Thursday, February 16, 2017

Compromised Potential

My Life Group lesson for Feb. 12, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from Jay McCluskey, John McClendon, John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

How often do we tell our kids, “You can be anything you want to be?”

Do we tell them that because we believe it, or to make them feel good?

(Do you think your kid can be president? A doctor? An actress? An NBA star? A princess?)

Even as they may not be titans of industry, we pray that our children will become faithful and in part because we as parents trained them in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6).

The reality is, although we set out on a road as kids and teens, circumstances change everything, sometimes by choice, sometimes not so much.

Today we’re talking about Samson, one of God’s chosen judges who was destined for great things but battled many personal failings.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Judges 13:1-21:29

*** We continue our study of the book of Judges, tracking the Israelites as they fall into a cycle of rebellion against God, oppression by their enemies, and rescue by the Lord.

*** This week we come to Samson, who had great promise. He was given to God as a Nazirite even before birth, and he was prohibited from drinking wine, cutting his hair, and touching any dead thing.

*** However, by the time we get to the seductress Delilah, Samson had violated two of the vows, and would soon give in on the third as well.

PLEASE TELL ME (JUDGES 16:4-6)

4 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the Sorek Valley. 5 The Philistine leaders went to her and said, “Persuade him to tell you where his great strength comes from, so we can overpower him, tie him up, and make him helpless. Each of us will then give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me, where does your great strength come from? How could someone tie you up and make you helpless?”

*** A hair-raising story.

--- Samson was an imperfect instrument.

--- More than any other judge, Samson experienced the Spirit coming upon him.

--- Four times, the Spirit of the Lord was involved in Samson’s actions (13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14).

--- Yet, of all the judges, Samson was most clearly a rogue.

--- Having taken the vow to be a Nazirite (13:4-5, 7, 14; 16:17; Num. 6:1-21), he kept only the part about not cutting his hair.

--- But God had raised him up to deliver Israel from the Philistines (v. 5).

--- He used even the sins of Samson to deliver the Israelites from Philistine oppression (14:4).

*** World’s strongest man, and weakest man.

--- Samson was graced by God with great physical strength.

--- He killed Philistines by the dozens.

--- Yet spiritually Samson was weak.

--- He could strangle a lion and defeat an enemy, but he could not manage his lusts.

--- Recipients of power and strength can become arrogant and over-confident (just as anyone can be when it comes to what they do well).

--- It ended up costing Samson his physical dominance as well.

--- He repeatedly broke God’s covenant and his vow by seeking foreign wives, sleeping with prostitutes, touching dead things, and drinking wine.

--- He showed no interest in being the deliverer that Israel needed.

--- From the time of his birth, Samson had God’s presence blessing him (Judg. 13:24-25). Yet because Samson did not stand against the temptation that he encountered, he never achieved his full potential.

*** Question - What are some things that keep a person from reaching his or her full potential? What role does spiritual compromise play in failing to reach one’s full potential?

THE PHILISTINES ARE HERE (JUDGES 16:16-20)

16 Because she nagged him day after day and pleaded with him until she wore him out, 17 he told her the whole truth and said to her, “My hair has never been cut, because I am a Nazirite to God from birth. If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, and I will become weak and be like any other man.” 18 When Delilah realized that he had told her the whole truth, she sent this message to the Philistine leaders: “Come one more time, for he has told me the whole truth.” The Philistine leaders came to her and brought the money with them. 19 Then she let him fall asleep on her lap and called a man to shave off the seven braids on his head. In this way, she made him helpless, and his strength left him. 20 Then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are here!” When he awoke from his sleep, he said, “I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

*** The power of nagging.

--- Without ruining your relationship, who in your home does the most nagging? How do you deal with it?

--- Samson was particularly weak when it came to women.

--- He lusted after them, he gave in to them, he abandoned his Godly call because of them.

--- If Samson can be said to have a “type,” it was women of his enemies.

--- Previously he had married a Philistine woman (14:1-7). That marriage did not work out. (To put it mildly).

--- Later, Samson also gratified his lust with another Philistine woman, a harlot (16:1).

--- So by the time we get to Delilah she’s his third Philistine heathen mistress.

--- Delilah was playing him like a fiddle, and he was a fool, playing along for the lust.

--- She kept begging Samson to reveal his weakness so that she could get paid 5,500 pieces of silver by the Philistine leaders.

--- At first he played it like a game and tricked her three times. Still, she persisted.

*** Question - Samson seemed to realize the relationship with Delilah was a trap, yet he did not turn away from the relationship. Why do we sometimes continue to play with temptation even though we know the dangers?

*** Unbe-weave-able.

--- Once Samson gives in and loses his hair and breaks the final Nazirite covenant, God’s patience ends and the Holy Spirit leaves Samson.

--- The actual source of Samson’s strength wasn’t his hair, it was the Lord Himself.

--- Like Saul (cf. Is. 16:14 with 1 Sam. 15:23), Samson lost the power of the Spirit because he disobeyed.

--- Samson was about experience life after the abandonment of God.

--- In the end, however, after Samson hits rock bottom and his eyes have been gouged out and he’s tormented by the Philistines, he renews his faith and gives his life to defeat God’s enemies.

--- Hebrews 11:32 even lists Samson on the honor roll of faith.

--- God gave Samson physical strength. Samson didn’t always use it for God and in the way God wanted him to. But, in the end, Samson leaned on God’s strength. God has given us all strengths. Strengths are things that we are good at. Some people are good at drawing, singing, speaking, etc. Every gift comes from God and should be used for God.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

In today’s study, we saw that spiritual compromise can be a very negative thing.

Instead of keeping his promises to God, Samson gave in to Delilah to make her happy.

He let his temptations keep him from using his full potential.

Jesus calls on us to “salt” and “light” in our world. We have to stand out from the world and be careful that we don’t compromise our faith to “fit in” with our culture.

I read an anecdote this week on sermonillustrations.com about the Little Sisters of the Poor, going door to door in France asking for donations for the poor. One man said he could give 1,000 francs if she would have a glass of champagne with him. She hesitated, because 1,000 francs would feed a lot of needy people. When a servant filled her glass, the brave nun poured it out, and then said, “And now, sir, another glass, please, at the same price.” She got it.

Samson risked so much for so little. We can do that every day, risking our marriages, our integrity, our spiritual connection with God, for a momentary thrill. Be on guard for what makes you weak. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil” (Eph. 6:11).

*** Wisdom and common sense teach us that it is best not to put yourself in settings where temptation is strongest. Respecting your vulnerabilities is a healthy way to stay on a good course.

*** When we overestimate our abilities, we underestimate the enemy. The New Testament warns us: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

*** Standing against temptation shows that we love God. Giving in to temptation shows how much we love ourselves. With Jesus we have the power to turn from temptation.

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