Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 7 April 2023:
Job 27:1-6 — As God lives…, as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit…. till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
The most important thing to Job was his integrity before God, which means far more than just being truthful. Job understood that a person of integrity lives life fully integrated (completely united as one) with God. Job wanted to be so united with God that virtues such as honesty, love, faithfulness, justice, mercy, compassion, gracefulness, etc, were not just things he did but rather who he really was inside, the natural product of His relationship with God who is the Author and Source of all virtue. Jesus prayed for the integrity of His disciples the night before He was crucified – “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one…. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:11, 15, 22, 23) A person on integrity is wholehearted in their faithfulness to God, not divided. Above all else, Job did not want his life to disintegrate (dis-integrate) — to break apart from God in any way.
- John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
- James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
- Psalm 86:11 — Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Job paid a heavy, heavy price for his integrity, but he refused to surrender it, the one thing he had left that was truly his, something no one could take away from him, a treasure more valuable than gold and silver. Remember, it was his integrity that made him the target of Satan in the first place – “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’” (Job 1:8) Satan thought he could break Job through life crisis. Satan believed that, with enough pressure, Job would disintegrate by denying his faith and compromising his fidelity to God. However, Job, being a man of unmatched character, refused to let circumstances define him. In crisis, rather than turning away from God, he drew nearer to God and only grew in his integrity over time.
Regardless of what others did or said to Job, regardless of what troubles befell him, regardless how unfairly he felt he was being treated, he remained resolute and faithful. Destitute, abandoned, lying in filth, covered in festers and boils, Job remained arguably the richest and mightiest man on the planet – he had what no one could ever buy, a treasure that eluded everyone around him, a treasure that can never be stolen, only given away – integrity and wisdom in the Lord. Job ends today’s exchange with these words: “‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” The treasure of wisdom is found in the God-centered heart. The Bible says to guard the treasure within your heart “above all else,” a heavenly treasure “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Proverbs 4; Matthew 6:24) Today’s Psalms say that God “loathes” people who are careless with their invaluable treasure – “They are a people who go astray in their heart.” (Psalm 95:10) How much is your integrity, your fidelity to God, worth to you? No one can take your integrity from you; you can only give it away. Pray for Job’s steadfastness – “…till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.”
Strive for integrity; above all else guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23), but understand and rejoice that your relationship with God rests securely in His integrity, His love and faithfulness, and not yours – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) When we fail, God doesn’t — “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) When you fail to live with integrity, repent, draw closer to God with confidence in His unfailing grace, and press forward – “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness…. and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22)
Mark 14:27 – And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away.”
Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt knowing all His closest friends would betray Him when He needed them the most? From the Scriptures, Jesus had been prepared for this betrayal (“for it is written”), and Jesus knew His disciples better than they knew themselves; but nonetheless, their unfaithfulness undoubtedly hurt Him more than we can imagine. Though one by one they all proclaimed, “Surely not I,” even courageous Peter failed Jesus miserably. Notice, by the way, that before the infamous rooster crows, Peter had already begun to “fall away” by failing to “keep watch” and by “following at a distance” (Mark 14:37, 54).
Christian brothers and sisters, let’s pay attention to the process of falling away: following at a distance is a half-hearted commitment that only lacks enough heat and pressure to become total betrayal. The passive, silent or chameleon Christian is the one described by James and the Psalmist as double-minded, “unstable in all his ways,” and pronounced by Jesus as “lukewarm,” uncommitted, unsuitable, unprepared to stand the test. (Psalm 119:113; James 1:8, 4:8; Revelation 3:16) As Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23)
What is truly amazing is that despite knowing that His disciples would all betray Him, Jesus never quit on them or distanced himself from them. Rather, He humbly washed their feet! As for Judas, the most infamous betrayer who “having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it,” Jesus never kicked him out of the small, intimate group, never fired him from his role as treasurer, but rather continued to break bread with him as a close friend. (John 12:6) Also, despite knowing their weakness, Jesus still took Peter, James, and John to Gethsemane.
Would you take relationship advise from Jesus? Is this how you would treat your unfaithful friends? I think most Christians would call a person foolish if that person were to model Jesus’ behavior today. We would be quick to take Matthew 10:16 out of context “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” and we would justify putting up relational walls by quoting from theological sea lawyers who say, “Forgiveness is a gift, but trust is something you earn.” After all, God doesn’t want us to be doormats, right?
By continuing to remain vulnerable to His unfaithful friends, Jesus wasn’t being naïve or foolish, nor was He engineering the fulfillment of the Scriptures, He was modeling true love as is described in 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8 – “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (NIV)
When Jesus told his disciples to forgive their brothers “not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22),” He understood that this type of forgiveness would open the door to continued maltreatment but would also keep the door open for the Gospel and potential reconciliation. Jesus understood that the closest relationships would often hurt the most.
There is a famous story about the childhood of Thomas Aquinas which highlights the trusting heart: His classmates, who mocked his trusting spirit, decided to play a joke on him. They all got together in the classroom and stared excitedly out the window. Thomas asks what they are looking at so intently. “Thomas, come quickly,” the students responded, “there are pigs—FLYING!” Thomas rushes to the window, only to be met by the uproarious laughter of his fellow students. As the laughter died down, Thomas gently but potently exposes their sin by saying simply, “I would rather believe that pigs could fly than that my friends would lie to me.”
By remaining loving (and trusting) to the disciples, Jesus exposed to them the truth of themselves which previously they could not see in themselves. His costly display of love to them convicted all but Judas to change their lives forever. How much different would their lives have been if Jesus demanded that they earn His trust and if Jesus kept up protective relational barriers between them and Himself until they did?
What would happen if you gave unconditional grace to others in the Name of Christ, forgave unconditionally in all situations, and only returned good for evil? How might your radical behavior serve to proclaim the love and grace of Christ to others?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 April 2023: In your relationships, make yourself vulnerable for sake of the Gospel, and appreciate the opportunity to fellowship in the suffering of Christ as an act of worship. Pray that God will strengthen your integrity, and walk confidently in God’s grace as you pursue integrity.