Can anointing co-exist with sin?
A minister I know held a leadership position in our church. I have seen him pray for people and minister with great results. He has laid hands on the sick and we have seen them recover; he has spoken very accurate words of prophecy both for individuals and the church. Now we find that he has been involved in sexual sin for quite some time. Everything is exposed and he has stepped down. But we are all wondering: why did God keep using him? Why would God continue to anoint the work of a church leader who is involved in sin?
Ministry is a call to holiness above reproach (Part 1)
This is a real toughie isn’t it? I have also seen this happen. In fact, I was once in a ministry situation with a man who had a powerful anointing; his spiritual gifts were valid and proven. I knew him quite well for several years so I was not unaware that he had underlying struggles with certain things. Still, it was a complete surprise when he left town very suddenly to pursue an ungodly relationship and lifestyle established through the Internet. He left so much to receive so little and as far as I know, he has never repented. I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered over him.
This type of situation and the one you mention always brings confusion to the church and disgust to the world. For the church there is a betrayal of trust. There is usually also a feeling of having been hoodwinked; why didn’t we see, how could this person have fooled us, who can we trust in the future?
The world can wag its head and say; “See, they are all hypocrites, can’t practice what they preach, how can Christians be telling us what to do when they can’t do it themselves”? Ministers who fall bring scandal and scorn to the cross of Christ. “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” (Romans 2:23)
The call of ministry is a call to holiness. That is really the call of every Christian but to the one in leadership, an even higher standard is applied. 1 Timothy 3:2 says; “Now the overseer must be above reproach…” and then proceeds to explicitly detail all the actions and behaviors it entails.
All that said; that was not really your question. You wonder why God seems to continue to anoint and use someone who doesn’t deserve it, someone in rebellion. Let’s talk about that tomorrow.
Next: Why does God continue the anointing?
God allows sin to continue? (Part 2)
How can the gifts of God continue to function in someone who is leading a double life, involved in sin and rebellion? I think one reason this is hard for us is because we know that if it were OUR decision, we would withdraw and cut the person off at the knees. For instance, if we discovered that our business accountant had a hand in the till, we would confront, fire, and probably prosecute.
But let’s look at this a different way. We are talking about spiritual gifts. The nature of a gift is that it is a free expression, given from one to another without strings; it is not earned. Romans 11:29 says; “For God’s gifts and call are irrevocable.” God never gave anybody gifts because they deserved them. Spiritual gifts are apart from any work on our side. Therefore, if someone has a gift of hospitality, would you expect them to become unwelcoming and unsociable if they began an affair with the postman? No, they would probably continue operating in their gift through their sin.
Okay, you say, but what about the “anointing” of God? Doesn’t anointing signify God’s presence and his favor? Actually, anointing signifies consecration — being set apart. So let’s ask: for what purpose is the anointing of God? Is it for the person with the gift or the person receiving the benefits of the gift? Let’s explore that a little more tomorrow.
Who benefits from God’s anointing?
Anointing benefits the receiver (Part 3)
God loves his people; in fact he loves all people and he wants to pour out good things all the time. Healing, deliverance, salvation, grace, mercy, prosperity – God is in the giving business.
In Acts 3, Peter and John had a powerful anointing to heal the lame man who sat everyday at the Gate Beautiful. Wow! But notice what Peter said when everyone was marveling over the man’s healed feet and ankle bones. He said; “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”(Verse 12)
Peter took no credit and felt there was nothing special about himself being used as God’s instrument. He was right. God performed that miracle, not to prove Peter had a great anointing, but because he loved the lame man and wanted to demonstrate his mercy to him.
We need to remember that when someone who is in sin continues to hold God’s anointing. Perhaps God wants to continue to use them for the sake of the people who will receive the ministry through their hands.
I remember how clear this lesson was to me several years ago while I was on a particular prayer team. There were no sin issues but I was spiritually dry as a bone. I felt wooden and not in any way capable of ministering God’s love or grace to anyone. My prayer partner on the team was in the same condition. We felt embarrassed to pray for people because we really didn’t have a thing to give.
Boy, were we shocked. We felt nothing but the people who came for prayer received much. God kept touching most everyone we prayed for and no one was more surprised than us. My friend remarked; “Well that proves it has nothing to do with us. God cares about the people who are coming for prayer.”
There might be an additional reason why the anointing continues and we will talk about that tomorrow.
Next: God is longsuffering
God is longsuffering toward the sinner (Part 4)
I don’t think God gives up on people as fast as we do. I know how quick I sometimes am to write someone off. God, on the other hand, is patient and compassionate and long suffering. For the one who is in sin, God is wooing them to repentance and does not want them to be disqualified for service in his kingdom.
Remember how long God often put up with disobedience and idolatry from the Israelites in the Old Testament before judgment would finally come? The fact that God does not usually immediately rip someone’s gifts and anointing from them is a testament to the kind of God he is. We should take that into consideration when a leader’s sin is exposed.
Be aware too that anyone in leadership is particularly targeted by the devil. Zechariah 13:7 says; “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Satan laughs hard when ministers fail because so many are affected both in and out of the church. Make sure you aren’t one of those scattered sheep.
God’s heart is terribly grieved over sin. We should not conclude that God is excusing sin or approving the actions of the sinner as we question why God continues to use the minister. He is well aware of the birth of sin in that person’s heart. He is aware of something else too. No one ever really gets away with it. That will be the topic of our final day.
The wages of sin is still death (Part 5)
The Bible says that: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Don’t be angry or confused when a church leader falls from grace; be grieved instead. Every sin has natural and spiritual consequences and the anointed minister is no exception.
Even if God continues to minister through that person for a time, things always come out in the end. As you mentioned; “everything is exposed and he has stepped down.” Disgrace, guilt, recrimination, loss of livelihood, and, unless there is repentance, the slow dying of the soul. Think of the eternal consequences. Nothing could be worse than that.
Pray for every Christian leader, especially your own pastor and the leadership of your church. Also pray for those who are in the spotlight; who knows what pressure and attack they withstand daily? How long could we stand if we were in their positions? Men and women fail but Jesus never fails. Let the Holy Spirit decide where the anointing resides. Finally, keep your eyes only on Jesus.