Julia Norcott, Assistant Editor, Ministry Magazine, General Conference

Summary: In this sermon, Samuel is highlighted as a prophet and person of integrity. What is it that makes him so?

How does a leader gain and lose credibility? The author states, ?Leadership is a stewardship, a responsibility and an honor.?

A person of integrity

When giving his retirement speech, the prophet Samuel asked God’s people if he had ever oppressed, cheated, stolen from, or even subtly taken a bribe from anyone. ?If I have done any of these things,? he declared, ?then I will make it right.? The people answered: ?You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand? (1S 12:1-4).

How rare Samuel’s example is today! Even Christians may say one thing, but live something else. The biblical virtue of integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, words and ways, attitudes and actions, values and practice. ?We must have moral backbone, an integrity that cannot be flattered, bribed, or terrified? (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 297).

Leadership characteristics most desired

Authors of Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, share a survey which reveals the characteristics most desired in a leader—honesty and integrity (p.14). As Christians, we are fortunate to know that God Himself is our guide when it comes to true integrity.

We cannot manipulate, bribe, or bargain with God because He will never compromise His perfect righteousness. External circumstances or conditions do not govern His love and goodness. His promises are worthy of our trust and commitment, and we can count on Him to do what He says He will do. ?He who is the glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind? (1S 15:29).

The foundation and secret of unity

It is this true integrity modeled by God that forms the basis of confidence and is the secret of unity. Unity requires integrity because true harmony does not depend on total agreement over opinions, but rather on honesty, integrity, and sincerity (Taylor G. Bunch, ?Integrity,? Ministry Magazine, July 1959, p. 23).

Certainly there will be different ideas among genuine believers, for we all have differing opinions and are faulty at best. Peter and Paul, as well as Paul and Barnabas, had strong differences of opinion; but their differences did not damage their unity. Unity does not require the absence of individuality. What it does require is trust and respect.

While the Old Testament presents Samuel’s evident virtue as an example of Christian character, the New Testament fills out the meaning even more. Integrity does not imply perfection. When we are connected to Christ, He gives us the mantle of His perfection; we tune in to Him and radiate integrity. Paul resonates with this kind of integrity in his instruction to Timothy. He tells Timothy to be diligent in following God’s teachings: ?Give yourself wholly to them [the ones to whom you minister]? (1Tm 4:15).

?No death, no emergency?

How about a modern example of integrity? A soldier in the armed services was on furlough and wanted an extension. Unlike other individuals who would filibuster and exaggerate to receive what they wanted, this man wired his commander and said, ?No death. No emergency. Request extension of furlough. I’m having a wonderful time.? The commander was confounded because he had never received a request like this before—one without an alibi or excuse.

The soldier simply told the truth: he was enjoying his furlough; he was having a good time, and wanted an extension. The commander wired back. ?Rewarded for honesty. Extension of five days on present furlough granted? (R. R. Bietz, ?A Life of Integrity,? Ministry Magazine, June 1968, p. 48).

Leadership—a stewardship of honor

Samuel, who led Israel from the era of the judges through the beginning of the period of the kings, presents the challenge of personal integrity to every leader. Leadership for Samuel was a stewardship, a responsibility, an honor. He did not demonstrate integrity because it was his intention to demonstrate integrity; he was not honest because his intention was to be known as honest. Samuel was not living to build a reputation. His purpose in life was to honor God and serve His people. Thus, the evidence of his higher calling was undeniable to those about him (Commentary on Samuel, The Leadership Bible, Zondervan, 1998, p. 319).

Samuel’s personal integrity permeated every area of his life. His commitment to God guided the way he regarded his possessions, his business dealings, and his treatment of those weaker than he was. The prophet held himself accountable to the people he led. Therefore, he was able to unabashedly open himself up to the scrutiny of everyone with whom he had dealings.

Written upon the conscience

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ?Nothing is at last sacred except the integrity of your own mind.? People in the secular world yearn for the security of having people around them who can be trusted. How much more powerful is the potential of such demonstrations of integrity among Christians? Applying this profound concept within the context of the Spirit of God, one of His servants has made this observation: ?Let it be written upon the conscience as with a pen of iron upon the rock, that real success, whether for this life or for the life to come, can be secured only by faithful adherence to the eternal principles of right? (Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 164).

No matter what our particular leadership responsibility is, let us challenge ourselves to hold to the spirit of the standard of Samuel’s integrity. Let our personal commitment to a life of integrity in Christ be evident to those around us every day.