Quoting from Acts 13:22.
“After removing Saul, he (God) made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.‘”
My father was the head deacon at our church (and his father before him) and a Sunday School teacher, and he always had trouble with this verse. He wondered how David could be described as a man after God’s own heart. Truthfully, I struggled with this for many years.
Some people point to the final phrase as the solution… “he will do everything I want him to do.” But we know that is not true… at least if one interprets “everything I want” in terms of obedience to God’s law or will (and that sure seems a pretty reasonable interpretation). He disobeyed God regularly. He was guilty of pride, guilty of lying and deception, guilty of adultery, guilty of treason and racketeering, and guilty of murder… just to name a few. He was also an unfaithful husband and a neglectful father. It always seemed to me that if David was a man after God’s own heart, then pretty much all of us would also qualify.
But maybe three or four years ago, I came up with an answer that satisfied me. It might even be correct.
Although he was truly a flawed and sinful man, when confronted with his sin David would humble himself before God and repent. A king who humbly repents and returns to God. Do you know how rare that is? How many kings in the Bible would admit they were wrong in the Bible? Very few. Even less after they have gotten comfortable with praise and power. David is almost unique as a man of power who could humble himself before God, repent, and turn to obedient service of God. The only other examples I can think of from the Bible are Kings Manasseh and Nebuchadnezzar. In each of those cases it took a very tangible external humiliation (imprisonment in Assyria or 7 years of madness) to bring about an internal humbling of heart and will.
It is sad that with pastors, the same challenge is true. Commonly, when pastors fall due to sin, they express great sorrow, and desire to change. But all to often, that starts to change as the pastor begins to minimize the sin, blame others, and balk at discipline and accountability guidelines. Reading the experiences of others in ministry, my experiences are hardly unique. Some truly humble themselves before God and others, and accept a time of discipline. Others seek to cover-up, claim innocence, blame others, and reject being held accountable.
For those who do embrace change, they work on 3 “B” issues:
- Boundaries (identify their weaknesses and establish wise “gates and walls”)
- Balance (shift from a human doing to a human being)
- Burnout (recognize they are limited, need help, and must know when to say no)
Further, they need to establish a support system starting with a solid relationship with God. But it can’t stop there. It must continue to family, friends, accountability partners, and mentors. They need less unilateral relationships, and more mutual relationships.
Ultimately, time is the true evidence of change, and God the true judge, but a minister who can humbly repent and accept discipline, and receive God’s grace I believe can truly be said to be “a man (or woman) after God’s own heart.”