Welcome to this final week of our series on Samson. We are reading in Judges Chapter 16, where we’ve been looking at Samson, a man set apart by God from birth and empowered with supernatural strength. He was called and equipped by God to help deliver the Israelites from these bad guys who ruled over them named the Philistines. But the problem was, and the thing that’s so frustrating about Samson, is that even though he’d been called by God, even though he’d been given all this power, like so many of us he messed up time and time again. And so what we’ve seen over the past few weeks is that Samson may have been strong but he had an extremely weak will, and we saw him over and over break his vows to God. If you remember he took a Nazarite vow and yet he was continually chasing after the wrong women, touching things he wasn’t supposed to touch, drinking things he wasn’t supposed to drink, and even got a haircut when he wasn’t supposed to get his haircut. So as we look at Samson we see a man who is driven by his emotions instead of being led by the Spirit and one step at a time we find his emotions raging out of control, until we get to the point today where the great deliverer of God’s people is now a prisoner, his eyes have been gouged out, he’s in shackles, he’s grinding in a mill like an ox, just circling around and around, day after day, as his enemies are mocking him, and so it really couldn’t get much lower, much worse, than the point where we find Samson today.
What I want to share with you this morning is a message entitled “Pushing through Failure” and we’re going to ask the question “What do you do when you’ve messed up?” When you realize that you’ve ignored your calling, you’ve wasted the years that God gave you, you haven’t utilized the gifts he’s given you, and you've done some things that you just can't undo? And I think if we’re to be honest we’d all have to admit that there have been times when we’ve been embarrassed by our actions; we’ve hurt people we love, we’ve failed and it has becomes very personal for us. Because we don’t want to fail, we want to be successful, and yet when we don’t, we find ourselves face to face with regret. We regret being unfaithful to that significant other, having to face the tears and betrayal, or maybe making better decisions coming out of high school and now you’re frustrated in a career living paycheck to paycheck. We regret being selfish, not treating so-and-so better, not committing to a relationship, and now it seems as if the day is gone, the opportunity is passed, and all there is are regrets. Or it could be a marriage that’s miserable. He knows it, she knows it, but neither are willing to do anything about it and they’ve just resigned themselves to the fact that it’s going to be that way. Or maybe it’s not even obvious, maybe it’s just an inward failure that no one else sees; it’s the promise you made to yourself, “I’ll never do that again.” And then two days later you did it again and deep inside you feel like such a failure. And this is where we are this morning with Samson, but we’re going to push through failure, because Samson’s story teaches us that just because you’ve failed at something, doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. William D. Brown said this and I love this quote, “Failure is an event, never a person.”
Just because you failed doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Failure is an event, it’s a speck on your timeline, merely a moment of history. And what I love to hear are stories of those who have defeated a problem that has troubled them for a long time. You know, it’s great to hear about someone who was raised in affluence who used their education and resources to build a successful financial empire like Bill Gates or Donald Trump, but when you hear about that man or woman who grew up in less than favorable conditions, without the benefits of an education, and yet were somehow able to build a successful life; that is a person who impresses me, because they refused to allow failure to become personal.
You may have heard the story of Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. He was born to an unmarried teenage girl in 1932 and was given up to be adopted. However, his adoptive mother died when he was young and he found himself moved from family to family, eventually dropped out of high school and started working full-time in a restaurant. It was from those humble beginnings that Dave was able to build the Wendy’s empire.
Another interesting story is that of Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s pizza. He spent the formative years of his childhood in an orphanage, then tried to become a priest but got kicked out of seminary, he enlisted in the Army, but join the Marines by mistake. Three years later Tom received an honorable discharge and he and his brother bought a pizza store for $500. That pizza store became profitable, he opened another, and then another, and then 40 years later, Tom sold his share in the company for 1 billion dollars.
I love stories like that, stories of people who are able to turn their lives around and experience victory. It gives me hope, because we all have something in common. We all go through seasons of life when things just aren’t what they ought to be. Sometimes it is due to conditions beyond our control, but often times it’s just a result of our own bad decisions. This can apply to our health, our finances, our relationships, our professional life or our spiritual life; and nine times out of ten we create these situations for ourselves.
And so as we consider Samson, a guy who throughout his life failed over and over and over, it seemed as if he’d failed way too much for God to be able to even redeem anything of value from his life. And yet as we look at Judges Chapter 16 we’re going to watch and see a God who still accomplishes his purposes through a man that repeatedly couldn’t get it right. This morning we’re pushing through failure and this is good news, because if you’re down, if you’ve failed, you need to know you’re not a failure, because “failure is an event, never a person.”
Let’s read together in Judges 16:23-25, “Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, "Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands." When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, "Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain." While they were in high spirits, they shouted, "Bring out Samson to entertain us." So they called Samson out of the prison and he performed for them.”
Now just imagine for a moment if you can, the Philistines are gathered together in this temple, their worshiping Dagon, the god of the harvest, a god with a man’s head and a fish’s body, and they’re in this place that looks like a coliseum with these great tall pillars and it’s this big open amphitheater with seats all around. There could’ve been as many as 3,000 people worshiping Dagon, making sacrifices and thanking their god for delivering Samson into their hands. It’s a festive time, because this is the guy who tied torches to 150 pair of foxes and burnt their crops, laid waste to their land, and destroyed their harvest. This is also the guy who took the jawbone of a donkey and killed 1,000 Philistines, multiplying the slain. But for Samson it doesn’t get any lower than this, he’s not celebrating, he’s totally ashamed in front of his enemies, because he’s failed God in a big way. So today, as we’re pushing through failure, remembering that failure is not personal, what should our response be?
