Are the gifts and call of God irrevocable despite hidden sin in a minister’s life?
This is a good question that none of us knows the answer to until we stand before the Lord in the Bema final judgment. That is the place God decides rewards. But what happens if a person lives with sin secretly while working for God in the ministry?
None of us can judge a person’s life. We can’t see the person’s heart. Only God can do that. It is up to him how he wants to deal with his ministers. I have often said, and heard it said, that God sometimes works wonders in spite of us.
Take, for instance, Sampson. He is the playboy of the Old Testament. He is one of the judges that lives on the edge, if not over it most of the time. He’s got a thing for Philistine women. I don’t know why but he gravitates toward the bad girls in Philistia.
And God seems to use this. Think about the story of Samson. Every time that he ends up with a philistine prostitute, he destroys the Philistines in some way or another. Usually they make him angry and God uses his anger to destroy them.
So in a way, God used the flaws in Sampson against the enemies of Israel. This is why he is one of the judges. He did everything wrong from start to finish a God still used him. What are we supposed to do with this? Does God still do this today?
This is why I say that God can use us in spite of ourselves. Sampson’s flaws left God an open door to use him even though he was an imperfect human being. It would have been better for the Philistines if they would have not bothered him at all. Every time they enticed him they were the ones to get burned.
If a minister has a secret life of sin but God still uses him or her in mighty ways, like through the gifts, signs and wonders, it’s not because they’re doing everything right. Billy Graham used to say that for every minister we hold up as a failure there are a thousand ministers who are doing it right that no one talks about.
It is human nature to gravitate toward those who are not doing things right or who are being dramatic. But does that mean that ministers can claim God’s gifts are irrevocable no matter what they do (Romans 11:29)? This almost sounds like the “once saved, always saved” argument.
If people use this verse to say that they are saved forever and that their gifts are always there for them, no matter what they do, they are not applying the context of this verse properly. It is couched in Paul’s argument that all of Israel will be saved.
It is not even speaking to the issue of hidden sin. It is talking about Paul’s desire that his people, though hardened for a short time, will still enter God’s kingdom before it is too late. This isn’t about being saved and part of God’s kingdom and then allowing sin in your life on the side or behind the scenes of your ministry.
The context of “each verse we quote must be taken into account. When we misapply Scripture, we may be in danger of practices that are not biblical. No one can justify a secret life of sin by saying that they are always saved or that God gives gifts he won’t take back.
There are examples of God removing his Spirit from those who don’t get rid of the life of sin. King Saul is a prime example. There was actually a moment where God’s Spirit left this anointed king. He spent the rest of his life sulking and doing things the wrong way. And he paid for it with his life on the battlefield.
It’s not okay for a minister to think that they can get away with hidden sin or that God condones their secret sinful lifestyle because he still uses them in their gifts. There will come a day of judgment for such activities.
Many times, like with Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Baker, these sins they do in secret will come out in public. Their judgment will be disgrace in the ministry. These ministers still have a ministry but never liked before. And they live in that judgment.
Personally as a minister I have always kept sin far away, not because I am a holy and righteous individual that is impossible to tempt. Instead, I keep these things in check because I do not want to be judged for secret sin in public ministry.
I fear the Lord in the sense that I honor him in secret and in public. I don’t want to be publicly disgraced so I attempt to live my life in private and public the same way. I want God’s judgment to be, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”