So we are in this Fight series, Ken and I have been having so much fun with this series so far!  I’m actually really thankful to continue the discussion this week.  We are focusing on Section 4 of the Fight book entitled “Small Steps, Big Destruction.”  Boy, oh boy can I relate to this.  We talked some about my story the last time I spoke, and we really focused on rock bottom for me.  The reality as I look back on the decisions that I made in my own life.  It didn’t all happen at one time.  It happens step by step…one bad decision at a time.  One moment of weakness over smoking, one chance to drink one beer…one time to smoke a little marijuana turned into a whole mess in a hurry.  For me I didn’t wake up one day as a full fledge mess, it happened step by step…and before I knew it I hit rock bottom.

We have been walking our way through the tragic tale of Samson.  A man with unbelievable strength, who just squanders so much God given potential.  We’ve seen how the enemy comes at us to make strong men weak.  Last week we watched the destruction that comes to our lives (and Samson’s life) because his emotions were leading him, rather than being led by God.  I really enjoyed how Ken walked us through this process last week.  Life happens…We have no relationship with God…We are crushed.  When there is no relationship with God and we are crushed, destructive behaviors come out of us, and he spoke a lot about anger and pride.  Now today, we again look at the life and fall of Samson, this time we see how he loses his strength…and also just how much grace and love God has for each and every one of us.

You know the last time I spoke to you we spoke about who Samson was and the promise he made to God.  Remember Samson was called by God to lead the Israelites out of Philistine oppression.  God’s hand was on him, and he had taken the Nazarite vow, do you remember what it is?  It was his promise to God, that he would live for God all of his days. He had three things to do, they aren’t difficult, they are not unclear, yet he ends up eventually breaking all three.

  1. 1.      Don’t drink
  2. 2.      Don’t touch dead stuff (anything unclean)
  3. 3.      Don’t cut your hair

As I left the auditorium the last time I spoke I had people asking me, Sam we didn’t talk about Samson losing his hair?  Well today we will focus on that portion of Samson’s life.  You see this Nazarite vow was a really big deal.  Samson has broken two parts of the vow, remember he scooped honey out of the dead lion and ate it (yuck) and he threw himself a drinking party to celebrate his engagement to the first of his Philistine women that he runs into.  Which ends with her own people murdering her because of Samson.  So what’s interesting is that he still has his long hair.  His hair was a very public way of showing every one that he is walking with God…even though he continues to break his promises to God, he keeps that long hair.  It is so easy to look the part of I’m doing ok, even when I’m not isn’t it?  Samson messes up over and over again, but he still has his strength, and where we pick up the story today we see that God is still with Samson.  As Ken spoke last week, we can really see that pattern in Samson’s life, life happened…he wasn’t in a relationship with God, and life crushed him and destruction came out in the form of anger and pride.  He ends up killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey!  He hit’s rock bottom, but God restored him and we see an interesting sentence in the last line of Chapter 15…

Judges 15:20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.  (MSG)

So through all the ups and all the downs we see that Samson spent two decades leading Israel well!  We have an entire story about Samson’s mistakes, and we get one sentence about 2 great decades that he leads Israel well.  After all the mistakes, after murder, after lust, after chasing the wrong woman, after literally defying God and breaking two parts of his Nazarite vow, God still used him to lead the nation of Israel well for 20 years.  So you are going to see a recurring theme here today, Samson messes up, but he turns around…he was walking away from God, and when he turns back to God, He was welcomed right back into the loving arms of His Heavenly Father.  So that’s what we get, chapters of Samson’s story discussing his mistakes, and one sentence telling us that for the next 20 years things went pretty well!

But you know what, old habits die hard don’t they?  Samson had a weakness, he had a thing for these Philistine girls.  You know the women that God forbid him to be around.  You know the women, who were part of the nation God called Samson to lead his people against…you know, the enemy?  Once again we see Samson slide into his old issue.  This is a common thing that we all deal with, remember what Solomon told us?

Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. NIV

So it begins all over again for Samson, after two decades of great leadership, he begins to engage in the behaviors that cause him so much pain, and this time it costs him everything.

Judges 16:1-2  One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. 2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.” NIV

Look at this, so we go from twenty years of great leadership, to the next sentence in scripture saying “one day” things took a turn.  How do guys destined for greatness end up on a path of destruction?  It’s one step at a time.

One day you make a bad decision then you keep taking steps and if you don’t make any coarse corrections, you know what I mean…you keep it a secret, keep covering it up…you ignore the warning signs and before you know it, the one subtle step has taken you right to destruction.

It’s amazing, we spent a whole Sunday looking at how Samson gets into trouble every time he isn’t where he should be…20 years prior to this he would go to Timnah, a town of his enemies, around 4 miles from his home.  Now he is back at it, but this time he walks 25 miles to Gaza.  Gaza is the headquarters of the Philistines.  Samson has faithfully served Israel for 20 years, things are going well, and he ends up walking into the center of the Philistine country to sleep with a prostitute.

Isn’t amazing how often we get ourselves into trouble when we aren’t where we should be?  Can I ask you a question?  Is it ever a good idea to go sleep with a prostitute?  He is not where he should be, and history should be reminding Samson and all of us, then we often get in trouble when we are not where we should be!

Samson walked 25 miles to get himself into trouble.  Now in the book Craig actually researched this all out and it turns out that he took over 56,000 steps towards destruction.  That means he had over 56,000 chances to turn around.

Once again our hero, the man who should be the legend of all that is history, ends up serving us by allowing us to read of his mistakes and hopefully learning from them.  Today we want to look at the three small steps that Samson took that led to his destruction.  We can learn from him.  Hopefully we can see the steps and get ourselves turned around.  The three steps Samson took to destruction were:

  1. 1.      He taunted his enemy.
  2. 2.      He rationalized his sin.
  3. 3.      He assumed his sin wouldn’t cost him anything.

I want to look at these three steps Samson took today.

First, Samson taunted his enemy.

Judges 16:3 But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.  NIV

So he’s laying with this prostitute, the enemy surrounds him, and he slips out in the middle of the night and tears the doors of the city gate off and rams that down the Philistines throats.  He’s getting cocky.  He’s saying “hey remember how safe you felt behind your gate…how do you feel now!?!?”  While this is a pretty incredible moment, and it would look cool in the movies it is a dangerous step that Samson is now taking.  The problem with taunting our enemy is that we often under estimate him.  Our enemy is dangerous.

Remember we have a spiritual enemy Satan.  Jesus told us what Satan was up to here…

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

That is his goal, to steal, to kill and destroy everything that matters to God, and guess what, we matter to God the most.  He has 1,000’s of years of experience in getting guys to give away their strength, but in many ways we get cocky and think that we will be the ones to outsmart him.

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  NIV

Do not under estimate your enemy!  How do we do this?  We under estimate him, and taunt him every time we go to our “Timnah” that place that isn’t sin, but puts us in a bad spot.  Two weeks ago we asked you to identify your Timnah.  Whether it’s your computer, a friend, or going out to have a couple of drinks.  You can identify it, you can see where it leads you but if you are still going there, you are taunting your enemy just like Samson did.  It’s easy to get close to sin because we think, either it’s something we can handle, or we just decide that we are good enough that we won’t fall to our enemy like other people do…if that’s you, you need to remember Paul’s warning…

1 Corinthians 10:12 Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (MSG)

Taunting his enemy was only the first of Samson’s mistakes.  He makes two more steps that lead him to destruction.

Step number two, He rationalizes His Sin.

Judges 16:4 Sometime later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.  NIV

So here we go, as if it isn’t bad enough the heart ache and problems that he has dealt with as he chases these Philistine girls around…we see him go right back to a third Philistine girl.  I was talking with the guys at class about this thought…really a THIRD Philistine girl!?!?!?  What is he thinking!  Can’t he see this pattern forming in his life? I mean come on Samson, use your head!  I don’t think Samson was dumb enough not to see this pattern forming in his own life, I just think he is doing what a lot of us do…rationalizing his sin.

