It’s amazing the way life twists and turns us at times isn’t it?  I am so grateful to be at the place I am in life today.  I have a loving wife, four awesome children, a beautiful home, and I get to serve here at MRC, which is just a dream to me.  But as awesome as life is now, it’s unbelievable to me how much God redeemed in my life.  It was amazing the downward spiral my life took in my teens and twenties and looking back on it now I can only thank God for keeping me alive during that dark, dark time of my life.  It’s really interesting though, I certainly didn’t plan for my life to go the way it went.  As a young boy I had dreams.  My dream was to play professional football or baseball.  I was a good kid.  I got good grades.  I was raised in a Christian home with both my parents.  I grew up watching my father lead in ministry and felt that same calling on my life.  So I had dreams, and I had goals…none of which was to screw up my life royally!  I wasn’t sitting around as a kid hoping to fall into drug abuse and alcoholism.  There wasn’t a day that I had as a child where I sat in the back yard looking up at the big sky, and hoped to someday be dead broke, living for my next buzz, in an extreme depression wishing I was dead.  I didn’t sit around as a child and think to myself, “Sam the pro baseball player is a good dream, the idea of being a pastor is cool, but what about this, let’s just abuse drugs and alcohol and throw it all away!  Let’s let it get so bad that death seems like a great option, let’s get so messed up that you throw all your talents in the garbage.” It was never my goal, but it’s where I ended up.  It wasn’t my plan but it was my reality.  I didn’t sit around as a young kid with big dreams picturing myself partying so hard that my lungs could fall in on themselves!  I never saw myself laying at rock bottom when I put my life together in my head, but that is exactly where I ended up.

I remember waking up face down in the snow, coughing up blood from the holes torn in my lungs realizing I was in big trouble.  I thought that was it for me.  I remember laying in an MRI machine days later, trying to stay still so they could get there picture of what was left of my lungs, as tears flowed down my face as I wondered how in the world I ended up at this particular point.  How do you go from living life as a child with dreams of preaching, baseball, and warm sunny days on a big wheel…with your whole life in front of you and end up this far from where you thought you would be.  One day your on a big wheel in the backyard, dreaming of your legendary pro baseball career, then it all derails, you end up screwing around with your friends experimenting with drugs, it’s harmless right?   Next thing I knew, it was coming to a crashing end.  No, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go for me, but it became my reality.  So if I didn’t plan on ending up there, how did it happen?  It wasn’t like I planned on screwing up my life.  I mean do you sit around and plan to screw up everything that matters to you? Here’s what I will do, I’ll ruin my life this year.  I know, here’s what I’ll do, yes I have a wonderful wife who loves me but I think I will start with a little pornography.  I’ll lust a little…which leads to an affair.  Here’s my plan for 2014 I will get a messy divorce, lose the respect of my children, and then struggle for the rest of my life!  No one is sitting around thinking I’m going to go out and get an Sexual Transmitted Disease, or become an addict, or party their lives away…but it does happen.  So what is the deal?

We don’t plan on destroying our lives.  The problem is that we have an enemy that does.  Remember his goals?

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; NIV

Today I want to talk to you about this idea that we are at war, and our enemy’s goal is to steal, to kill, and to destroy everything that matters to God.  We are talking about being warriors, and understanding that we are in a battle that we can’t afford to lose, well if that is the case we need to have a battle plan!  If you don’t have a battle plan you will fall victim to the enemy’s schemes, because whether you like it or not, you are at war.  I can say looking back at my life, that I never had a battle plan in place.  I had dreams, I had talents that the enemy never wanted to see come out, but I wasn’t arming myself and guarding myself, I had no battle plan and my enemy did.  It almost killed me before I ever got to stand in my God given strength and gifts…I’m so grateful that the Lord preserved me and gave me a second chance.  You see the enemy doesn’t give you a time out for being unprepared for battle, he despises you, and will take you out if you aren’t prepared, so today we continue the fight series looking at the schemes that come against us and the battle plan we need to have in place to fight this battle and win!

So through this series we are looking at the life of a man named Samson.  By now you know, that Samson was no ordinary man.  Samson was a man with so much potential and so many strengths!  Those strengths went far beyond just his physical power, but his weaknesses continued to get the best of him.  The story of Samson the strongest man of all time should be a story of amazing victory and legendary accomplishments but in the end he is more known for his weaknesses.  You know even with all this potential he just made one bad decision after another, and he in the end he ended up sabotaging the life he could have had.  God gave Samson the most unique skill set the world has ever seen, he could have been the greatest hero of all time but because of his own pride, his selfishness, lust and shortsightedness, Samson squandered them.  Just like you and I do, I don’t think Samson woke up one day and said…you know what I want to end up with my eyes gouged out enslaved to the Philistines!  Yet that is exactly what happened.  It’s amazing the twists and turns that life brings isn’t it?

