Summary: Help students live a life of integrity in the first part of this series on Character.
How to Win at MEMORY
JAM. 7/13/03. gregg barbour
Did you ever play games like Memory or Concentration when you were growing up? I played a version on the Internet just the other day, and it was kinda tough. This is how the game works: You have about 30 cards, 15 sets of pairs that match. Say, you have 2 cards with flowers on them, another 2 with red wagons…and so on. You shuffle them, and lay them out face down, so that you can’t see what the cards are, and then you begin turning them over, 2 cards per turn, trying to make matches. Once you match the cards you can set them aside and try to make a new match. The game’s pretty fun, but it takes a good memory and massive amounts of concentration.
Our lives can sometimes be like this game of memory. Except the only difference is that we try to find the matches to ourselves, to who we are. Are you the same person all the time? Or do you become someone else when you are around other people, or certain friends. I want to talk to you over the next couple weeks about Character. You see, God wants you to develop your character. Ephesians 4:22, says, “Take on an entirely new way of life-a God fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” Your character is pretty much the sum of who you are as a person. There are a lot of things that make up who are you, that make up your character, and today, I want to hit one of them: Integrity. Integrity is when who you are in the dark matches who you are when the lights are on. That is, you are the same person that you claim to be when nobody’s looking. Another way to put it is that you live what you believe. And of course, it’s hard to do that when you don’t know what you believe….about God, about life, about your choices. We’re going to look at a man who lived out exactly what he believed…a man of character…a man of integrity. Take your Bibles and turn to Daniel 6. When Daniel was just a bit older than you, he was taken from his home and made to work for a foreign king. He interpreted the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar, and eventually Nebuchadnezzar praised God. After Nebuchadnezzar, came another King, Belshazzar. Belshazzar had a vision during a party and Daniel interpreted his vision. Belshazzar was killed, and King Darius took his place. This is where we pick up the story. (Read Daniel 6, NLT) Daniel lived in this strange land with strange customs, and proved himself over and over again to be capable to do any job he’d been given. This got Daniel a good job. He was appointed the third highest ruler in the kingdom, and eventually the king had planned to place him over the entire kingdom. You can imagine that with Daniel’s success came a number of jealous complaints from the others. These guys tried to come up with something to accuse Daniel of, but they couldn’t find anything because he was a man of integrity. The Bible says He was faithful, honest, and always responsible. The only thing they could even possibly accuse him of had to do with his God. The had to trick the king into making a law that no one could pray to anybody but the king for the next 30 days. The administrators gave King Darius the “big head” award in order to fool him into signing this decree. They came to him saying he was the fairest in all the land, and everybody wanted to be like him, and he was THE MAN. Who wouldn’t want that kind of praise, right? So, reluctantly, he signed the law. Daniel knew about the law, and you know what he did. He did everything just as he’d always done it. Just b/c there was a new law, there was no reason why Daniel should stop praying to God, because he was a man of integrity. So, the administrators caught him, praying to God, and not to the king. The story goes on, and Daniel gets thrown into the lion’s den. And because of his faithfulness to God, God rescues him from the lions by closing their mouths, and eventually Darius issues a decree that everyone should fear the God of Daniel. The king’s heart is changed because of the integrity of one man, and you know what the Bible says…Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius. There you have it. Daniel’s actions when nobody was looking matched who he was and who he claimed to be. Who He was in the dark, and who he was when the lights were on were the exact same person. He would have won at Memory. He made no compromises, he remained faithful to God, and God remained faithful to him. Daniel acted according to what he believed. He had integrity. God wants you to have integrity, too. God wants you to win at Memory. In order to do that, you’ve got to know what you believe and have a code to live by, your own personal decree. Think of who you’d like to be. The kind of man or woman you’d like to become. Do you wanna be a person who folds under pressure, and compromises what you know is right? Or do you want to be men and women of honor, always doing the right thing because you believe it’s right. “Begin with the end in mind” and over the next week make up personal goals, characteristics you’d like to have, and values you want to live by. During the invitation time, start with prayer and a personal commitment to make an effort to be men and women of integrity, and trust God to help make that happen.