I think there really is two ways that we rationalize our sin that stand out to me…

First-We compare our sin to someone else’s sin and decide our sin isn’t as bad.

Don’t we do this?  You know I’m really doing good, but I have this one little thing, you know but it’s cool…so I look at a little porn, or I drink a little more than I should, or whatever that thing may be…at least I’m not out killing people!  It’s like we convince ourselves that our “thing” isn’t so terrible, and we let ourselves off the hook.  We think to ourselves, it’s not that bad, and besides no one really knows what’s going on.  You know compared to what that guy is doing, I think I’m just fine.

Second-We don’t own our sin.  It’s someone else’s fault.

Now we are hitting are culture right on the head aren’t we?  We decide that our sin isn’t our fault and we blame it on someone else.  We just don’t own our behaviors and actions.  We blame our sin on our spouse’s right?  I mean if she would just give me what I want then I wouldn’t have to do this.  I wouldn’t do this if my parents wouldn’t ask so much or me.  We don’t own our actions.  It’s always someone else’s issue right?  Well just like you and I, Samson rationalizes his sin as well, check this out…

Judges 16:4-16  The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”7 Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.13 Delilah then said to Samson, “Until now, you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric [on the loom] and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and tightened it with the pin.  Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric. 15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. NIV

So Samson is once again chasing a Philistine girl and she is bribed by his enemy’s to find out the secret to his great strength.  If you notice as we read this story each time he lies to her he gets closer and closer to the truth.  The finally she has just worn him down, she has nagged him to the point of complete exhaustion, and he finally tells her the truth.

Ok, so there is definitely a question we need to be asking ourselves here if we are thinking at all.  “Dude, how many times can this woman try to kill you without you getting it?”  “Samson, what is the matter with you?”  Why would he keep returning to her?  Well it’s because he could rationalize and justify the things that he wanted just like you and I do.

Here we go men, we need to see something here.  Samson is the strongest man that has ever lived.  He could rip lions in two with his bare hands, he killed a 1,000 men with his the jaw bone of a donkey, he was able to rip the doors off the gates of Gaza and carry them around.  But he was not strong enough to lead a woman.

That is your warning men.  It’s amazing how many men are very strong in areas that just don’t matter.  They are amazing leaders in the workplace.  They may bring great strength to their hobbies, or sports teams.  But they are not bringing that same intensity or strength to lead in the most important areas of life.  Leading in his marriage, his home, and with his children.  A lot of men are very strong in all kinds of ways, but they leave leadership to others.  DON’T LET THAT BE YOU! 

So here we go, the moment we all have heard before, and wondered when we would discuss it…Samson’s life comes completely undone here…so she nags him to death, and here we go…

Judges 16:17-19  So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. NIV

Remember his promise to God?  Don’t drink.  Don’t touch dead stuff.  Never cut your hair.  Strike one, strike two, and strike 3.

See this is such a big deal, the first step that leads to destruction is taunting the enemy, the second step is rationalizing our sin.  Here we see the third step.

Step three, we assume that our disobedience isn’t going to cost us anything.

Have you ever sinned and gotten away with it?  Samson sure has.  He has been chasing forbidden women for years.  He has partied in his enemy’s town time and time again yet it never really cost him what mattered most to him.  His strength.  He was always able to get out of it, so why wouldn’t he keep on living the way he wanted…it never really cost him much of anything.  Yet this time, it all catches up to him.

Judges 16:20-21 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. 21 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 in the prison.  NIV

Samson just assumed he would do what he always did, but sadly this time was different.  His sin had finally caught up to him, and the Lord left him.

How in the world does this happen?  All this potential, all this God given strength and it’s all gone.  What is going on here, well the reality is it didn’t happen all at once.  It happened one step at a time.