You can really sum up Samson life in this sentence…Samson was an incredibly strong man with a dangerously weak will.

I wanted to look at Samson’s life some today because we can learn so much from him.  Isn’t he very easy for us to relate to?  We have all been given strengths of our own, special strengths that can be used to both advance God’s kingdom both in your life and in the lives of the people around you, now it typically isn’t super strength like his, but we all have gifts and talents…somehow though most of them never seem to come out the way we want them to.  Look at how life begins for Samson here…

Judges 13:2-5 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. 3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” NIV

So an angel comes to Samson’s parents and says you are going to have a baby and he is to take the Nazirite vow, which is a big deal.  Now a Nazirite was an Israelite who wanted to devote their life to God even though they weren’t born into the tribe of Levi (who were the God’s special ordained priests) this was a way to say, “I choose to serve God with my life.”

So there were three things you had to do to live the promise out and become a Nazirite, and to be honest as you read over the list, it’s not that difficult.  It’s not very hazy or unclear, it’s actual pretty simple to understand.  Yet it doesn’t take Samson long, to rebel against all three of the simple things that he promised God he would do.  The three things were:

  1. Don’t drink.  You weren’t allowed to let alcohol even touch your lips.
  2. Don’t touch anything unclean/dead.
  3. Don’t ever cut your hair.  (This was so everyone would see your really long hair and know you are a Nazarite, it was your way of publically telling everyone, my life is God’s)

Now there were other Nazarites but none like this guy Samson, God’s hand is on him.  He is given amazing strength and he is going to deliver the people from the Philistines!

Samson has a lot going for him but he also had some issues that really got into his weaknesses.  For all the blessings God has placed in his life, he often was his own worst enemy!  He had tons of potential but he wasted that potential with foolish decision after foolish decision.  He would give into his emotions instead of following God.  He would run to immediate gratification instead of obeying God.  He lost sight of what mattered and it costs him everything.  Really this isn’t much different than what you and I go through is it?

Through Samson’s life we can see how the enemy has been working since the beginning of time to make grown men weak.  It’s important for us to understand how the enemy comes at us, so we can protect ourselves from his attacks.  So before we get into the battle plan, we need to understand the attack!  The enemy has many amazing attacks and schemes, the ones we want to expose today are the attitudes to make strong men weak.  Today we are going to discuss…

Lust.  Entitlement. Pride.

Lust.  I want it.

The first attack the enemy brings is lust.  Lust is a big one, and it is a real and present danger for all men.  Lust says I see something I like, and “I want it.”  Most of the times when you hear the word lust, we think of sexual desires, but lust can come at us for many things, whether it’s sexual, a material possession.  Lust is extremely difficult for us to deal with because we live in a culture that tells us that we should do whatever you want, look at whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody.  There is nothing wrong with a little glimpse, it doesn’t hurt anyone as long as you don’t touch.  Right?  That is what our world says, but the bible says the exact opposite!

Ephesians 5:3 Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed.  (MSG)

Many men try to justify having a secret life, a life that they lead when they are all alone.  This often involves pornography, maybe some substance or something like that. They think it’s no big deal.  I’m not hurting anyone.  We can delete the history on our computers, we aren’t harming anyone, and nobody know different, right?  I haven’t done anything wrong…but Jesus would say different.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’   28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  NIV

Samson fell into lust just as many of us do.  We see it, we want it, and we take it…at least in our minds.  When you see something you desire, you know what starts to happen in your mind you feel that pull in your heart that says…I want it.  Let’s look at where Samson got caught in this scheme of the enemy…

Judges 14:1-2 Samson went down to Timnah. There in Timnah a woman caught his eye, a Philistine girl. 2 He came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, a Philistine girl; get her for me as my wife.” (MSG)

So there is a lot happening in these two little verses.  First of all, what is Samson doing in Timnah?  This is the town of his enemy?  He left his family and friends and goes to hang out with the Philistines, the enemy where he finds a woman who he was forbidden to be with.  Samson was looking for trouble!  When he saw this girl he forgot about everything else.  He sees her and he wants her.  He doesn’t care what God says.  He doesn’t care what Mom and Dad say.  He doesn’t care what is right and what is wrong.  He wants what he wants.

