By Greg Laurie
What is integrity? It’s really the same as having character.
D.L. Moody defined integrity as what you are in the dark. In other words, integrity is who we are when there is no one around to impress. It’s the real us.
Humorist Will Rogers once said, “So live that you would not mind selling your pet parrot to the town gossip.” That’s the idea of integrity.
Personal character and integrity is something we develop on a daily basis. With every thought we think, with every deed we do, we are either building it up or tearing it down. It’s been said, “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit; reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Moses was a man who had integrity, so much so that his influence and personal godliness prevented 2 million-plus Israelites from turning to full-tilt idolatry. As long as Moses was around, his influence was so profound, significant and strong that it kept these people from doing the wrong thing.
God had instructed Moses to go to the pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites, who had been in bondage for many years. The pharaoh refused, and his heart grew harder. Miracles were done to convince him, and still he refused. So a series of 10 successive plagues fell on Egypt, each growing in intensity until finally and reluctantly, the pharaoh relented and released the Israelites.
As they were making their way out of Egypt, however, they came to an apparent impasse. Before them was the Red Sea. To the right and left was treacherous territory they could not enter. And behind them was Egypt. To make matters worse, the pharaoh and his armies were in hot pursuit. The people said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11 NIV)
But Moses told them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (verses 13–14 NIV).
Then God opened up the Red Sea, and the Israelites crossed through on dry ground. Meanwhile, the sea came crashing down on the pursuing Egyptian army and drowned them in the process.
The Lord began to lead the Israelites in a very clear and obvious way. During the day there was a large cloud, and when the cloud moved, they were to move. When the cloud stopped, they were to stop. At night, it was a pillar of fire that led them. What a great way to get around. For someone like me who is navigationally dysfunctional, this would be wonderful. You would know when to move.
God provided for their physical needs as well. Every morning when they would come out of their tents, there was fresh manna waiting for them for breakfast. God faithfully provided it every day. All they had to do was gather it up and enjoy it.
God supernaturally looked out for the Israelites. They were surrounded by miracles, yet amazingly, in a relatively short period of time, they turned to full-tilt idolatry. How could such a thing happen?
The Israelites’ problem came down to one thing: the shallowness and superficiality of their faith. They never seemed to develop their own relationship with God. It was as though their relationship with the Lord was dependent upon Moses’ presence. That is a wonderful tribute to the influence of a godly man, but it’s also a criticism of their lack of personal faith.
They could not relate to God on their own. They needed Moses there. And when Moses wasn’t there, whatever relationship they had with God seemed to fall apart. Their relationship with God depended upon Moses’ relationship with God. And this never is healthy spiritually.
Someone may go to church because his or her spouse does. Children may read the Bible and pray because their parents do. Huge crowds may flock to hear a dynamic preacher. It’s true that God can and will use people in our lives. But here is the problem. One day if a Christian wife loses interest in spiritual things, the husband will as well. Once those children are older and out on their own, they won’t have time for the things of God. If that dynamic preacher is found to have some problem or personal sin, it will shatter the faith of those who were following him.
Plain and simple, we must never let people take the place of God in our lives. We must realize that even the greatest men and women of God have the potential to fall. If we look to people, ultimately we’ll be disappointed.
Everyone will let you down at one time or another, regardless of who they are. I’m not excusing their actions. I am not saying that those who are called to lead should not be people of integrity. But I am saying that everyone is human and has their foibles and shortcomings. If we don’t realize that, then we will be in for a big disappointment. Our faith must be in God. We must look to him because he never will let us down.
Imagine how hard it must have been for Moses. The Israelites were full of unbelief and whining and complaining. But through his personal integrity and godliness, he influenced them for the good. How we need more people like him who will make a difference in this world.
It’s the very presence of the church in the world today that is keeping it from getting even worse. If you think things are bad in this country now, and they are, just wait until the Lord calls his church home. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We are God’s representatives.
Be a Moses. Be a man or woman who stands up for what is right. One person can make a big difference.
Greg Laurie serves as the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.