Extravagant experiences do not automatically make you a better Christian. In fact, we’ve all heard of powerful Charismatic preachers who have had affairs or embezzled money. Many cessationists are quick to jump on such leaders and say, “See! Everything they ever did was a lie! God wouldn’t perform miracles through such a sinner!”
But that’s the weird thing: God uses people despite their capacity to sin. Therefore, someone’s sin does not automatically discredit the validity of the Spirit’s work through them. As strange as it is, an affair does not revoke a Christian’s prior miracles or even necessarily stop their ability to continue doing miracles.
No matter how great our experience of God is, we have the capacity to fall, just as Saul did. He is a prime example of how we can be anointed and fail in that anointing. God hand-selected this man to be the first king of Israel (1 Sa 9:15-17) and even gave him an extravagant experience in which, “the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied” (1 Sa 10:10). You’d think an experience like this would pretty much set Saul on the right path, but five chapters later God tells Samuel, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments” (1 Sa 15:11).
Saul was chosen by God to be a good king over Israel—the Bible does not communicate that he was chosen to purposely fail God. Samuel told him that he would “be turned into another man” (1 Sa 10:6)—almost making us think of how we become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). And yet, despite his becoming a new man, he later becomes (or reverts to) something he wasn’t supposed to be—a situation that many Christians (or former Christians) echo with their own lives.
But all of that being said, did Saul’s failure invalidate the fact that God chose him to be king? Was his extravagant experience of God now false because of later actions? No; of course not. It just so happens that even God’s powerfully anointed and appointed people are just as capable of messing everything up as the rest of us. As one commentary says well, “The experience of the Spirit’s call to prophecy is ambiguous; it can be painful and does not automatically ensure holiness or guarantee just leadership.” (Shults, F. LeRon and Andrea Hollingsworth. The Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids/Cambridge, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2008, pp. 3-4. Eerdmans Guides to Theology.)
What does create a stronger ability for holiness and just leadership in our lives, is our pursuit of the Holy Spirit in ways that seem much more mundane and boring when compared with the incredible, supernatural, ecstatic experiences the Spirit also offers us. And so, we must learn to make our everyday spirituality about things that appear less extravagant—things like growing the fruit of the Spirit, and reading our Bibles, and worshipping with our local community, and experiencing God in the normalcy of everyday life.
Just as Saul’s life shows us, a mountaintop experience is not what creates an authentic Godly life—pursuing and experiencing God in the fluctuation of everyday experiences is the way to grow. Like Jesus, our journey will occasionally lead us up mountains where incredible things happen, but also like Jesus, we will still have to come back down and embrace the cross (Mt 17:1-13).