The saddest scenario for any minister is to become yesterday's leader. I am not referring to retirement, to age or being made redundant. I am talking about the lifting of the approval of the Holy Spirit. This is what happened to King Saul, who was always regarded as God's anointed, but lost God's approval.
Observe how quickly the fallen heroes of our time attained success. Most of us do not want to wait for our time to come; we want success and approval now. And that is exactly what Saul got.
Sadly, another hero has fallen. Paul Cain, who was mightily used in the healing revival of the 1950s, and who was given one of the most astonishing prophetic gifts of our timeâ€”who is also my friend and became a member of Westminster Chapel under my ministry thereâ€”is a fallen man (for more information on this story, see the March 2005 issue of Charisma magazine).
His closest friends were made privy to some melancholy facts and pleaded with him on bended knee over several months to repent. They will be criticized for waiting so long, but they were hoping to spare all of us the knowledge of what they knew, if this man would not only acknowledge his sin but also repent.
It has come to light that Paul has recently agreed to submit to a process of restoration and rehabilitation, but only time will reveal the sincerity of his intentions. I, for one, hope that he carries through. If not, he will have become yesterday's leader.
How does one become yesterday's leader? King Saul did it in eight steps:
1. He put himself above the Word of God. Saul rebelled against Scripture by offering a sacrifice that only a priest should have offered (see 1 Sam. 13:8-9). It has been my observation that nearly every person who falls into sin has put themselves above the Word, making themselves the exception.
2. He took himself too seriously. Position, success and fame went to Saul's head. He thought he should be treated differently. He would not accept criticism, became defensive and excused himself for his conduct. A person craves the limelight, expects everybody to bow and scrape because of his or her gifting--nobody can help them.
3. He felt "compelled" to do what he did (see 1 Sam. 13:12). Many justify themselves by thinking they are led of God--"compelled"--despite what the Scriptures plainly state.
4. He was accountable to nobody. Saul should have been accountable to Samuel, but he would not even listen to the prophet. Fallen heroes are often those who were accountable to no one, and who try to get away with bending the rules, whether with money, sex or power.
5. He was consumed with jealousy and threatened by David's anointing. Killing Goliath gave David great honor, and from that time David was more concerned about the threat of young David than he was the enemy of Israel: the Philistines (see 1 Sam. 18). Those who spend more time casting aspersions on rivals than they do fighting the real enemy (the devil) or seeking the honor that comes from God only, are in danger of becoming yesterday's leader.
6. He lost all sense of integrity. He swore an oath to his son Jonathan that he would not seek David's life but broke his word in hours. Honesty sooner or later is trivialized by those who put themselves above the infallible Word of God.
7. He would repent, and it seemed sincere, but it did not last (see 1 Sam. 24:16; 26:2). Have you noticed how leaders will repent and shed tears so that others will think they are pleasing the Lord? They are described in Hebrews as unable to be renewed again to repentance (see Heb. 6:4-6).
8. He sunk to depths no one would fathom, indulging in the very thing he had once regarded as evil (see 1 Sam. 28:3-7). Saul's gift of prophecy flourished on his way to kill David. It seems that some prominent preachers and even low-profile Christians, despite their sinful conduct, continue to claim God is with them due to the fact that their gifts still flourish.
The gifts and calling of God are "irrevocable" (see Rom. 11:29). That you and I can preach, teach, write, prophesy, speak in tongues or perform miracles is no sign of God's approval.
If anyone who reads this senses conviction, I ask: Has God granted you true repentance? If so, you are not yesterday's leader. Fall on your knees and thank Him that you still hear His voice--unlike Saul who eventually had to admit that God had departed from him.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, The Anointing and The Word and the Spirit. His Web site is www.rtkendallministries.com.