Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
One of the greatest spiritual mentors I have had in my life is my high school principal, Dr. Don Boyd. God used him to teach me and lead me at the time I was just giving my life to serve God. One of the many doctrines that I remember him teaching us was the principle that God owns everything we have. He said that God owns our house, our school, our church, our clothes, our relatives, our friends, our lives, and our reputations, and He can do whatever He wants to do with them. I readily agreed with this truth except the part about our reputations. I struggled with that one for many years. I felt that our reputations were our responsibility to create and uphold. I thought about Proverbs 22:1 (A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.), and I was convinced for a long time that my reputation was all up to me to defend and uphold by my lifestyle and Godly living.
But, like so many things, the Lord has shown me in my own life, as well as through Biblical examples, that Mr. Boyd was right. My reputation is in God’s hands. He owns it as much as He owns everything in this world. Let’s look at the lives of three great men of the Bible.
Joseph is the Bible character that I most admire. (Genesis 37-50) There is nothing recorded about him that shows sin, evil, or wrongdoing. He was a wonderful example of a Godly Christian, and he had a wonderful reputation, even as a teenager. But the Lord allowed him to lose everything and become a slave in a foreign country. Again he made himself a good reputation, and again the Lord let him lose his good reputation when a very influential woman lied about his purity. For years he was in prison, with no way to defend himself or restore his good name. But when God wanted Joseph to regain his honor in the eyes of men, He made it happen. In one day Joseph went from being a prison inmate to being the vice president (so to speak) of the most powerful nation in the world. God does what He will with a man’s reputation.
Job was a man that God considered perfect (mature and well-balanced). He was the richest man in his country. There was no one more respected than Job. Yet, all at once, Job lost everything. Soon he was sitting in a garbage dump, scraping his sores. His wife had left him and his closest friends were telling him that he was a sinner. Job did nothing wrong to deserve this. The Lord decided to remove Job’s good name for a time. Eventually, He restored Job’s reputation and gave him twice as much of everything than he had before. Again, the Lord chose when a man would be honored and when he would suffer shame.
David was another example of a teenager with a heart for God. (I Samuel 16-I Kings 2) He was skilled and talented enough to draw the attention of the king. Yet, through no fault of his own, that same king began to envy and hate him. In no time he went from “hero to zero” as King Saul hunted him as he would a wild animal. For seven years David’s name was considered a curse word as the king sought to destroy him. David had done nothing wrong, but he had to suffer a bad reputation. Yet, in God’s time, David became the greatest king that Israel would ever know. God so honored him, that the Lord Himself calls the throne on which Christ will someday rule the “throne of David.” (Luke 1:32) No one doubts how God feels about David, yet He took away David’s good reputation for several years.
The ultimate example of this truth is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Creator of the universe. All of nature praises and worships Him. He will be King of Kings for eternity. Of course, Jesus never did anything to tarnish his name; He is perfect. Still, by His own choosing, He allowed Himself to be reviled and cursed by men. He suffered a poor reputation in men’s eyes. If He had not been hated, men would not have crucified Him, and we could not be saved. The Bible says that it pleased God that His Son was shamed and mistreated, because He knew all the good that would come from it. (Isaiah 53:10-12) He also could see ahead to the time that His Son will be crowned in great honor and rightfully treated for ever and ever.
These examples show us that the Lord does not mind removing our good reputations from us for a time. He does not do this because He dislikes us, or because He is punishing us. He does it for the greater good and for His glory. Joseph had to get from being an unknown shepherd to being the most respected and trusted man in the world. The journey was painful and involved a lost reputation. But God saved an entire nation through one man. The Lord sees all the good that will come from the painful events of our lives. It is interesting to see in the story of Joseph that, each time something bad happened to him, the Bible says that “the Lord was with Joseph.” Maybe Joseph felt like we sometimes feel- “God, if You are for me, why is everything going wrong in my life?” But God saw the big picture.
Have you experienced the painful removal of your good reputation? Possibly your church is suffering criticism from the media or the government or from disgruntled church members. You know that you have done nothing wrong. Or, for the first time in your life, seen your financial stability disappear. The loss of a job or other circumstances out of your control caused your “economic reputation” (namely your credit score) to take a dive. You may even be answering calls from your creditors, and you never thought it would happen to you. Or, perhaps a friend or relative has turned on you and is spreading lies about you. It may feel that everyone believes the bad about you, and you are defenseless to save your good name. God knows all about these situations and He is allowing this in your life. Hang on- it is temporary!
Now, I must say that the Lord is not responsible to help you “save face” due to your own bad decisions. If there is sin in your life, and you have been found out, that is not God’s fault; it is yours. You must always pay for your sin. If you have made bad decisions, then you will face the consequences of those decisions. You cannot blame God for foolishness and lack of wisdom. Look at the life of Samson in the Bible. He was a great man of God who made foolish choices and allowed himself a license to sin. He did not end up with honor and respect. That was his own fault.
But we are discussing the seeming loss of a good name through no fault of your own. You know that you have done nothing wrong, yet the Lord has allowed you to suffer shame. Well, we can see from Biblical examples that there is a happy ending. When God chooses to remove the good name from a person who loves Him and is striving to do His will, then He always restores that reputation, and brings that person to even greater honor! Take the examples of Joseph, Job, David, and Jesus Himself. By the end of their stories, they were greatly loved, respected, and honored. God restored their reputations and gave them so much more than what they had! Our Lord is so loving and so fair. He never takes something from us without replacing it with something greater!
If you are now in those dark days of confusion, wondering how God could ever make things right- hold on! He will bring your situation to a glorious and satisfying conclusion. Now, looking at Bible examples, I cannot promise you that the people that are causing you pain will ever feel sorry for what they are doing. The Bible does not say that Potiphar’s wife apologized to Joseph, or that king Saul ever reconciled with David. He did not. But God was able to bring those men to honor despite their accusers. Let God get you out of your “mess” His way and in His time. He will set you in a high place, and you will be amazed at how He did it. That is the glory of the Lord. Just be happy knowing that He knows where you are, He will bring back your good name, and He will be glorified in the process. Your reputation is safe in His hands.