Reputation and Character are not the same!

Isn't it interesting how the Lord often presents His case to His children through a myriad of ways? Sometimes a verse is enough. A sermon. An article. Other times He uses a verse, a sermon, an article, a book, a hymn, a friend, and prayer to get His point across. Almost as if He is screaming, "Daughter! I want you to hear this! So in case you missed it the first six times, I am going to offer a seventh to make sure you do not miss what I am teaching you." Sigh.
Some aspects of the Christian life are so easy to grasp and implement while other aspects require constant repetition before my mind comprehends them, and implementation seems to take a lifetime. But God is always faithful, and He never gives up on me! No matter how inept, foolish, or dense I appear at the moment, He continues to show patience while gently pulling me back to Himself time and again to tip my chin up, look into my eyes, and say, "I have something to teach you, Michelle, and I want you to listen, and learn. It may take a while, but that's okay! I'm not going anywhere." (How good it is to have such a faithful Father caring for us!)

In the fall, the Lord started a work in my heart that was quite difficult. We cannot have growth without growing pains, so it was no surprise that it was such a hard process, but I still balked under the intensity of the lesson. To sum up, He had me wrestling through this verse: For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Because He is gracious, He used a wise, godly woman to encourage me with these words:
Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success, not the response of others. (see full post here) 

I was listening. Learning. Changing.
But I was also stuck.
Though comments and criticisms were not throwing me completely off balance any longer (I kept my thoughts in a loop, "Obey the, Lord, Michelle. No one's opinion matters but His!" "Obey the, Lord, Michelle. No one's opinion matters but His!"), I still wanted to defend myself. I was frustrated that I was being judged according to the thoughts and opinions and convictions of others without the chance to explain my personal motives. Surely, if they knew the who/what/when/where/why/how of my heart, they would understand. Right?

I was praying like crazy, begging the Lord to resolve this issue, because I was tired of it and wanted to be judged according to truth, not assumptions.
And He answered those prayers! Using a quote from a college basketball coach.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” - John Wooden

Every motive, every thought, every intention, every action, every word spoken ... all are laid bare before the Lord. He knows my heart. I might think I know it, but Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9 
If I cannot know my own heart, because it deceives even me, how in the world can I expect others to know and understand it?
I am asking people to do something that is impossible. The most determined, intentional, faithful, caring person would not have success after purposefully plumbing the depths of my heart to discover what lies within it because it simply cannot be done. 
We can discover much about each other and understand quite a bit about one another's character, convictions, passions, and desires, but there is only One who can see inside every secret place of the heart, interpret it correctly, and understand its intentions.

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Jeremiah 17:10

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb 4:12,13

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. I Chronicles 28:9

If I am in Scripture and prayer daily, continually asking the Lord to "create in me a clean heart" and "search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there be any hurtful way in me," then I can stand confidently before Him knowing that He does see my heart, and no detail escapes His notice.
There is something freeing and wonderful in the knowledge that others will never truly know or understand the motives and intentions of my heart - because they can't. It is not personal. It's not because they refuse to understand. It is simply, impossible.
But the Lord DOES know the motives and intentions of my heart.
And since I am commanded to please God rather than men, I have to put all of my focus on Him, trusting Him to take care of my reputation whether people give me the benefit of the doubt or assume the best about me or not. (Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:7)

This has been an incredibly difficult lesson to learn and apply, but by God's grace I am making progress and seeing evidence of a transformed mind by taking every thought captive that is not truth, and not of Him.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Character is what GOD sees.
Reputation is what MAN sees.

How thankful I am to belong to a God who sees me as I am ... and loves me with an everlasting love.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, 
but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

No comments: