By Conover Swofford
Integrity means living our lives according to a certain code of values. The Christian’s values come from God’s revealed will recorded in Scripture.
Living according to God’s code of values guides us in the choices we make. For instance, when we live by the Ten Commandments, we choose to honor our parents and not to kill or steal.
When we live with integrity, following God’s code of values, we can depend on our faith in God and his care for us, no matter what comes. As Joseph explained to his brothers in Egypt, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
How can we apply God’s code of values to our lives? We can learn from others who lived with integrity. Early in his Babylonian captivity and before he was confronted with difficult decisions, Daniel had resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with royal food and wine (Daniel 1:8).
Joseph, too, was determined to live according to God’s values from the beginning. No matter what happened to him, he maintained his integrity and kept his faith in God.
Integrity in Practice
At the young age of 17, Joseph was sold by his brothers to a group of slave traders. The traders took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to a man named Potiphar. Even as a slave, Joseph behaved himself impeccably. He worked diligently and with integrity. Potiphar was impressed.
While we most likely won’t find ourselves sold into slavery, our circumstances can seem overwhelming at times, leaving us feeling stressed and depressed.
Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (NIV 1984). Most of us will never suffer as Joseph did. Still, we can learn from the way Joseph endured his trials with integrity. God helped Joseph and God helps us.
The Bible contains many examples of men and women whose circumstances were much worse than anything we might go through, yet whose faith in God never wavered. When we feel discouraged, we can find hope in the stories of Nehemiah who had to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem while fighting off his enemies, of Paul and Silas who were beaten and imprisoned for spreading the gospel, of Esther who risked her life to save God’s people, and of Jesus who left Heaven to come and die for us.
Romans 8:38, 39 tells us nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That fact alone should strengthen us daily.
Integrity in Temptation
The apostle John placed the temptations we face into three categories: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16, NIV). Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. She appealed to his cravings and the lust of his eyes. But Joseph’s code of values kept him innocent. Our integrity can’t shield us from all harm, though. Even though he was innocent, Joseph went to prison. But he went with a clear conscience before God.
Two teenage girls were shopping in the mall. One of them saw a new cosmetic she had been begging her mother to buy for her. When she thought no one was looking, she slipped the product into her purse. Her friend watched her and was horrified.
“You can’t take that,” the friend said. “That’s stealing.”
“It’s just a small thing,” the girl protested.
“Stealing is stealing,” her friend said firmly. “There is no big or small.”
The girl returned the product to the shelf.
There are no big or small sins. All sin is against God—against his love and his design. What we might consider a little sin still corrupts us. Integrity helps us remain incorruptible. We see past the temptation to the strength that resisting the temptation gives us. God has promised to see us through any temptation. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).
Integrity in Waiting
Even in prison Joseph maintained his integrity. Pharaoh had thrown his cupbearer and baker into prison. Some time later, they both had a dream on the same night. Joseph heard about their dreams and told them God could interpret them. The baker’s dream indicated that Pharaoh was planning to have him put to death. The cupbearer’s dream, on the other hand, indicated that Pharaoh would restore him to his former position. The dreams came true and as the cupbearer was leaving the prison, Joseph asked him not to forget him. Even so, the cupbearer forgot Joseph for two years. How many of us would have gotten discouraged and abandoned hope at that point?
Keeping our integrity is especially hard during our waiting times. These are the times we can become discouraged because we feel forgotten and unappreciated. We might not see how God is working in our lives.
Nita, a freelance writer, knew she was fulfilling God’s plan for her life. She stood firm against those who insisted she get a “regular job.” To those negative people, she glibly replied that she was doing God’s will and nothing could budge her. Then the freelance market dried up and she could no longer support herself financially. Her utilities were shut off and she was evicted from her home. Even though everyone around her said, “I told you so,” Nita didn’t lose heart or her faith in God. She took a job as a secretary and moved in with a good friend.
For three years Nita worked as a secretary. Because of her attitude, many people came to her for spiritual advice and encouragement. God used Nita to bless people she never would have met if she had stayed home writing. After three years, Nita was contacted by a publisher who had seen her former work and wanted her to write devotional books. She was able to use her experience as a secretary and her relationships with people at work to help her write her devotionals.
Even while we wait, God is preparing the next step in his plan for our lives. Our faith and integrity allow us to use our times of waiting wisely. Instead of complaining and becoming discouraged, we can look around us and try to see what God is teaching us at the moment.
Focusing on God’s Plan
Joseph’s life demonstrates how focusing on God’s plan gives us the determination to live our lives the right way. When we decide ahead of time what we will and will not do, then we are not shaken when the choice confronts us. We need to teach this principle to our children. In order to live a lifetime of integrity, we have to determine what God wants us to do and then do it no matter what circumstances come our way.
Exodus 1:8 says, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.” Because this new Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph’s story, he was afraid of Joseph’s people who had multiplied greatly. So he made them slaves.
We don’t want to be like this king. We want to imitate Joseph’s integrity and let his life be an example to us of how we can live our lives dedicated to God’s plan.
Conover Swofford is a freelance writer in Columbus, Georgia.
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