Political Commentator George F. Will wrote that the three least credible sentences in the English language are,
1. “The check is in the mail.”
2. “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning.”
3. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”
As these sentences illustrate, credibility is lost when promises or guarantees are not kept. When people do not keep their word, they cannot be trusted and believed. In essence, they lose respect, dignity, and influence. This goes for individuals as well as groups.
Whenever there are scandals of famous people who are alleged to commit offensive acts they quickly lose their credibility. There doesn’t seem to be a day goes by when the media exposes someone—whether it be an athlete, entertainer, politician, billionaire, or even a religious leader—of some kind of abuse or immoral act that stirs the ire of public opinion. Ironically, the media is also held in contempt if the public discovers that it is not exactly reporting the truth. This is otherwise known as “fake news” — a poison to any information that’s asserted to be credible.
With human nature the way it is, it is not surprising that credibility will be lost if persons exchange the truth for a lie. The Bible makes this point very plain. In Romans 1:25 the Apostle Paul goes back into the history of Israel and says, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). As a result, the people lost their credibility with God as well as with other nations. They were supposed to represent the one true living God and be an example of the nation chosen to reflect God’s high standards of living (Exodus 19:5-6; Deut 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4). But when they disobeyed God, they could no longer be trusted to be the kind of people they were supposed to be.
Christians are also called to be credible followers of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:24; John 8:12, 31-32; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21-22). In fact, when we give our lives to him, we become a part of God’s special people with the same expectations that were meant for Israel: Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9. So, if we do not live up to the higher standards of God’s teachings, we will also lose our credibility with him as well as in the eyes of the world. What could be worse than “fake news”? What about “fake Christians”? Not a pleasant thought, to be sure.
The mainstay of our Christian credibility is the manner in which we conduct ourselves. When the Apostle Paul anticipated visiting the church at Philippi, he expected to hear that they were working together in the faith of the Gospel: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,” (Phil. 1:27).
When a church is united in “one spirit” and “one mind” it will show the community what it means to live up to the gospel, that is, the Good News that’s based on Christ. This was a basic theme of the early church leaders for they knew that working together in the unity of faith was a sign of credibility to the world. In so doing, it kept the church strong and productive so that others might accept the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:12-14; 1 Peter 3:15-17).
Credibility achieves believability. As believers, we aim to build credibility by proving our trustworthiness to the truth we profess. As long as we can be trusted to practice what we preach we can earn the confidence of others, including children.
The story is told of a little boy who was walking down the beach, and as he did, he spied a matronly woman sitting under a beach umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her and asked, “Are you a Christian?”
“Do you read your Bible every day?”
She nodded her head, “Yes.”
“Do you pray often?” The boy asked next, and again she answered, “Yes.”
With that he asked his final question, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?”
Even in a child’s eyes, Christians must pass a sort of litmus test to see if they can be trusted. But it’s not necessarily about being approved by saying what we believe but proven by doing what we say we believe. Like the adage, it’s not just talking the talk, but walking the walk that a Christian builds the credibility of his or her faith.
But then comes the dreaded moment when credibility is put to the test and we don’t pass. Even while we do our best to maintain our credibility, we fail. We’re not perfect, of course. Like the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, we all screw up and cannot reach the perfection of God’s glorious nature. So, when we find ourselves in the sticky predicament of losing that trustworthiness, then what do we do?
First, we must accept the fact that we’re not perfect. We’d like to think that we can handle any situation but when we’re tested and fail it’s easy to feel all alone. But when we realize that we are just as susceptible of getting off the straight and narrow as any other person, we can begin to deal with reality. As they say, misery loves company. But it doesn’t stop there lest we fall into the trap of self-pity and this leads to depression. Remember, God makes a way out of temptation which includes feeling sorry for ourselves: 1 Cor. 10:12-13.
Second, the next step is what takes humility. While the tendency is to cover-up our sins and denying, the Bible says we are to humble ourselves and confess our sins. This takes guts but it is the way toward recovery. First John 1:8-10 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Confession of our sins comes in three parts: Part one, we must get ourselves right with God first for, after all, we first lose the credibility of our standing with him when we violate our commitment to his sacred principles of conduct. Part two, we must get ourselves right with ourselves by accepting the reality of our shortcomings, repenting of our sins, and then making the decision to change our ways. Part three, we must get ourselves right with others by being transparent, truthful, and sincere with them.
The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of earning credibility. After having the bad reputation of persecuting Christians and then being converted to Christ, he had a lot of work to do to gain his credibility with his former enemies. At first, the church leaders had a difficult time accepting the validity of his conversion (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-26). It took some time before he could convince the church leaders that he had truly given his life to Christ, and dedicated to serve him as he was called.
This is the third step: Patience with prayer. Just as it took time for Paul to gain the trust of the church leaders, so it takes time to gain our credibility, too. While we must be prepared to accept the fact that some people may never forgive us or believe us, there are others who will down the road. Due to human nature, most people tend not to change their attitudes overnight. But by setting the right example, proving our words by our actions, being persistent in prayer (Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:11), and faithfully serving the Lord, credibility will grow. In the meantime, while reminding others that you’re always going to make mistakes, you are setting your sights on a higher goal, (Phil. 3:1-21).
By being transparent concerning his personal struggles with sin, the Apostle Paul reminded his listeners that in spite of it all, he could still claim victory through Christ his Lord (Romans 7:14-25). And this, in itself, provides the hope that comes with genuine credibility: being ready for the crown of righteousness at the return of Christ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Indeed, the credibility factor is important for making kingdom seekers effective (Matt. 6:33) in their daily walk with the Lord.
Here’s an old spiritual, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford:
Good News to YOU!