As hard as it is to live a life of integrity, because we have God’s help in doing so, we have a choice in living the life of integrity he desires of us. We might not think about that very often, but it’s true. In today’s society, it’s easy to blame someone or something else on our lack of integrity. We push back justify our behavior on poor parenting. We blame the lack of material goods in a house bordering on poverty in a materialistic world. We blame the violence and immorality that invades us in mind-numbing entertainment like television, movies, games, and more. We blame schools for not enforcing rules that should be set and enforced at home.
We blame anything and everything on our failure to maintain a life of integrity. Why? Because like most things in our life, we have a hard time accepting the fact that most often our failures are out fault. And the failure lies in the choices we made somewhere along the line. We just don’t want to believe that we can fail. So we pawn our mistakes, our behavior, our failure on someone else.
The problem with that approach, though, we never learn from our failure unless we take responsibility for it. We must figure out where we went wrong, fix it, and go from there. Doing everything we can not to repeat those same mistakes in the future. We will fail again? Most likely. No one is exempt from error. We all fail at one time or another at one task or another. We can’t help it. We are part of Adam’s race. He and Eve disobeyed God in that first garden and we inherited his inability to live the perfect life of integrity God desired of him and us.
But there is something we can do about it. First, we can ask God and the individuals we might have wronged for forgiveness. John wrote that when we confess our sins, he is ready, able, and just and will forgive our sins. But also wants to lead us to a life of righteousness, right living. That means we must make some hard choices at times. We must look temptations in the eye and say no. We must obey his commands despite the lure and attraction of the things the world might offer us if we yield to her demands.
We have a choice. I can choose to satisfy those base desires in unhealthy, unholy ways. I can choose to follow my selfish desires. I can choose to use other people for my gain. I can choose to hoard the things God has entrusted to me. I can choose to push the helpless and needy away when I have the means to give them hope. I can just to execute vengeance and justice instead of grace and mercy toward my enemies. I can choose the path I take.
I can choose my path, but I cannot choose what lies at the end of that path. I cannot choose the consequences of every choice I make whether good or bad. I cannot alter the natural outcome of the laws God gave us. Sure, he is a God of love and mercy, but that doesn’t mean he will stop the natural course of events that come to us as a result of our choices. We may still suffer the lasting effects of those seemingly insignificant choices we made in an hour of weakness.
So, how do I ensure I make the right choices along the way? How do I avoid the consequence that God set in place at the beginning of time? How do I stand up to the failures that I cause through my actions?
First,lean more on him. Go to God in both the good times and the bad. Pray earnestly when you’re in a time of smooth sailing. When you do, it will be easier to approach him when the going gets tough. You wouldn’t ask a complete stranger to help you with a personal, intimate problem, but you might ask a dear friend. Think about your relationship with God. If you only interact with him on Sunday mornings at church, why would he help? If you’re not his friend, why would he stop to give aid in your time of need? So in the good times, when everything is going well, be careful to give God the glory. Maintain a constant personal relationship with him. When you do, you’ll find he is willing and ready to give you the support you need and he will never leave you or forsake you. So keep your prayer life up.
Second, meditate on his word. What does that mean? Think about what you have read in scripture. Of course, that means you need to read scripture...every day. Maybe even several times a day. David said, “I will meditate on your word night and day. I will hide your word in my heart, so I might not sin against you.” If David tells us a dozen times to meditate on God’s word and deeds, maybe we should pay attention and do just that. Read the Bible. Let it soak into your everyday life. Don’t let it be one of those tomes that gathers dust on a table. Let God speak to you through his word. He gives good advice in those 66 books if we would just listen to him and do what he tells us to do.
Third, before making life-changing decisions, stop and think. It’s surprising how often we just act without thinking about the second and third order affects our choices make on us or those around us. Most of the time it isn’t too hard to think about the consequences our actions will create. We just need to step back for a second and use that gray matter that sits inside our skull. Tragically, we too often just act and think about it after the fact when it’s too late to retract our action. Once done, it’s done. Things have been set in motion and the consequences are set whether we like them or not.
Then while we’re on this pause before making a decision, when possible and practical, seek the advice of a mentor. Most of the time, the decision you are about to make has been made before. It is truly amazing the number of times we repeat the mistakes of others because we fail to heed their warnings. Just take a moment to listen to those who have gone before you. Listen to their counsel. Understand they have your best in mind. If they have traveled that road before you, they can help you avoid the pitfalls and the suffering they may have suffered because of choice they would make differently if given the chance. Remember, two heads are better than one.
We’re back to where we began today. Integrity involves choice. You can be a person of integrity. You can choose that life. It will take God’s help. We can not do it alone. But we can choose to let him walk beside us and keep us on the right path. As we go back to our original definition a few weeks ago, integrity is about unity, oneness, cohesion. When we choose with God in mind, we draw closer to him. We we choose with our selfish desires in mind, we drive a wedge between us and him.
Think about the choices you will make today. Stand as Joshua did with his declaration at the top of your priorities, “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It is always a choice. And God lets you make it at every crossroad of life. Choose today whom you will serve.