Ten years ago, Pastor Mike Ashcroft issued his church a challenge: forget the resolutions and focus on one word. The sermon caught fire, became a movement, and ultimately resulted in the book, called My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word.
Ashcroft says the premise is simple: “Lose the long list of resolutions―all your sweeping promises to change―and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result.”[i]
A friend of mine has been practicing the concept for some time, so last year I gave it a shot. I asked the Lord for one word; something He wanted me to focus on for the next twelve months, and the word that hit me was prayer.
I knew I was hearing the Lord correctly. I feel the deepest connection to God when I wake up before my family, light a candle, open my Bible, and journal my prayers, cares, and concerns. However, when you wake up at 3:30 am five days a week, morning Bible and journal time is rare. I would attempt to pray on my way to work, but it wasn’t the same. I knew God was calling me to make some adjustments.
This year my word came early. [ii]
1. firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility
2. an unimpaired condition: soundness
3. the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness
Initially, I wasn’t sure if this was the right word. It was the first thing that popped into my mind when I asked the Lord if He had a word for me, and quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting an answer just yet. Also, if I’m to be perfectly transparent, I didn’t think I needed a total overhaul in this area. Tweaks, absolutely, but a year spent working on my integrity? Years ago someone told me, “Integrity is who you are when no one’s looking,” and I took the words to heart. God is there even when no one else is, and I want a clean conscience before the Lord. I try very hard to be honest and trustworthy and admit my shortcomings when I fail.
Integrity, like most words, has more than one definition. Biblically speaking, integrity describes a state of uprightness, blamelessness, and honor. But the word, as reflected in Merriam-Webster’s definition, also depicts completion, soundness of structure, and unity. When an architect speaks of the integrity of a building, he or she is referring to strength and trustworthiness of the framework.
That hits home for me and reminds me of a story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”[iii]
This story is the capstone on the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” Moses came to give the letter of the law; Jesus, in His sermon, explains what it looks like to live in the spirit of the law. “Get the log out of your eye before you call out a speck in your brother’s; ask, seek, and knock with persistence; enter through the narrow gate; you’ll know good people by the good works they do.” (cite verse)
His final charge in this iconic sermon challenged us to consider our foundation.
The integrity of a building begins and ends with its foundation, and our foundation begins and ends with obedience to the Word of God. Note that the integrity is not in the hearing, nor is it in the knowing.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock (Mt. 7:24).”
Integrity—the security of our very structure, the soundness of our minds—lies in the doing. It is the process of hearing the Word, processing the Word, and doing the Word that we become people of biblical integrity. Yes, we are to be honest, authentic, and trustworthy and I have not arrived. My character needs more work. But we are also called to persevere, push through, and build out the Kingdom of God, and that requires strength. That calls for integrity of structure.
The tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa, towering over half a mile high over the deserts of Dubai, India. Engineers had to account for two major factors when designing the foundation—earthquakes and wind.[iv]
Because Dubai sits on a seismically active area, the Burj Khalifa must be able to withstand significant ground shifting. Because the building is 160 stories tall, it must be built to withstand major gusts. Architects solved the problems by digging over 165 feet underground to construct the foundation, and designed a special spiral pattern to “confuse the wind.”[v]
Essentially, the integrity of the structure enables it to withstand the greatest of storms.
So it is with you and me. The integrity of that which we are built upon determines how we will weather the storms that come our way.
To build our lives on a spouse, a job, a role, or a position is to build our life on a fault line, for any of those things can disappear at a moment’s notice. That is the recipe for anxiety, insecurity, and instability.
Jesus came that we might have eternal life in the future and abundant life now—a life of purpose, passion, and peace. He is the truth on which we stand, the way in which we walk, and the light to lead our steps. To hear, know, and obey His word is the key to security and stability in a world ever-bending to the constant winds of change.
I am asking the Lord to make me a woman of great integrity in 2018—both in behavior and structure. I want to walk in grace and truth, spreading the love of Christ and sharing the good news of the Gospel. What are your hopes for the New Year? Let’s forget the lists and resolutions and ask God to do a lasting work through a single word.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
—Proverbs 10:9 NIV
[i] Mike Ashcroft and Rachel Olsen, “My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word,” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. https://www.amazon.com/My-One-Word-Change-Your/dp/0310318777/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513097761&sr=8-1&keywords=my+one+word+book
[iii] Matthew 7:24-27 HCSB
[iv] Harry G. Poulos and Grahame Bunce, “Foundation Design for the Burj Dubai—the World’s Tallest Building,” at the 6th International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, (Arlington, VA, August 11th – 16th, 2008). http://www.geomarc.it/Poulos_&_Bunce_2008.pdf