integrity, not because of our personal capability, but because of His capability to work this integrity in and through us. From our leadership team, may I wish you and your family a Blessed Christmas celebration and a very fruitful and prosperous New Year.