Naturally our first response is remorse, we feel bad about what we did, we’re disappointed in ourselves, or maybe given the opportunity we even point our finger at somebody else. You know, we adopt the victim mentality, “This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t...” You know, “It’s all Delilah’s fault, she came up with all that stuff. She nagged me until I just couldn’t handle it anymore.” And so maybe there’s this sense of deep remorse, of sorrow, feeling like “I’m a loser, I’m no good, or it’s someone else’s fault.” But the better response, the biblical response to failure is to own it. You know like admitting, “It’s my fault and I blew it.” And that’s where we find Samson, he’s as low as low could be, he’s at the point in his life where he remembers who he was created to be. He knows he wasn’t created to entertain God’s enemies. But that he was created and set apart by God to do something much more significant. And this is what I want for each one of us today. As we push through failure, I pray that you’ll remember that you were created to honor and glorify God with your life. I pray that you’ll remember who you we’re created to be and you won’t let your spiritual enemy drag you down into regret where you find yourself saying, “I wish I did, or I shouldn’t have and I hate myself.” And so instead of looking back with regret, look back with repentance and don’t allow what you did to stop you from doing what God wants you to do. You see, the biblical response is to turn away from your sin and turn toward God knowing that you can’t change the past, but you can change your future.
Watch as Samson lives this out in Judges 16:25-28, “When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, "Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them." 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, "O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more…”
Isn’t that great? Samson realizes that he’s messed up, he’s blown it too many times to count, and he knows he doesn’t need multiple opportunities. He prays, “God all I need is one more chance. One more time. Give me your strength just once more.” You see, this is the biblical response, he’s broken, he’s at rock bottom, it’s no longer about Samson, but from this moment forward he’s giving it all to God. His prayer comes from a repentant heart, that God would use him once again, that he can honor God with his body just one more time. And Samson is publicly humiliated, nobody believes that there’s anything good in him, he’s been deserted, and he’s having this moment with God. And my prayer is that there are many here today who will cry out like Samson, “Just one more time, God just one more time, one more chance. Give me your strength so that I can use the rest of my life to bring you glory and praise.” And here’s why.
Remember from birth Samson had been set apart by God, he’d been empowered with supernatural strength to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines. And even though Samson had failed time and time again God was still going to accomplish his purposes through Samson’s life. And as we look at verse 29 we see Samson pushing through his failure.
“Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16:29-30).
One more time, Samson pushed with all of his might, the temple came crumbling down on all the people in it, and verse 30 says that he killed more men when he died than when he lived. And even though he has messed up like so many of us have messed up again and again and again, God used Samson, and God can still use you. You may have messed up, but it’s not over until it’s over. Today you’re not what you did, you are who God said you are, and if you’re not dead, you’re not done, because there’s still more in you. If you’re a Christian, you have the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living inside of you and so you may be down, but you’re not out. It’s not over until it’s over, because Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Maybe you remember Michael Jordan's Nike commercial? He said, “I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Some of you need to know that God is not finished with you yet. You’ve been chosen and our God who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light wants to use your failures for his glory (1 Peter 2:9). But here’s the thing, some of you are so used to messing up that you don’t know how to get out. You feel like a failure, but here’s the deal, it’s time to start pushing down some pillars. This morning I want you to get really serious and consider what pillars that you need to push down? I want you to get really specific and ask the Holy Spirit to direct you. Maybe for you it’s time to push down the pillars of pride, the pillars of addiction, the pillars of lying, or the pillars of anger. I don’t know what it is for you, but it’s time to push it down.
This morning if you want to change, if you want something to be different in your life, you’ve got to do something different. You see, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:37, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” I love that phrase, “more than conquerors” because it reminds me that God didn’t create us to limp through life, getting knocked around by the devil, by our situation, or our circumstances, but that we were made to win. We’re not more conquerors, we are more than conquerors, and today, we’re going to stop pretending, we’re going to stop knowing about it and not doing anything about it. Today we’re going to go and do something about it. You’re not going to waste another day, because you’ve got a calling on your life, you’re not going to dwell on the past, but you’re going to do something different. Turn away from your sin, turn toward God, and watch as God shows you he’s not done with you yet. God said you can be more than a conqueror. You can find strength in him to push through your failures if you’re willing to put his promises to work in your life.
Listen to what Proverbs 24:16 tells us, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”
You can push through your failures. If you’re a Christian you have the resurrection power of God in your life. Push those pillars down, die to yourself, and live for him. That’s what Samson did! In his last breath he did what God told him to do, he pushed the pillars down and he died. And I’m telling you, every single one of you has a dormant hero deep inside of you. It’s time to rise again through the power of Christ in you. Let’s read verse 31…
“Then his brothers and his father's whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years” (Judges 16:31).
Samson gave his life one time, but today, you and I as Christians, we can give our lives daily. Jesus said it this way in Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Paul said this decades later, “I die every day” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and I believe with everything in me what a fully surrendered man or woman can be in Christ. I know what God can do in you. I know that there are things that you can’t do for yourself and that’s okay, because God does them for you if you’ll rely upon him. Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we’re weak he is strong, and if you’ll push through your failure, you will experience God’s power, and you’ll be more than a conqueror in life.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 03, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.