Spiritual Encouragement / Bible Lesson.
“Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move.” – Chinese proverb
“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” – Walter Anderson
“Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” – Proverbs 13:20
Are you a person of character? Or are you living your life playing a character? If I am really honest with myself, am I a people pleaser (desperately seeking affirmation and approval)? Or am I a manipulative people user (self-serving, self-protective, deceptive and fearful)?
In today’s culture, who talks about developing character, much less Christian character? Yes, we should have traits that reveal an internal and external consistency that coincides with a set of values. But integrity involves so much more than just having an ethical code or being honest in certain situations.
Integrity means choosing to consistently do the right thing in every situation. Living each day according to the ethics defined by Christ Himself. What others see on the outside must always reflect what is truly on the inside.
Integrity brings with it a sense of inner peace and confidence. It enhances our relationship with God. It opens us to the trust of those around us. It is living in a way that is honorable, trustworthy, dependable, truthful, principled, just and gracious.
A life of integrity is NOT the appearance of perfection. It is NOT a life of enslavement to a list of disconnected rules and activities. Let us correct our assumptions, misconceptions and get this right.
Christians are instructed to “be perfect”. Yet the command does not mean “flawless” or “sinless” but “complete” and “mature” (Matthew 5:48; II Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:11 – 13; Philippians 3:10 – 16; Colossians 4:12; II Timothy 3:16, 17; Hebrews 6:1 – 3; Hebrews 13:20, 21; I Peter 5:8 – 11; James 1:2 – 4).
Realize the real challenge for character growth is speaking and acting out our beliefs. Lifelong experiences applied to our relationships with each other. Everyday. In public and in private. In the intellect, heart spirit and will. In our daily routines. During times of joy, stress and tragedy (Romans 5:1 – 5; James 1:2 – 8).
One of the reasons for Christian brotherliness (Matthew 23:8 – 12) and spiritual fellowship (community) is that we should regard each other at a collegial level to be able to learn from everyone. This is a team effort. We have an obligation to teach and encourage each other.
However, at times it IS a difficult and lonely path. Some won’t care. Others don’t want to understand. There may be no one to encourage or congratulate us for every small (but hard-fought) victory. We only have our dark, excruciating thoughts and the devil stabbing accusations, lies and condemnation into our conscience.
Even if this is the case, we have our Father, our Savior, our Counselor, the angels and “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1 – 3) smiling and cheering us on. And any success we achieve is not rooted in any of our efforts. But only in Christ and the Holy Spirit (John 15:1 – 5; Galatians 5:22 – 25).
Are you a person of integrity? Are you becoming a person of character? Am I? Our lives teach us who we are. Jesus is our role model. We must desire and crave God more than we want to avoid the pain that the process of such changes brings.
As always, I welcome your comments.
Questions and Applications.
- What specific character qualities do you want for your life? Why these?
- What character qualities do you look for in your associates? What will you do to encourage these traits in others?
- Think of a recent occasion where you acted in a less-than-honorable way and how the situation would have turned out had you acted with greater integrity. What will you do with this knowledge going forward?
- Identify any gray areas that you might have in your life and ask God to help you discern what is right from wrong in these areas.
- How can you avail yourself to God so that His holiness and character shines through you? Express your hopes (and concerns) to Him.