Living with Integrity

1 Samuel 12:1-5
1And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. 2And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. 3Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” 4They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” 5And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

Samuel now stands before the people with some words of wisdom for the nation now firmly established in the new monarchy, with Saul as their king. The nation stands united and strong because God has graciously allowed them strength and peace. Their enemies stand at bay for a time, not because of their own power or the prowess of King Saul, but because God has given them these gifts. Samuel takes this moment to share words of encouragement and admonition.

The first thing Samuel addresses is his own conduct as their leader. It is a wonderful thing to get to the end of a long career or even just your life and upon review, not be afraid or ashamed of how you have lived. His life has been one of integrity. Sadly, his own sons do not reflect the values of their father, but that is on them, not Samuel. As I approach a time of transition in my own life, I too have spent some time looking back to see if my life has been one of integrity. For the most part, I would say “yes”. But all of us have things that make us cringe when we remember them. I am no different. But overall, I am not ashamed. And I am probably no different in that I “wish I knew then what I know now”, but that knowledge comes with experience and life lived.

Living with integrity takes grit and determination. It also takes faith that God is always in His heaven taking care of every need. While I can be a ‘control freak’, I have never lost sight of God’s hand upon my life. That is a gift given to me by the Holy Spirit, through the hands of my parents. I do regret being bossy and harsh. I do regret words spoken in haste and anger. And I do regret time spent on things that had no value to anyone but that I thought were so very important at the time. They weren’t. But overarching the entire survey of life lived so far, integrity remains and for that, I give God all of the glory, for I could never (nor would I have ever) lived such a life on my own.

As I read back over that last paragraph, I apologize if it sounds arrogant or self-important, for that is not the intention at all. Mistakes are made all the time. But one of the most winsome aspects of the faith is the ever-present “do-over”. If your life hasn’t been one of honesty and integrity, maybe today is the day to make a change. Jesus died for all of our sins and forgives freely. Because of His sacrifice, each new day holds the promise of a fresh start. Maybe today is the day to speak honestly and live authentically with others – including God. That’s the foundation of integrity and the Holy Spirit can and will enable it in His children. Serving a God of grace is filled with encouragement and new beginnings.

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