Character and Integrity
by Jeff S. Smith
It is never too soon to start developing strong moral character and personal integrity.
In fact, our parents have been trying to instill virtues in us since before we were able to understand what they meant. Even when they themselves failed to live up to them, Mom and Dad tried to teach us to be honest, fair and compassionate. Having character and integrity is not just about submitting to the Bible’s teaching, but about choosing a life that will be honorable and productive en route to Heaven (John 1:12).
The Bible enumerates many virtues that combine to form the Christian character, and does so in several different passages of Scripture. Character is not only about the habits we practice, but also the behaviors we avoid. In Jesus Christ, we find an obvious and perfect example of godly character—an impossible standard to match, but one that always shows us exactly how to try. Character really is about trying to do the right thing, regardless of who is or isn’t watching and what the consequences might be.
Timothy was a young man, trying to preach the gospel in spite of deep opposition and little immediate support. He had all the passions and desires of any young man, but the apostle Paul explained that he needed to overcome his weaknesses—the desire for sexual gratification, frustration, fear, etc.—so that he might be a good servant of God (2 Timothy 1:7, 2:22-26).
Timothy had to learn that a big part of character is simply self-control—getting control over one’s emotions, desires, weaknesses and fears so that he can master success instead of being enslaved to failure. Peter also wrote, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
Many people have excellent character until it is tested, and then suddenly they have none. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10). In reality, such people have no character or integrity at all, for “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character” (Romans 5:3-4). Tribulation is what tests the solidity of our faith to determine its genuineness (1 Peter 1:3-9). We might make all kinds of excuses when we give in to temptation, but when it comes to sin, there just isn’t any excuse. Character means doing the right thing anyway.