Warren Wiersbe once stated that the difference between Saul and David was that Saul was concerned about reputation, while David was concerned about character (qtd. by Ronnie Stevens). It’s a point easily validated by the Scriptures. After all, Saul was the people’s king, the one that was chosen based on their perceptions of what royalty should be. Therefore he had to be focused on maintaining that reputation. David, however, was the man after God’s own heart (see I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). David’s concern then was not about maintaining man’s perception of him, but God’s.
Maintaining this distinction is not easily done in our own lives. After all, we are more often aware of our reputation then God’s perception of our character. We hear whispers in the hall, see a comment on Facebook, or receive an unsolicited piece of feedback and our reputation is quickly revealed. Character, however, is something that’s easier to mask, and therefore we often sacrifice it in order to maintain our reputation. After all, if our heart is not in the right place who’s going to know but us?
The truth is we know that there is One who does know when are heart is askew. We also know that sooner or later our reputation will be affected by our character. After all, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45) and “a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). If our character is not right, sooner or later we will mess up our reputation.
The challenge then is to put our focus on where it should rightly be – not on maintaining our reputation but on maintaining our character. As David’s life can attest this commitment to character will not be without its challenges, or failures, but in the end, a life focused on maintaining a heart after God’s own, will earn the rewards that reputation alone can never achieve, rewards that last long after our reputation fades away.