My former pastor in Florida, Esmond Hilton, had a saying that he used with his kids all of the time. And from time to time he mentioned it in the pulpit. “You can never lose your integrity, you can only give it away.” From the first moment I heard it I thought it was profound because it was so simple, yet so real. You can never lose your integrity, you can only give it away.
In the Bible, the very first thing that was mentioned about Job was that he was a man of integrity. Look at how it describes him: “That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). If a book of the Bible were to be written about you, what would be the first thing God would say about you?
Job was a man of integrity. By describing Job in this fashion, and the practices of his life, the Bible is telling us that Job’s relationship with his Creator was not only his first priority, it was the center of all of his other experiences. For Job, God was the center of his life and that relationship influenced and informed every other part of his life.
As it goes on, the Bible tells us that Job had four things in his life that defined him. Job had:
- Integrity (1:1)
- A happy family (1:2.4)
- Great possessions (1:3), and
- A spotless reputation (1:3-5)
When Satan presented himself before God, it was God who brought Job to Satan’s attention. God praised Job saying of him, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Yet, even though Job was such a great man in the eyes of God, God twice gave Satan permission to attack Job and deprive him of almost everything he had. Satan took from Job his:
- Family (He killed his children and divided him from his wife 1:18-19, 2:9)
- His possessions (1:14-17)
- His reputation (signified by his friends who blamed Job’s suffering on some hidden sin)
Yet, there was one thing that Satan could not take from Job. He could not take his integrity. This is true for a simple reason. “You can never lose your integrity, you can only give it away.” In the midst of his loss Job still had his integrity and it was his integrity with God that enabled him to hold fast to the Lord and regain his reputation along with a new family and restored possessions. Job questioned God, but he never blamed God for the evils that befell him. He counted God as blameless and upright. Ironically, these are the same traits the Bible uses to describe Job.
Are you blameless and upright?
I’d like to make three short observations from this story and one point of application.
- God brought Job to Satan’s attention, not the other way around. From this we can surmise that there are times when God intends for us to suffer, even if we are walking blamelessly and uprightly before him. Even in our integrity we may be called upon to suffer.
- Job had his priorities straight and in order. His walk with God was paramount and everything else in his life flowed from that commitment. And that commitment strengthen him in times of suffering, even when he questioned God.
- When confronted by God, Satan rebelled. When confronted by God, Job humbled himself (42:1-6).
We question God and the fairness of life when we encounter suffering. For many people, Satan’s challenge would be true, “Skin for skin!” Cause them suffering and some people will curse God or blame God for their ills. Yet the answers God provided to Job are no different from the answers he provides for us today. Just as Job’s lifestyle and lifetime of integrity helped him bear up underneath the weight of what he suffered, so too the integrity we have in Christ can hold us up under the worst of trials, even to our very bones. Few people have suffered to the extent that Job has. This is especially true for those of us in the affluent, western world. Yet, if a blameless man like Job can be prepared to withstand the greatest storm of his life, how much more can God help us and prove himself faithful when we suffer less?
Consider this: No matter what loss we are preparing to face, whether or not we are truly prepared to endure it is revealed by the character and integrity we have long before we suffer the loss. If we endeavor to be the men and women of whom God says, “He was blameless and upright,” then we have a strong foundation to endure what we must suffer and in the end God will have demonstrated himself as holy and vindicate our integrity, just like Job.