Lust makes strong men weak.  We have got to what out for temptation.  It is waiting for you!  There are plenty of innocent enough looking websites, there are plenty of women looking for a man like you, there are plenty of temptations out there.  You actually live in a much more difficult time.  Lust is more aggressive than ever before.  You see Samson lived in an era where he literally walked 4 miles to fall into temptation.  You don’t have to look for trouble like Samson did anymore…today trouble is all around you.  It will come looking for you!  This is such a big deal and something we must constantly protect ourselves from.

So what do we do to combat this?  What does our battle plan look like?  We must build safe guards in our life.  Be intentional.  Protect your integrity!  Get some friends to help you if you need.  Put some boundaries in your life!

An important question becomes…What is your Timnah?  You need to understand what your Timnah is and stay away from it!  You know your Timnah is that place where, it’s not a sin to be there…you can justify it, but every time your there you end up getting into trouble!  Hey if you can’t be alone in front of a computer without getting into trouble…maybe the best thing for you to do is not be alone in front of a computer!  Put filters on your computer, make rigid boundaries to protect yourself from this diabolical scheme!  Maybe your Timnah are some of the people in your life that you just shouldn’t hang out with, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with them, but every time you do you get into trouble.  We have to fight off our lustful desires and fight to win.  Boundaries are an extremely big deal.  You have to know your Timnah!

Proverbs 6:25-29 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes,26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. NIV

What seems pleasant, pleasurable, and easy is actually a trap intended to take you out.

Entitlement.  I Deserve It.

Judges 14:5-9 Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. When he got to the vineyards of Timnah, a young lion came at him, roaring. 6 The Spirit of GOD came on him powerfully and he ripped it open barehanded, like tearing a young goat. But he didn’t tell his parents what he had done.7 Then he went on down and spoke to the woman. In Samson’s eyes, she was the one.8 Some days later when he came back to get her, he made a little detour to look at what was left of the lion. And there a wonder: a swarm of bees in the lion’s carcass — and honey! 9 He scooped it up in his hands and kept going, eating as he went. He rejoined his father and mother and gave some to them and they ate. But he didn’t tell them that he had scooped out the honey from the lion’s carcass. (MSG)

So there is a ton going on here…but once again we see Samson getting himself into trouble every time he goes to Timnah (the town of his enemy).  So again Samson is chasing after a Philistine girl and actually breaks his Nazirite vow.  Remember he wasn’t allowed to touch anything unclean or dead, but days after he killed the lion he goes back and see’s the lion carcass full of honey, and sticks his hand in there and eats.  He broke his promise to God for a fist full of honey.

Who in the right mind would give away so much for something as dumb as honey?!?!? Well the answer is you or I would, and do just that.  We can see something and want it, and decide that we have some how earned the right to have it.  You know what I mean?  We say to ourselves “Hey I work hard, I deserve it!”  We justify something we know to be wrong because we believe we have earned it.  Entitlement is that little voice that takes the lust whisper of “I want it” and justifies it by saying “I deserve it.”

Again Samson is getting into trouble because he isn’t where he should be.  Look at vs 8 again, “he made a little detour” How often does this happen to you and I, we get side tracked, we aren’t where we should be and we get ourselves into trouble.

We learn this lesson all over scripture…(King David and Bathsheba) we start that story with the Bible clearly telling us David wasn’t where he should have been, “in the time when kings went off to war David stayed behind”…which led to lust, which led to adultery, lies, and even murder.  David a man described by God as being a man after God’s own heart, fell because he wasn’t where he should have been.  We need to stay focused and on course to defend ourselves from temptation it is all over the place.

So Samson made a promise to God to never drink, to never touch anything dead, and to never cut his hair, this isn’t exactly a difficult set of rules, and we see that Samson breaks another here…

Judges 14:10-11 His father went on down to make arrangements with the woman, while Samson prepared a feast there. That’s what the young men did in those days. 11 Because the people were wary of him, they arranged for thirty friends to mingle with him.  (MSG)

Samson did what men often do, exactly what he wanted to do.  See he’s marrying a Philistine girl, who were his enemy and now he’s throwing himself a party.  Now this wasn’t just your run of the mill tea party, this was a full go, raging kegger.  Basically he called his friends together and they got drunk.  He had the attitude that I’m a strong guy.  I can handle a few drinks.  The problem is that he had made a promise to God to be a Nazarite.  Strike one was eating something dead…strike two was drinking alcohol.  So here we see it clearly, the enemy pushes three attitudes on us to make us weak to his schemes.

