I read where a number of years ago, the British navy was involved in some peacetime maneuvers at sea -- involving a column of cruisers. They were steaming along in formation, when a signal was given to execute a 90-degree turn. The maneuver went off flawlessly, except for one cruiser, whose captain missed the signal. The ship almost collided with the one on front, and when it swerved to avoid a collision, the whole convoy was thrown into confusion. Only some very skillful seamanship by the other captains prevented a serious accident. When some order had been regained, the admiral sent a message to the captain who had caused all the trouble; "Captain, what are your intentions?" Immediately the captain replied, "Sir, I intend to buy a farm!" He knew without being told that that failure had cost him his naval career.
Is the Christian life like serving in the British navy? Is it "one failure and you're out?" If so, then most of us are in big trouble. But some would have us believe that we can live as we please without concern for consequence. Of course neither extreme is accurate.
Tonight as we close the book on the life of Samson, we want to see one more lesson that God would have for us to learn from this wasted life. The lesson for us tonight is on facing failure.
Last week we left Samson in the Philistine prison house, blinded, bound, and grinding at the wheel like an animal. How sad and how tragic a picture can the Word of God paint for us? Betrayed and sold out by the woman he loved, at the mercy of and abused by his life-long enemies, Samson, who had such potential for doing great and mighty things for God and His people, now must be led by the hand from place to place.
If you have ever suffered a debilitating illness you can begin to imagine how Samson might have felt. Following my heart surgery I couldn't dress myself. I wasn't allowed to drive. I felt helpless…but the big difference was that my doctors assured me that I would get better, and that I would regain my health and be able to resume my normal activities. That wasn't the case with Samson. I am sure that for him he felt this would be where he would spend the rest of his years…grinding his life away. But then we read these incredible words in Judges 16:22
"Howbeit, the hair of his head began to grow again...."
Before we read the rest of the chapter, I think it would be good for us to clarify a couple of things. When we look at a passage of Scripture, what we get from it is often determined by where we are spiritually. That is why we can read a section of the Bible at one point, and come back to that same passage later and see something that we didn't see the previous time.
I don't know about you, but for me the study of Samson's life has been an eye-opening experience for me. I thought I knew this story. But over the last several weeks as we have taken it piece by piece, I have found that I am learning that I really didn't know the story of Samson after all! The words of verse 22 are filled with promise aren't they? But we must be careful to not read into this passage what we would like to see, but rather draw from it what God would have us learn tonight.
Wouldn't it have made a wonderful Hollywood ending if Samson would have miraculously regained his strength, his sight, and his freedom! Can you see him and Delilah riding off into the sunset to live happily ever after? But that isn't what happens! Real life seldom resembles storybooks!
Tonight the lesson we need to learn concerns facing failure in life. But let's clarify what we are talking about when we use the word failure.
I. What is this Failure
A. The failure that we are addressing tonight is not:
1. Failing a test or assignment at school…
2. Being passed over for a promotion on the job or not reaching a sales goal…
3. Missing the winning basket or goal in some game.
4. Going off our diet and splurging…
5. All of these might be a legitimate use of the word failure, but they are not what we are talking about tonight!
B. The failure we are addressing is a moral failure!
1. We're talking about when sin gains control of our lives.
2. When we are at the crossroad of temptation and we choose to give in.
3. We're talking about failing to be the kind of person God wants us to be.
4. With that in mind let's read the rest of this chapter.
Read: Judges 16:22-31
I. Lesson One: When tempted with moral failure do not give in!
A. Samson's sin exacted a heavy cost.
1. Samson had to live with the fact that he had given unbelievers reason to boast in their idols.
2. Look at verses 23-24 of our text again.
3. These are people who not only didn't know God, but now they had reason to be confirmed in their unbelief.
4. Every one of us will have an impact upon the lives of people around us…for good or for bad.
2Co 5:20a Now then we are ambassadors for Christ…
5. Paul reminds us that we represent Christ in this world…
O Christian remember you bear His dear name, Your life is for others to view; A living example, men praise you or blame, And measure your Savior by you.
B. He had to endure Philistine ridicule
1. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Samson to be brought out and, as the text says, "made sport of for them?"
2. The word 'sport' here means to laugh and mock
3. The Bible doesn't tell us all that that involved, but we can imagine what must have been going on in Samson's heart?
4. These people were cruel, and now we see why they didn't kill him back in the previous verses.
5. They wanted to taunt him and make fun of him, while exalting their god!
C. He brought shame and heartache to his family.
1. Note v31 speaks of this.
2. After his death, his family came and prepared his body for burial near his father's grave.
3. This is the first that we learn of Manoah's death.
4. He had been a godly man, one who honored the Lord with his life…
5. He died knowing only the shame and dishonor of a son who wasted his life along with the opportunities that God had given him.
II. Lesson Two: If We Have Experienced A Moral Failure, Do Not Become Bitter Toward God!
A. Our first reaction to God's chastisement is to escape it.
1. My parents learned from their parents, and I in turn taught my children by example…
2. When you spank a child you have to hold on to them…
3. Otherwise they will run away, or worse they will hop around and you will wind up hurting them.
4. Why? It is natural to want to avoid discipline.
5. But God tells us that discipline is for our good!
Heb 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
B. Our second reaction to God's chastisement is to become bitter toward God.
1. How many times have children looked at a parent and said, either verbally or under their breath, "I hate you!"
2. Why do we do that? We really don't hate our parents, but we become bitter because of their discipline.
3. The same is true with God's chastisement.
4. I have had people tell me, "I will never set foot in that church again!"
5. Don't talk to me about God…look what He let happen to my family…etc.
C. Our reaction should be to learn from the experience and let it mature us.
1. To his credit, as far as we know, Samson doesn't become bitter toward God.
2. I would imagine he had plenty of time to evaluate how he came to be harnessed to the grinding wheel of the Philistines.
3. He doesn't whine and complain about how God surely must not love him anymore.
4. I believe he came to a point that he acknowledged his sin before God, and realized that it was his own sin and careless actions that brought him to his present predicament!
III. Lesson Three: If We Have Failed, There is Still Hope for the Future.
A. Could God ever use me again in any way?
1. The answer to that question is, "Absolutely yes"
a. No, Samson's eyesight was not restored
b. No, Samson was never able to serve as a judge the way the Lord wanted him to.
c. But living for Jesus Christ is not like serving in the British Navy...it's not "one failure and your out."
2. Will God use us in the same way? Probably not.
3. Samson failed, and failed miserably, but God is always there for us…even in our failure.
B. Jonah cried out to God from the belly of the whale.
C. Peter was convinced that his life was worthless following his denial of Christ.
D. Perhaps Samson thought God was finished with him as well, but "…the hair of his head began to grow again…"
1. I believe that while down in that prison house, he repented.
2. One of the main reasons for that belief is because of what happens in v28-29
3. Another is the fact that Samson is included in the 'Faith Hall of Fame' in Hebrews 11.
E. God has a way of dealing with sin.
1. It is through confession, repentance, and forgiveness.
2. Confession = saying the same thing about my sin that God says about it.
3. Repentance = changing my thinking about my sin, which always results in a change of my direction in life.
4. Forgiveness = releasing from the penalty of sin.
1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
5. That is a NT verse, but it isn't written to show lost people how to be saved…
6. It is written to show saved people how to get right with God!
The passage says that Samson killed more Philistines in death, than he had in life. That is simply a fact, not an endorsement of the choices he had made in his life!
This final chapter says so much more to us about the grace of God, than it does about the strength of Samson. Let's learn the lessons tonight.