There are a number of things in life that are completely out of our control. We can’t control when calamity will strike. We can’t control the timing of every event. We can’t control the weather and the forces of nature. And we can’t control the actions of others. Though this is true, we can take heart. Believers know that God is in control of the things we are not. But he does leave at least one thing well within our control, and that is our integrity. We are responsible for our behavior, our character, and our actions. In essence, we are in control of our overall conduct. The apostle Paul’s conduct was impeccable. Though others tried to “bad-mouth” him, turn others against him, and undermine his ministry, those who he spent time with knew who he really was. In this, Paul was willing to boast. It says in second Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 12:
“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.”
Paul acknowledged that he was not able to achieve this completely on his own. It was through God’s grace that he was able to maintain integrity with those he came in contact with. Even still, it was ultimately his choice. Knowing the God he served, and knowing the truth of the gospel, Paul was able to testify with a clear conscience that his actions and motives were conducted in holiness and with sincerity that are from God. We are also in control of our conduct. We can choose to act in holiness and with sincerity toward others as well. It may help to remember that it may take years to build a good reputation. But it can take only a moment to destroy it. The Bible encourages us to have a good reputation and to be in peace with everyone. But our conduct must be genuine because people can tell who we really are by the fruit we produce. So I encourage you to be mindful of your integrity and your reputation. Like trust, it is difficult to gain, and easy to lose.
Do you have a clear conscience when it comes to your integrity? Do you portray yourself as holy and sincere in public but live a life contrary to that when alone? If others knew what was really in your heart; if they knew your true intentions and thoughts, would you lose their trust? If so, I encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to help your heart align with your perceived reputation. If you don’t, you are sure to be found out. The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of our hearts, our mouths speak. It says that our true selves will be revealed by the kind of fruit we produce. We cannot carry on our charade for long because our hearts will ultimately betray us. Instead, let us be like Paul. Let us be confident that our conduct is holy and sincere, accomplished not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.