You have heard or probably said the phrase that “bad things happen to good people.” But more often, the mess we find ourselves in is a direct cause of bad choices that we have made. Our problems are often the result of taking the wrong path. The life of Samson is a prime example of this truth. Samson’s life is replete with bad choices that led to his final downfall. Samson, the man who had a great blessing from God and was chosen to lead God’s people, became a blind slave turning a mill wheel to grind grain for the Philistines. He was suffering in many ways, but why? He really had no one to blame but himself. His pain and suffering were not caused by God or even really by the Philistines. They were the result of his own bad, unaltered choices; small steps that led to large consequences.
Bottom line: Small steps unaltered lead to destruction.
Something To Talk About:
Samson didn’t ruin his life all at once. He ruined it one step at a time. If there was ever a man who failed to live up to his potential, Samson was the man. He was chosen by God before he was born to be a leader of his people. But Samson squandered his opportunities, put his own desires ahead of the good of his people, showed a real lack of self control and eventually lost his blessing and strength, and even his life. It was a gradual decline from a series of steps without change. A few of those steps included:
- We underestimate our enemy: Samson underestimated the Philistines and even taunted them. Today it is called trash talking. In most sports too much trash talking gets you a flag or a penalty. It is designed to show your superiority by psyching your opponent out. Samson taunted the Philistines constantly. For example, he lifts the doors off the city gate, carts them off and then he taunts the enemy by eliminating their sense of security. But he lost sight of his real enemy. We can all underestimate and forget about the reality that we have a spiritual enemy whose mission is to steal, kill, and destroy everything that matters to the heart of God. Satan wants to destroy us. This is not an enemy we should underestimate and taunt. And yet, like Samson, we taunt the enemy when we let our guard down, or when we walk right over the guard rails in our life. We taunt the devil when we spend a little more time with that married woman then we should, or when we lower our ethical standards to make that deal. We think we know when and how to stand strong against the Devil, but do we? First Corinthians 10:12 says: “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” So we need to be careful that we underestimate the enemy and through small steps we fall.
- We rationalize the same old sin: “Not again!” We have all done it. We caught ourselves making the same mistake yet again. Then we start to rationalize: “Maybe I’m just attracted to the wrong sort”, or maybe I’m just incapable of learning.” Samson tended to make the same mistakes and then rationalize them away. It started with a Philistine woman. You don’t go after women who worship false gods, yet he does. I am reminded of a quote by George Santayana: ”Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” We men can become masters at rationalizing the same old sin, just as Samson did with Delilah. Romans 7:15 reminds us of that: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” It becomes easy to do what we hate when we start to rationalize our sin over time. The Bible encourages us to “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “
- We assume our disobedience will never cost us: Remember Bernie Madoff. He is the admitted operator of a Ponzi scheme that is considered the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. He milked the Ponzi scheme as long as he could hoping to stay one step ahead of any trouble and never have to face the consequences. Samson most likely thought along the same lines, assuming he could stay ahead of any trouble and thus, his disobedience would never cost him. Do we think in the same terms? Do we believe that we got away with it once, so maybe we can get away with it again? But just because nobody has unearthed what you are doing and you have fooled the people around you, doesn’t mean you got away with something. Look at Samson: “Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” Samson didn’t realize eventually his sin would overtake him, over power him, and overcome him. Samson thought, “I can get away with this, it’s not going to cost me!” Verse 21 says, “Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison.” How did a man with so much God-given potential end up in such bad shape? He didn’t do it all at once. How did he do it? He did it one unaltered step at a time.
- What’s one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made? What started you on your path towards making that mistake?
- What is the one thing you struggle with the most that could drive you down a dangerous path? Why do you think so many men continue to make the same mistakes when they are well aware of the consequences?
- How have you rationalized your own sin throughout your life in the same way Samson did?
- What are some steps away from God that tend to get overlooked and aren’t recognized as dangerous?
- The message asked, “Where are you stepping away from God?” What are your thoughts?
- As you turn towards God, what are some of the first steps you’ll need to take to leave your sin behind?
- What is the one thing we can do this week to move toward God?
Take One Thing Home with You
Where are you stepping away from God? That is the question we asked during Sunday’s message. I’d like to share a few additional thoughts. Samson knew the difference between right and wrong and as Christians, we have a pretty clear picture of what constitutes sin and what does not. We know if we are doing wrong. For example, we know it is wrong to cheat on that math test that will determine whether we graduate or not. We know it is a sin to lie. And we know it is a sin to have an affair. But what if this is the only time I will ever use Calculus in my life? What if I just omit some important details? That is not lying, right? And what if we are just friends, that had a moment of bad judgement? Strictly speaking, I didn’t cross the line. Technically I didn’t sin. I wonder if Samson did not make some of the same rationalizations.
There is a line that if crossed will constitute sin. And though we moved toward the line, we didn’t cross it. Our toes were up against the line, but not over it. Here is the point: We are still moving in the wrong direction. We are moving away from God, not towards Him. The closer we get to the line the more we are stepping away from God. We may not be sinning yet, but by moving in that direction, even if we catch ourself, or control ourselves, we are taunting the enemy and our heart is being pulled by the sin.
We men, like Samson, believe we are strong enough to handle temporarily moving away from God. They seem like small steps that can easily be corrected. But that movement away creates a domino effect. We don’t pray as much. We neglect our quiet time. For a time, being the spiritual leader of the house doesn’t seem as important. We become more selfish. Suddenly we find ourselves far from the heart of God.
Don’t be like Samson. Make sure that you are stepping toward God rather than away from Him. And when you feel yourself stepping away from God, stop, pray and turn back to Him.