Character and Choices

 

(c) 2015 Mark Warner from flickr.com

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. –Proverbs 22:1 NIV

“Identity theft sucks,” I read on the Facebook post. The writer had received a notice from the IRS that apparently someone had used her Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and, as a result, possibly claimed any refund she may have gotten from the state. Which she’d planned to use to pay the federal taxes.

Unfortunately, it was just one more thing in a string of unfortunate incidents that brought her to the brink of questioning her principles. After sending a check to the IRS for what she and her husband owed, she commented: “We will just continue to work our butts off to continue to pay my mountain of student loans, debt, and other bills. Who said hard work and honesty will get you somewhere?”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’re slammed with one thing after another, even though we strive to do what’s right. And then we question whether doing the right thing even matters, when others make a living cheating and stealing – and getting away with it.

Back in college, I took a three-hour-a-day summer literature class. During the break the day before the weekly essay test, several students stole the test questions while the professor was out of the room. Of course, those students would receive the highest grades because the prof graded on a curve.

That day I called home, crying. “Why bother?” I lamented to my father. “I won’t get a good grade no matter how much I study.”

I studied anyway. But it was without heart.

After we got our tests back, I approached the professor and told him I didn’t think the grade was fair.

He peered at me over his bifocals. “Well, other students in the class . . .”

“Of course they did, you stupid jerk,” I thought. “You left the test in your briefcase, easily accessible to anyone, and left the classroom.”

I’m not a confrontational person, so I shut up and put up. If I’d told the prof the truth, I would have made him look like a fool and would have had to endure the wrath of the wrongdoers. Like my Facebook friend, I questioned whether doing the right thing was worth it.

But, like any other character trait, honesty is a choice. That’s truly what forms our character – the choices we make.

It’s not that I have a temper and “I couldn’t help myself.” It’s that I chose to vent my anger.

We choose to tell the truth, report all income on our tax return, not fudge expenses, return incorrect change to the store. We choose to honor our wedding vows, keep a promise, say no to an addiction. We choose to use the turn signal at an intersection even when there’s no other traffic around.

“Character is what you are in the dark,” said D. L. Moody.

John Wooden said something similar: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Jesus blasted hypocrites because they only did the right thing when there was someone around to see (Matthew 6:1–6). They chose to do right for the wrong reason.

What is the right reason?

Because it’s what God wants us to do.

“Tell me,” the prophet Samuel said to the disobedient King Saul. “Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.” (See 1 Samuel 15:1–23)

I responded to my Facebook friend’s lament.

“Keep doing the right thing,” I wrote. “Integrity, respect, character, and a good reputation can never be stolen from you, and they are worth far more than anything the world calls ‘treasure’.”

What choices are you facing today?

Help me, O Lord, to know the right thing to do and give me the courage and strength to do it. Amen.

The Bible has a lot to say about character. Here are some verses to read and meditate on:

Habakkuk 3:17–19, Matthew 6:19–34, Proverbs 11:5–11, Proverbs 31, 2 Peter 1:5–7, John 13:17

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

New Beginnings

 

See! The winter is past . . . Flowers appears on the earth; the season of singing has come. – Song of Solomon 2:12 NIV

 “New” is in the works these days. It’s exciting. And a little daunting.

Hubby’s retirement is on the horizon, and it’s been what’s occupied my mind and my schedule for the past several months. (Which is why I’ve put fiction writing on the back burner.)

A new beginning. For him. For us. While we’re walking away from a season in our lives, we’re walking toward another season. (No, I won’t be retiring. I love what I do. It’s a calling. This speaking and writing and ministering to my little flock.)

As we stand at this threshold, I think of Lazarus, the man whom Jesus brought back to life. He, too, had a new beginning, a new lease on life.

But he had to first come out of his tomb and then be freed from the grave clothes – strips of cloth that bound him.

I, too, have been in a tomb – a tomb of fear of the future. The unknown. The uncertainty. Will we have enough money to survive, let alone travel and live our retirement dreams?

I, too, have been bound by grave clothes: Worry, anxiety. About finances. About health. Will our health and strength hold up?

But Jesus called me – by name – out of my tomb: “Michele, come out! Be unbound. Be loosed.”

I need not fear the future. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

He holds my future. He guides me, protects me, provides for me. I need to read Psalms 23, 139, and 91 every day. And remind myself of His promise to never leave me, never forsake me, to be with me always (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20).

He holds not just my future, but also my present. I need not be shackled by fear, worry, and anxiety. Yes, life happens, but I have a place to go to get what I need not just to survive but to thrive: my prayer room.

“Don’t be anxious about anything,” Paul reminds me in Philippians 4:6–7. “Instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

We are all walking away from one thing or another, and walking toward something new, into a season of spring and daffodils, into a time of new beginnings, new hopes, new life.

What tomb are you being called out of? What binding do you need Jesus to loose?

More important, what new beginning are you stepping into?

Remember, you can trust the One who leads you, loves you, and lavishes His best upon you.

Thank You, Lord, for new beginnings, second chances, and hope. Thank you for spring and all it means. Amen.

 “Retirement is a NEW beginning, your chance to reset life, expand on your interests and find new opportunities for your best retired years.” – Wendy S. Fisher

Read and meditate on John 11:38–44 

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.