We all know how upsetting it is to see a believer turn away from Jesus—whether it's denying the faith outright or committing a grievous sin that shows that person's heart has strayed far from the Lord. We wonder, How could this have happened?" Often we find that long before a person showed outward signs of backsliding, his or her life had bent under the weight of temptation and sin. Internally, integrity was compromised, leaving the person drained of faith and of the fear of the Lord—and open to the deceitful enticements of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Have you noticed how the really crucial qualities become clear through testing and trials? Times of pressure and suffering challenge us to live up to our commitments. Like gold refined in the fire, the true nature of one's character emerges when the heat is on. That is especially true with integrity and faithfulness—two qualities we've listed side by side as the seventh of our nine Jews for Jesus Core Values. You can't have one without the other. Integrity describes a state of being while faithfulness refers to an active commitment or course of action.
The Hebrew word for integrity has the same root as the word thummim. Remember, the urim and thummim were worn on Aaron's "breastplate of judgment" (Exodus 28:15), as part of his official High Priestly clothing. He used them to determine God's will, to know what path to take. As believers in Jesus, we are God's royal priesthood. We need to be clothed in integrity in order to function.
Integrity implies a certain soundness of judgment—knowing what is right and what is wrong and aligning ourselves accordingly—fitting pieces of our lives together in ways that reflect what we know to be true. It means knowing the way we should go and holding ourselves to that way. In our post-modern culture where relativism seems to rule the day, it is a struggle to maintain personal and corporate integrity.
If integrity is a state of being, faithfulness is the outworking, the feet that move us down the path of obedience to God. The Hebrew word for faithfulness, emunah, conveys certainty or assurance. Faithfulness relies on the promises of God. It means that we will discipline ourselves and build our lives around the spiritual realities that God has revealed in His Word. The converse is true as well; faithless actions demonstrate that our reliance on God's promises has lapsed. Faithlessness results in attempts to meet our own needs or desires in ways that either disregard or blatantly disobey God's ways. When we are full of faith and trust in God, we tend to see things His way; we have a much sharper awareness of how ugly sin is and where it can lead.
Like integrity, faithfulness rises to the occasion of trials and testing. Yet the two are also at work in quiet and modest actions that may even seem mundane. Faithfulness is the fruit of the Spirit. It is found in the little things. The ordinary, glamorless paths of faithfulness and integrity lead to God's greater glory.
These values should be part of every believer's "core." We need to protect and nurture these values, because they certainly will be tried and tested through adversity, temptation, our own human frailty and the general erosion of society's values.
If you want a model of integrity from the Hebrew Scriptures, look at Job. In a dialogue with Satan, the Lord said of Job, "And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him …" (Job 2:3). I imagine there were many strands of Job's character in the weave which God described as integrity. Job was a God-fearing person whose life was marked by a sense of wholeness, a commitment to truth, regardless of other peoples' opinions. His integrity shone clear under pressure. He refused to turn from the Lord or abandon his commitment to walking uprightly despite the terrible circumstances that befell him.
When testing comes, will we as Job, maintain our integrity? Appearances can cover inner erosion for a while, but pressures squeeze and temptations lure—and one way or another, the truth of what is within us comes out.
King David provides us with another important example concerning faithfulness and integrity. He often exemplified these qualities. We also have a striking record of their absence when it came to his adultery and subsequent cover-up involving the death of the loyal Uriah. Yet, when confronted with that sin, David admitted what was true, and he realigned his life, reestablished his integrity and renewed his faithfulness. That doesn't mean that we should take lapses of faithfulness and integrity lightly. David and all of Israel paid a terrible price for his lack of integrity. Still it is important to remember that true repentance can lead to restoration.
We at Jews for Jesus would appreciate your prayers for us to be true to this core value of integrity and faithfulness, that each of us would continually be conscious of pleasing God, who sees everything.
Faithfulness is not only a matter of morality; it's also a matter of enduring. Summer is always a time of trial and testing as many Jews for Jesus staff and volunteers are handing out broadsides (tracts) on the hot and humid streets of New York, London, Paris, Moscow and St. Petersburg. I'm joining them in New York for part of this month and I can tell you, standing out on the streets and in the subways four times a day to hand out gospel tracts is not a glamorous task. It is often mundane and boring and generally uncomfortable—though the discomfort seems to disappear when we meet people who really want to hear about Jesus. Campaigns are challenging times and we need you to pray for us to be faithful. We know that God honors faithfulness and will use it to bring about His greater glory as many people come to Christ.
Another area where we need prayer for faithfulness is in our families. We need prayer for integrity and faithfulness between husbands, wives and children and for purity among our single staff. But there is another area where we need to exercise faithfulness with our families, and that is in praying for and witnessing to unbelieving relatives. Some have been rebuffed for so many years that it is difficult to be faithful.
I am thankful for friends like you who have been faithful in your witness to our people. Recently, I spoke at a Mennonite Brethren church in Reedley California.. Joshua Sofaer, one of our missionaries in Southern California, accompanied me. As Josh gave his story he encouraged the people to care and be involved in Jewish evangelism. He said, "You may wonder what you can do about Jewish evangelism living here in the central valley." Josh then proceeded to tell about his wife, Annette, and her family.
Annette's Grandfather Arthur M. was a doctor in Austria. He escaped Europe and came to America, sponsored by a synagogue in Fresno, where he and his family settled. Arthur was not allowed to practice medicine in America so he got a job selling feed to farmers, most of whom were Mennonite Brethren. One farmer in particular was a committed Christian and a faithful witness. Every time Arthur would call on him for business, this man had his Bible open and would share the gospel. Eventually this farmer's faithfulness paid off and Arthur came to faith in Yeshua. His wife and the entire family likewise became followers of the Messiah. Josh concluded his story by declaring, "It is because of the faithfulness of that Mennonite Brethren farmer that my Jewish wife and I are serving the Lord in Jewish evangelism today."
An elderly woman stood up during the question and answer time and said, "That farmer that Joshua mentioned was my father." She then recounted the many times she watched her father meet with Mr. M. and told of the family's joy in seeing him come to Christ. We had no idea that the man Josh cited as an example of a faithful witness had been a member of the very church we were speaking in that evening!
All of us can aspire to that kind of faithfulness. Only in heaven—where that farmer is rejoicing with that Jewish immigrant—will we fully understand how God uses His children's integrity and faithfulness to accomplish His purposes. We will be tested and we will be tried. May God grant us the strength to walk in integrity and faithfulness all the days of our lives. Then, one day in glory, we will see all the fruit that has grown around the "core" of these values.