Apathy…Did you hear about the company that makes blank bumper stickers? They're for people who don't want to get involved.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and give in, resigning yourself to the unhealthy patterns of the world. Apathy is a tool of Satan. We cannot do that! Here is an amazing principle: God cannot use people who have given up, who are full of apathy, who play it safe. But he does use people of passion, even if the passion is sometimes misguided. Samson is a knucklehead, but his passion, even if misguided, is enough. Misguided passion + Samson’s faith in God = the Lord using Samson for a great victory.
Years ago on the beaches of California 300 whales came in too close to the shore. When the tide went out, the whales were stuck on the sand. Why did they get stuck? Because they were chasing tiny Sardines. That’s a parable of the life of Samson. A man chasing small goals, yet God used him anyway. He was a whale chasing sardines. Sometimes chasing sardines can get you stuck, but God seems to like the passion. Chase the Sardines. Chase the sardines of Sumas... When I was young and arrogant, I used to think God would use me to change the world…. Now my request is that perhaps God will use me even a smidgen while I spend my days chasing sardines… I may sometimes get stuck and discover myself beached, in a pickle, but while I am out chasing the sardines I am actively making myself available to God, and he is far more likely to use me for his glory, than if I become apathetic and refuse to take any risks.
Judges 15:1 starts out, “Later on…” life has gone on… Samson never got over his “wife,” so tries to catch her eye by taking her chocolates (no), roses (no) ah, a young goat, the hearts desire of any woman. When I was dating Sally I did bring her a pebble from the top of Mt. Ranier – that’s a bit more romantic than a goat – but in Samson’s day, a goat was the prize…
Samson is told his “wife” is now with another man, and he is offended when the father offers the sister instead (Judges 15:2). He is a man of great anger, we already read the story of the foxes, and then the burning of the woman and her father to death. Samson is chasing sardines, getting involved in that which he should never have been involved in the first place, and the great consequences, like whales stuck on a beach. Incredible: through all the Sardine chasing, the rage, retaliating, ugliness, God is going to bring good out of it. We will see in a moment, Samson does believe in God, although you’d never know it looking in at the Foxfire story. Samson’s revenge cannot be God, yet God turns it around for his own purposes. Samson is chasing sardines. The small stuff of life. That’s Samson. Now let’s look at the people of Israel…
Apathy has set in on the people of Israel. In Judges 15:9, the Philistines attack the Israelits and force the Israelites to turn Samson over to them. This is sad. At all costs, avoid apathy. Do not give up. Do not play it safe. I like Samson’s anger over the Israelites apathy, because say what you want about Samson, but he was passionate, he never gave up, his actions were undoubtedly selfishly motivated, but he never gave up, he has energy, he has passion, in his own mind he wants to do what is right. He’s out chasing Sardiens, yet he does it with passion, with gusto…” Samson is angry for all the wrong reasons, yet as we shall see, God blesses him because of his mustard size faith.
The Israelites are the apathetic ones. Playing it safe. Giving in. The saddest phrase of all comes in Judges 15:11. Israel is afraid of the Philistines. Turns out they are afraid of Samson, too. Reality is that their ultimate fear is God. 3000 of them go find Samson –shows the fear of Samson. They question Samson for causing problems with the Philistines, and listen to what they say to Samson, “Don’t you realize the Philistines are rulers over us.” Don’t rock the boat Samson, this is just the way it is, we are a defeated people. Go home and watch tv.
Give me the anger of Samson any day, the misdirected rage, the selfishness of Samson, over the apathy of the people of Israel. God blesses Samson because he never gave up. The longer I am in Sumas the more I realize the depth of the problems people face. The economy is sucking people down. The lack of jobs, the drugs, the relationship issues, family against family, people barely hanging on…the leaking roofs…, the discouragement, the face of evil, I have no idea what to do, but we cannot give up. Samson has a really bad plan, but one thing that is so admirable about Samson is that he was not intimidated by the Philistines. He took the enemy on singlehandedly. Samson had a passion, sometimes completely misdirected, but God saw something in him. He never gave up. He had a passion that kept him strong, kept him ready. Somebody needs to do something in our community, so let’s be a church that chases sardines. I’m sure there will be times I’ll give money in the wrong place, but sometimes that same misspent money buys me a hearing with the person months later. I don’t know how to change the system, so let’s do what we can, and chase little tiny sardines, even if it means making mistakes and getting stuck on the beach.