Let me ask you something today…and this is a big deal question:

Where are you stepping away from God? 

This is where the rubber really meets the road here guys.  Slow down, and identify it.  This is a big deal, whether you are just one step away or 56,000 steps away it doesn’t matter, God loves you and is right there for you!  So what is it?  Is it simply that you are getting complacent and not spending time with God?  Is it that you are stuck in lust, entitlement, and pride?  Maybe its anger that is your issue?  Maybe it’s greed?  Whatever it may be, the key is to be honest about where you are stepping away from God.

You are only as strong as you are honest.

No matter how many steps away from God you are there is an extremely simple solution.  All you have to do is TURN AROUND!  It’s not to late…TURN AROUND!

You’ve got to fight the momentum of sin and turn around, and when you do, guess who’s there waiting for you?  God because He loves you that much!  No matter how far you’ve gone don’t you dare believe the lie that says that it’s too late…God is bigger than all of our sin!  God never gives up on us, he loves the turnaround stories!  Which leads us to where I really wanted to land the plane today.

Judges 16:22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. NIV

This is an amazing symbol of God’s grace.  Remember the public symbol of Samson’s strength?  It was his hair and he lost it to his enemy.  He is beaten, enslaved, shamed, and completely devastated.  His bald head is a sign to everyone that he is a disgrace and has disobeyed God.  They would see his shaved head and know that he was a disgrace, but God is so loving and full of such grace, that we see, his hair is growing again.

God’s grace is absolutely unbelievable isn’t it?  Samson screwed up over and over and over again, yet God is sending a message to Samson here, this isn’t over!  How incredible is it that God would allow his hair to grow again.

So what’s it going to be?  You have a decision to make.  It’s time to decide if you are going to keep secrets.  Will you keep hiding those secrets and living in the guilt of them or will you finally tell the truth.  If you are going the wrong way, remember it is never too late.  It’s time to realize you haven’t sinned too much, and you haven’t walked to far away from God.  TURN AROUND, IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

How do we turn around?

First we get honest and confess.

1 John 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. NIV

We need to confess to God and admit that we have done wrong.  When we do this God will forgive us.  That is a big deal, but true healing is found in the second thing we need to do.

We confess to those we have hurt and ask them to pray for us.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  NIV

Guys this is a big deal, and it’s not the easiest thing to do but we must be honest.  We must confess to each other and pray for each so that we can be healed.  It’s time to fight and fight to win.  Well that can’t happen if we aren’t honest.

We are only as strong as we are honest.

Today we continued studying the tragic tale of Samson a man with so much God given potential, and he just never seems to be able to get out of his own way.  It’s sad, but you know, in the middle of this story is an incredible picture of just how much God loves each and every one of us.  Maybe this story isn’t as much a tragedy, as it is a story of love, and grace!  The grace given to all of us, because we all mess up, and need the unconditional love of Jesus!

Some of you may be here today thinking you have sinned too greatly, that you have done too much, and that God is far from you.  You have stepped away from Him, and you think he is far away…the reality is he is right behind you.  TURN AROUND!  Stop believing the lies, and turn around!

Samson turns his back on God.  He breaks his promise to God.  Yet time and time again we see God open up his arms for Samson.  He never left him, he never gave up on him and he doesn’t give up on you!  Stop believing that garbage that you have done too much, or that you have sinned too greatly, or that you have taken too many steps away from God…that just is not true.  He is right behind you!  He does not give up on you!  This is something you must always remember and never lose sight of God is not finished with you yet!  TURN AROUND.  BE HONEST WITH GOD AND THOSE IN YOUR LIFE.  PRAY FOR EACH OTHER.

Look back over your life, and remember the life of Samson…it doesn’t happen all at once, it happens one step at a time, so whether you have taken your first step away from God or you are 56,000 steps away…stop, recognize, and TURN AROUND.  God will be right there waiting to take you into His arms!