The test of David’s heart for God also came as the lure of promotion and advancement were held in front of him. David was anointed to be King at a relatively early age and chosen from among brothers who seemed more qualified that he (1 Sam. 16:6ff). It was David’s heart for God that set him apart from his brothers and qualified him for leadership above them in spite of his youthfulness (v.12).
But the time comes when the one who has a heart for God must wait on and trust in the God he has come to know. He must submit to God’s ways and wait on God’s timing and trust God to work all things together for good in His faithfulness and providence. And this can be difficult. Leon J. Wood has rightly said; “One of the hardest lessons for Christians to learn in any day is to wait on God for the time God sees right to bring aspects of His work to reality.” This was a challenge for David who watched as Saul’s shortcomings became more and more evident and disqualified him to lead the people of God. But as hard as waiting and watching can be, it is preferable to getting ahead of God. D. Martin Lloyd Jones emphasizes this point. “The worst thing that can happen to a man is for him to succeed before he is ready.” The difficulty with waiting on God became greater as more and more people became convinced of David’s abilities and God’s blessing on his life and as they became more and more loyal to him. It is difficult to be loyal under incompetence and when basic integrity is absent. But it was David’s heart for God that kept him focused and steadfast. This heart for God and steadfast devotion are expressed in one of David’s Psalms written as he fled from Saul. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;…” (Psalm 57:7).
There is not room in a short article to recount every experience that tested David’s heart for God (e.g. the rebellion of Absalom and the disrespect of Shemei). But there is a glaring failure in this regard that cannot and must not be ignored. It stands as a warning and a negative example to any spiritual leader, indeed to any Christian who would influence others for Christ. It reminds us to take heed to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:12; “Therefore, let him who thinks He stands take heed lest he fall.” The danger of spiritual leadership and the position that sometimes goes with it is that the accolades and perks, (even the small ones), that come to such a one, can result in pride and presumption. This is not only true for one like King Saul, whom we discussed in an earlier article. It is true for the one who has a heart for God. That is why the writer of Proverbs instructs us in Proverbs 4:23; “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
You may have realized by now that the event in David’s life being referred to is his committing adultery with Bathsheba. While we are not given every single detail which led to this event, this we know. David was looking where he should not have and contemplating what he should not have. He evidently chose to forget or ignore the greater responsibility of leadership and how his decisions would diminish his effectiveness and negatively impact the next generation. More importantly, he chose to forget or ignore how his actions would give God’s enemies occasion to blaspheme God’s name and how God’s glory before others would be affected. David was a great leader which made his failure all the greater. It behooves all of us who aspire to lead to remember that having a heart for God does not exempt or inoculate us from failure, even great failure. May the Lord help us to diligently guard our hearts.
3. The future perspective of a heart for God: The leader with a heart for God lives with his eye on the future; not for himself and what he can gain, but for the unfolding will of God and His glory. Any leader can and should have vision. It is a necessary quality for effective leadership. But only a spiritual leader with a heart for God can have the kind of vision that will affect people for the kingdom of God.
We see early evidences of this perspective in David’s encounter with Goliath. We see it again in Psalm 132:4; “I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” After this David became consumed with building a temple of worship to God’s glory, a place that would stand as a tribute to the majesty and splendor of Jehovah. And though God does not allow David to do this great thing, David does pass the vision on to his son Solomon and gathers much of the material necessary for him to do it.
But nothing testifies to David’s future perspective as much as his Messianic hope. God had promised him that his descendant would reign forever. From a mere human perspective, that was an incredible promise. But the Christological implications of this promise become more and more evident until its fulfillment at the coming of Christ. This Messianic hope is expounded in Psalm 72 in which David expresses his prayer for Solomon but obviously looks beyond him to the Messiah. It is expressed in Psalm 22 in which David prophetically describes the sufferings of Christ on the cross and His ensuing glorification. David’s perspective on the future is consumed with this Messianic hope, and it affected all he did. He is almost Pauline in his Christological obsession. In secular thinking, we would say; “He was ahead of his time.”
It must be so with every spiritual leader. A heart for God includes a passion for Christ and a perspective on the future that is Christ-centered. Such a perspective purifies life and sanctifies leadership. “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every one who has this hope purifies himself, even as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3).