The Israelites are such wimps. We promise not to kill you Samson if you just let us tie you up and we’ll turn you over to the Philistines so they can kill you – but we won’t kill you (Judges 15:13). Now Samson may act more on his passion than his brains, but the truth is that he is not stupid when he stops to think. As the gutless Israelites turn Samson over to the Philistines, the adrenaline rush comes, the spirit of the Lord gives Samson an incredible strength, and Samson picks up the jawbone of a donkey and strikes 1000 Philistines dead. I know it seems harsh, but in the days of the Judges, this is God’s way of bringing the people of God back to himself – not dependent on other nations, but turning to him as a nation, recognizing the sovereignty of God above all else.
While Samson was chasing sardines, God used him for an incredible victory. The lesson is to keep on, while so much of the world passively sits and waits, to keep on, to not get overwhelmed, to keep the passion even if it seems you are just chasing sardines… sometimes at night I get home and I don’t know if I’ve accomplished a thing, yet I just have to trust God… how easy it would be to give up, but we can’t do that. I am outsider to the Catalyst youth group, but I admire Jack for keeping on… Jack and Kizzy probably get discouraged at times, but I never see it… We just need to keep being available to God. Like the second string quarterback that has no idea if this may be the day he is called on to lead the team, yet he has to be ready to play at all times, to be conditioned. This is Samson, selfishly trying to get the woman for his own gain, yet he has a measure of faith, and when called upon the Lord comes upon him with strength.
Now we come to the Greatest Prayer Samson Prayed – Judges 15:18. Samson humbles himself…He was very thirsty and he cried to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” (15:18) A human prayer of an imperfect man. This is the one place where Samson directly acknowledged God’s presence in his life. I smile, because there is still a tinge of selfishness in the prayer, yet intermixed is recognition of God’s sovereignty. This is Samson hit the bottom, a broken man who is thirsty and turns to God. Even his prayer is imperfect, yet it is enough.
1983 was the year. The church was Hope Community Church in Lynnwood. Annie Glass was there that year, and her father, Pastor George Teshera, was the pastor. A retired pastor was in the congregation, Clayton Dilworth. Once in a while, Pastor George would have Pastor Clayton pray, and pastor Clayton would pray using King James language. I was so impressed with the Thee’s and the Thou’s, the flowery language, and I thought as a young pastor in training, that’s what I need to learn to do… but now I contrast it with Samson’s prayer, “I’m thirsty God, I don’t want to die, this is your problem, so do something about it.” Samson’s prayer is enough for God to declare Samson a man of faith. God does not want us to compete with others, to put on a show, he simply wants our heart. I’m thirsty God and I trust you. The greatest prayer Samson ever prayed. God opened up a hollow place in Lehi, and water came out. When Samson drank, he is a revived man (Judges 15:19).
Samson’s great prayer comes after his greatest victory. His prayer is immediately answered and it reveals to us something which we might not have known otherwise. Beneath the carnality and beneath the worldliness and beneath all that compromise of chasing sardines, there was a bedrock of faith in Samson’s life. Samson was a man of faith. God could not use the Israelites who had given up, those filled with apathy, but the man of passion was God’s chosen instrument. Chase Sardiness. That’s what I love about SACC. I don’t read any how to grow a church books anymore, how to be a leader, how to develop small groups, even how to pray, I’ve had enough theory to fill a truck, now I’d rather go out and make a bunch of mistakes and let God fix the mess… and how awesome and wonderful it is that I am nothing like Samson because there is a whole team of people fumbling around – SACC, SOH, and so many other Christians in the community… To me, the single verse showing me Samson’s prayer is better than reading 25 books about prayer. Some of you remember the little tiny book, The Prayer of Jabez…. Maybe I’ll write a quick book and title it, “the very human prayer of Samson.”
Samson’s story show me that Passion is better than apathy, even if the passion sometimes misses the mark and the Sardine chasing whale gets beached. Be available to God is the lesson. Chase the minnows. We may not always know what we are doing, but God, while we are chasing sardines, will use us for his purposes.
One more lesson…when you fall in quicksand, the more you struggle, the deeper and faster you sink. As soon as you stop fighting, you float. I cannot prove this, but I believe somewhere around Judges 15:12, Samson hits the bottom, he quits trying by his own strength, and he trusts God…. When Samson says to the apathetic Israelites, “Swear to me you won’t kill me yourselves” that is a man that has finally given in to God, and he starts to float in the quicksand. The prayer of Samson is a man on his way up. The bottom of your struggles is when you fully recognize your dependence on God, “I’m thirsty, you gave me this victory God, I cannot do it myself, please save me.” Hit the bottom, and let God provide his answers.
Samson is like a whale chasing sardines. God harnessed Samson’s passion, when he could not use the apathy of the Israelites, and Samson hit the bottom, and turned to God, trusting God for his salvation. I like sardines. God wants to use us, too.