I want it.  I deserve it.  I can handle it.

I think a lot of us get caught in this “I can handle it” mentality.  Oh it’s just one look, or it’s just one beer, or whatever that thing is we think I can handle it…and before we know it, that thing is handling us!

God’s hand is all over Samson, he was by far the strongest man that ever lived but he gives it all away.  He loses God’s favor through his attitudes…lust, entitlement, and pride and he ends up at rock bottom, with his strength drained, a blind, hopeless slave to his enemies.  He could have changed the world.  He was chosen by God to do just that!

Samson himself chose where he ended up by betraying God.  Now that is a different thought isn’t it, we are supposed to be angry at God for where we end up.  We are not supposed to have done anything that would have put us in the place where we now stand right!?!?!?  Samson had choices to make and so do you!

See here’s the deal, we have to fight…but we can’t rely on our own strength to win the fight!  You see this is a big deal, we have to stop trying to do it with our own strength because our enemy Satan is the master of making strong men weak…look at what he did to Samson.  Here’s the coolest part though, Our God specializes in making weak men strong!

Satan specializes in making strong men weak, God specializes in making weak men strong.

God is with you and He is for you!  Pride says “I can handle it.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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. NIV

So this is so important.  We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the attitudes that make strong men weak.  Remember Lust says “I want it.”  Entitlement says “I deserve it.”  And pride says “I can handle it.”  We can turn these three things around!

Your enemy wants to take you out.  He wants you selfish and full of shame, he’ll trick you into trading your God given power away by tempting your fleshy desires.  We have to man up, and admit that we are weak and vulnerable.  We have to admit that we need God.

We need to fight with God’s power, here’s the battle plan! 

1. Turn “I want it” into “I want God.”  This is a big deal.  Whenever you feel that craving of “I want it”  start to tug on you, stay focused!  Resist it and remember what you really want is God’s strength and Him living inside you!  We must hold every thought captive!

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. NIV

Realize and understand you are weak, you are vulnerable, what you need and want is God!

2.  Turn “I deserve it” into “I deserve death.” 

Romans 6:21-23 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV

We deserve death, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  He doesn’t owe us anything, we owe God everything!  He did it all for us while we were still far from him!

Romans 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  NIV

When we can humbly admit this truth it should take care of the “I deserve it” attitude.

3.  Turn “I can handle it” into “I can’t handle anything without God.”  If you are a Christian now is a great moment for you to call on God…you know as I have been meeting and talking with people it amazes me how much we struggle to lead our own lives.  In general we people live life the way they want, when they want.  We seem to think we have everything figured out and we are living life in their own strength and the question that really comes to mind is, “How’s that working out for you!?!?  We need God, and every time we feel pride creeping back into our lives, we need to remember we can’t handle anything on our own!  We need God! 

Remember this is a battle, there aren’t too many people who grow up thinking you know what today I want to screw my life up royally!  It’s not happening.  Our buddy Samson is an amazing man, with amazing strength, I’m sure he didn’t picture his life ending the way it did.  I know in my own life, I never saw things spiraling out of control the way they did.  I pictured myself as a pastor, or a Major League baseball player, big, strong, and alive, and my life went in the complete opposite direction.  Samson had it all going for him and his life ends badly, eyes gouged out and enslaved.

We need to understand that we are at war.  We need to understand that whether or not we have a battle plan in place to fight, our enemy does and he hates everything about you.  His goal is to take you out.  He specializes in making strong men weak…thankfully for us God specializes in making weak men strong.

How does the enemy do this?  He will hit you with three things.  Lust “I want it.”  Entitlement “I deserve it” and Pride “I can handle it.”  That is his scheme, it’s our job to take his attacks and flip them remember.  When that voice whispers I want it…focus, NO “I want God!”  When entitlement sets in and says “Hey, I deserve it.” Remember NO, I deserve death.  And when pride comes and says “Hey, I can handle it remember.”  “NO, I can’t handle anything without God.”

It’s amazing the twists and turns, the ups and downs that our lives bring.  Remember you have an enemy doing his best to make you weak…but our God is an expert on making weak men Strong.  Seek Him, lean on Him, and never lose sight of Him!

Nope we never set out to destroy our lives…the problem is that we have an enemy that does.  Engage the battle plan, engage the God mission…it’s time to fight!