3 Questions on Integrity

by Franklin Graham
 

Integrity seems to be on the­down­slide in America. The public is bombarded with stories that smack of lack of integrity from Wall Street to Washington, D.C., from professional sports to college athletics. It seems we learn of another case of lying, stealing or cheating every day. As Christians involved in ministry, it’s easy to become arrogant and judgmental about these secular examples, but sadly, the people of God, who are held to a higher standard, have not been immune from breaches of integrity. The Bible warns, “Like a muddied fountain and a polluted spring is a righteous man who yields, falls down, and compromises his integrity before [the world]” (Proverbs 25:26 AMP).

People throughout history have sought riches, fame, and success from the reservoirs of human ingenuity to define themselves. Few search for wisdom and integrity from God’s unfathomable reserves to establish who they are. Why is this?

Many strive for personal achievement to gain recognition, many times under-stepping even the secular standard of integrity: character, honesty, and moral virtue. The dictionary defines integrity as the “firm adherence to a code of especially moral values and incorruptibility.” Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the high standard of integrity, have access to His unlimited resources that empower us to exhibit such characteristics.

Three questions come to mind. Who has integrity? How does one obtain integrity? What does integrity exhibit?

Psalm 119:1 answers all three questions, “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord” (NLT). This statement tells us who has integrity (people who follow), how they obtained integrity (by godly instruction), and what the result of integrity is (joy).

The next question to consider is what are the instructions of the Lord? While many Scripture passages can be highlighted, Philippians 2:14 comes to mind [my comments in brackets].

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God [who] without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life [how]; so that I may rejoice [what] in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (NKJV).

The apostle Paul further states: “Brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw . . . these things do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV).

True ministry done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ must hold to the standard set forth in the Word of God if it is to shine in truth and light. As the church is the embodiment of Christ on earth today, so is the work it administers. The church is made up not of organizations but of God’s people. His instruction is given to individuals to follow. “Receive instruction in wise dealing and the discipline of wise thoughtful­ness, righteous­ness, justice and integrity” (Proverbs 1:3 AMP). You ask, whom should we follow; what should we follow? The answer: the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.

We learn the principles of right living from our Father in heaven. I have also learned from my earthly father the importance of putting God’s Word into action. As an internationally recognized evangelist and preacher, Billy Graham has always been concerned that he and his organization exemplify the elements of integrity as a testimony to those carefully watching, up close and from afar. He has stated, “God’s standard is expressed in the Bible, and the ultimate example of that standard is Jesus Christ. When we live by truth, we possess integrity. Integrity means that if our private life was suddenly exposed, we’d have no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed.” Integrity means our outward life is consistent with our inner convictions.

The lack of integrity tells sordid stories. The Bible does not shy away from revealing the absence of integrity played out in the lives under the watchful eye of Almighty God. The Old Testament patriarch Abraham compromised integrity when he lied to Egypt’s pharaoh, yet God did not withdraw His promise to make him the father of many nations.

The apostle Peter compromised his integrity when he denied that he was a follower of Christ even though earlier he proclaimed that he would never cease from following Jesus, yet the Lord did not turn His back on the one who would go on to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Though we are the recipients of God’s forgiveness when we sin, we live with the consequences of our sin. But God fully displays His integrity and is faithful to His Word. He fulfills all of His promises.

King David, because of his sin, cried out to the Lord to restore the joy of salvation (Psalm 51:12). The believers in the church in Ephesus were warned that sin grieves the Holy Spirit’s effectiveness in their lives (Ephesians 4:30). Paul disciplined himself into subjection so that he would not become disqualified from preaching the Word of God to others (1 Corinthians 9:27).

While we all fall short of God’s standard from time to time, we take refuge in the fact that He knows the motives of our hearts, for when we are in tune with God’s Word, He will help us through our times of failure and He will bless us when we uphold His standard of right living.

Early in my father’s ministry he understood this concept. It was for this reason that he helped establish ECFA, a monitoring agency that strives to help nonprofit Christian ministries maintain the highest ethical standards. These standards naturally are based upon the principles of Scripture and are given to guide individuals along life’s pathways. The Bible instructs Christ’s followers to exhibit “a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility” (Titus 2:7-8 NKJV). May God’s people strive to attain such a mark worthy of the Lord’s calling.

God will bless those who live out their lives exhibiting integrity in all things so that we can preach Christ’s truth with integrity. His blessings will empower us to shine His light in a darkened world with joy and effectiveness.

Franklin Graham is president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, NC, and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, NC.

 

 


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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