by Pam Condie
All through our lives we’re faced with choices. Every day we have to make decisions. Some are absolute no-brainers, but others may not be quite so cut and dried. Sometimes, to be honest, I just wish someone else would make decisions for me – make my life easier. But that’s not how things work, is it?
As we know, from the beginning of time, God gave humanity the right to make their own decisions. (Do you ever wish God hadn’t given the first humans that right?) We all know the outcome, don’t we? Adam and Eve made a lousy choice – and now, thousands of years later, we’re still living with the results of that one choice.
Maybe the choices we face today – tomorrow, next week, next month, next year – won’t determine the future of the world, but they will still have an impact.
Sometimes, circumstances can make or break us. Many people find themselves in circumstances that are quite beyond their control – situations they haven’t even contributed to. Consider the millions of Jewish people – victims of Hitler’s WWII holocaust – thrown into the horror of Concentration Camps simply because they were Jews.
Stories have come out of those Concentration Camps about ordinary people who resolutely chose to claim personal victory – despite their physical environment. People who said,
“You will not defeat me. You can control my physical environment but you can’t have victory over my attitude. You may torture me, commit unspeakable atrocities on my person, but you will not break me” (Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place).
The way we deal with circumstances throughout life is linked to our personal integrity. The life choices we make and how we deal with their outcomes shape our character and speak to our integrity. They demonstrate our level of integrity to others.
Clearly, I’ve been thinking about choices. And those thoughts have brought contemplation not only on personal Integrity, but also on the Devotional Life. I would argue that a Christian’s integrity is grounded in our devotional life – in our daily relationship with our Living Lord. You may think that’s another no-brainer – after all, as we seek to grow more like Jesus it should result in a deepening of our personal integrity. Jesus was, and is, the embodiment of integrity.
If you’re like me, when you consider someone’s integrity, you’d probably be considering the person’s trustworthiness. How good is their word?
When I think of biblical characters whose lives demonstrate these qualities of integrity, I immediately think of people like Joseph, Deborah, Daniel, Esther – just to name four of my top favourites (apart from Jesus, whose entire life is the embodiment of integrity). I know there are many more – and you probably have your own favourites whom you rate higher. But I want to share some thoughts I’ve had about these four characters and the choices each one had to make in some tricky real-life situations.
I link the concept of integrity with our devotional life because each of these four exhibited a level of steadfast obedience and trustworthiness that was rooted in their relationship with God. They honoured God and trusted him above any temptation that was thrown their way. And Scripture tells us that God was with them and honoured the hard choices they made.
Of the four I’ve mentioned above, I’m going to focus on Joseph. I’m sure you all know his story – from favoured son to lowly slave; from favoured slave to lowly prisoner; from favoured prisoner to Prime Minister of Egypt. Now that is one huge change of circumstance! (If it’s been a while since you read the narrative of Joseph’s mind-boggling roller coaster of a life, check it out in Genesis 39:1-23.) Joseph’s story shows how we can rise above the most challenging circumstances when our lives are securely anchored in the God of all creation.
Here's a 17-year-old boy (possibly just a bit obnoxious and rather full of himself – check out Genesis 37) who, in the space of a day went from being Dad’s favourite son to being sold to slave-traders by his brothers. Yet the Joseph narratives show a young man, whose godly character and integrity had so impressed his new Egyptian master that he had been given total authority over Potiphar’s entire household and estate. All Potiphar had to worry about was choosing the menu for his meals (39:5)! Potiphar placed his trust in his young Hebrew slave because he saw that ‘God was with Joseph’ (39:3); Joseph’s presence actually brought blessing to Potiphar (v.5); and later, in prison, to the prison warden (v.23).
But with his new-found stature came temptation. Potiphar’s wife took a fancy to the handsome young slave and set out to seduce him. Remarkably, Joseph resisted, demonstrated incorruptibility, and maintained his integrity. How was he able to do this?
He recognised the offered temptation for what it was – a sin not just against his master but, in reality, against the God of creation (v.9). And Joseph couldn’t do that.
I’d strongly suggest that in his years of captivity, Joseph had learnt to rely more and more on God. In the Joseph narratives we are regularly told that “God was with Joseph.” There is no record of Joseph becoming bitter or complaining about how unfair his life was. He had learnt that God was his strength and his comfort.
We all face difficult choices – some of us struggle more than others. Sometimes things happen so quickly that we’ve made the wrong decision almost before we’re aware of it – sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Joseph was in the place where God had placed him, fulfilling his duties. When confronted with temptation, he resisted (v10) – stated his position clearly and said ‘Thanks, but no thanks!’ Then he removed (v10) himself from the immediate situation and finally he ran (v12).
Despite doing the right thing, Joseph was thrown into jail for a crime he didn’t commit. But God honoured Joseph. His integrity and godly character would be recognised by Pharaoh – and he’d be appointed Prime Minister of Egypt!!
In his earthly life Jesus, too, was in the centre of God’s will – in the place God had placed him. Satan put enormous pressure on Jesus to make a choice that would have eternal consequences for humanity (Matt 4:4-11). Jesus, too, resisted (4:4); rebuked Satan (4:6), and finally commanded the tempter to be gone (4:10). Jesus, of course, walked the walk! He went on to fulfil God’s plans for him, Jesus – i.e. to be the instrument of our salvation.
Jesus had just spent 40 days in solitary, close communion with his heavenly Father. Joseph, too, maintained a close relationship with God. And that’s the key, isn’t it? I’d suggest three steps to equip us in dealing with temptation and maintaining godly integrity.
First, develop the habit of regular communication with God and he will help us make the right choices – the ones that honour him (Heb 4:16b). Intentionally choose to make God the centre of our lives.
Second, Don’t be in the wrong place!! (Going to doubtful places puts us in danger.) It’s much easier to resist in the first place, to remove ourselves, to walk / run away than to linger or to keep going back.
Finally, Resist!! Scripture says, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
There can be no compromise in our Christian walk. If we are to successfully overcome the temptations that come our way throughout life, we need to live lives of integrity, to walk the walk that follows and emulates Jesus Christ.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:2-3).
Make the right choice now – get into the habit of spending quality time with Jesus every day. Talk to him. Read the words he has given us to guide us through our lives.
There are lots of Bible reading Apps available – maybe choose one and follow it! Or be old-fashioned and use daily devotional guides. But whatever your choice – start developing that devotional habit today.
Pam’s been involved in Girls’ Brigade as company captain, State Training Co-ordinator, Girls’ Leadership Course Director, and State Commissioner. She was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia in 1999 for service to youth leadership development in Queensland. She spent 14 years on the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Australia Board including over 4 years as Board Chair and recently completed an 8 year term on the Board of Queensland Baptists. She currently serves as the President of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force Association (Qld). Pam holds both a Bachelor Degree and a Graduate Diploma of Theology and has recently completed a Doctor of Ministries. She will commence working as denominational archivist on 1 July 2020.
Pam is married to David. They have three adult children, two of whom are married and have blessed Pam and David with grandchildren (now all young adults).
Pam also served on the State Award Committee of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Queensland for 10 years and worked for the Award as a Project Officer. In 2015 Pam and David went to PNG with MAF where David served as Interim Engineering Maintenance Manager for the PNG programme for nearly 18 months
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