What I notice in this prayer? Everything that is wrong is about emotions. Our feelings often get us in hot water and lead to more bad decisions. We KNOW what is right, but we let our feelings dictate our actions. This week I was in a counselor’s office, obviously he worked a lot with children, on the walls a series of drawings, each labeled with emotions. Judges 14 is a man that is out of control. I’ve heard many people say in Sumas, “If I go to Church the walls might fall down.” Let me tell you about Samson, none are more self-indulgent, arrogant, moody, self-serving that Samson. The Spirit of God is upon him, yet he has not fully yielded his life to God. (As I worked on this message, last night I made the decision there is too much for one sermon, so I am dividing it into two messages.)
Chapter 1. Go The Wrong Place
Judges 14:1: “Samson went down to Timnah.” Timnah was in Philistine territory, a short distance from Samson’s village. The lay of the land is that you literally walk down. I’m thinking surely God also means this in a figurative way: a downward spiral of life. The first public act of Samson: leave Israel and go to the Philistines. As one person described it “Samson left his friends to visit his enemies.” The wrong place.
The wrong place… I watch so many people start the downward spiral by going to the wrong place. Those places are different for different people. I know a man, alcoholic, hasn’t had a drink in perhaps 40 years, can’t go to a bar to this day because for him it’s a trigger. I personally can go to bars… I’m sure you’ll snicker at that statement, but its true, if you are driving by and see me walking into a bar, you’d know there is a reason. I’d be surprised if any of you would care. God loves all people, including those that go to bars, so if that’s what I need to do not a problem. The wrong place, the wrong house, the wrong group, the triggers, the temptations, the history… the wrong place on the internet.
Chapter 2. Look for the Wrong Thing
Judges 14:2 tells us this was more than a casual visit. Samson went to Timnah looking for a wife, Judges 14:1: “he noticed a certain Philistine girl.” When he returned home, he tells his parents, (Judges 14:3, GNB): “She is the one I want you to get for me. I like her.”
Samson is a man motivated by physical appearance. He saw this young woman, she looked good, and now he wants her for his wife. That’s all there is to it. Did he even bother to meet her? If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, all guys are jerks. Samson is a typical guy. He’s away from home, away from his parents, away from his spiritual roots. He sees a pretty Philistine woman and she turns him on. Why not marry her? In the world of stereotypes it is said women are more emotional than men – what a lie.
The problem is that Samson doesn’t even know this woman. He doesn’t know what makes her tick, her personality, or even her name. Samson was looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing for the wrong reason. And he found it!
(A words about Judges 14:4: I do not believe this verse is saying Samson was right to marry the girl. It is saying God works behind the scenes to bring good out of bad situations. God allowed it in order to bring about something good. The end of the Joseph Story in Genesis: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The way of God is to bring good out of our nuttiest impulses. Even if you believe this is God’s will for Samson, I cannot imagine any situation where we could use this verse to justify our stupid decisions when we are controlled by our emotions and do that which is clearly wrong.)
Chapter 3, Reject Godly Counsel
The downward spiral continues. Judges 14:3, Samson’s parents recognize marrying a Philistine woman was not in Samson’s interest and they tried to warn him. Samson flat-out rejects the counsel. This brings up a lot of issues, of which I will only briefly touch today: the Bible’s counsel is to marry people that are like-minded. Christians should marry Christians. If you are parents with children, when it comes to who your children marry, pray for them to first commit their life to Christ and then marry Christians. If one spouse is not a Christian they should stay married, and the Bible has much to say about that, but the counsel of God is for believers to marry believers… It is far better to be single and live a full life than to marry the wrong person.
Samson rejected godly counsel from his parents. In so doing he also rejected God’s counsel. When you go to the wrong place looking for the wrong thing with the wrong values in your heart, this is what happens. You end up rejecting the counsel of those who know better. I think the world of so many of you in this church, so many good and wonderful Christian people. One of my desires is to see many of you paired with people that are struggling. Many people in our community are good people, but they don’t know what it means to live as a Christian, they don’t know how to make good decisions, they need godly people who love the Lord. Many will reject your counsel, you have to be prepared for that, and they will put themselves in the wrong place looking for the wrong thing, yet we must be ready to counsel them anyway. Some will listen. Some will learn. So we rejoice when people make good decisions, and we cry when they make bad decisions, and we keep the door open for them to return at any time. Pray about sharing your journey of faith with those that need to here a word of wisdom. Be available.
Chapter 4. Continue a Wrong Pattern
Judges 14:7: “Then he went down to the woman, and he liked her.” Evidently he has not met her before now. As the joke goes, “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?” One bad move leads to another. Even when your mind takes you down the wrong path, it is better to stop the spiral, repent, and climb out of the hole. For many people, I am amazed how far they fall before they hit bottom. Samson rejected godly counsel. So now Samson is out on his own...
Next week, the next three steps…
Focus on Christ. Learn to live a measured and paced life, grounded in your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, yielding your life to the spirit of God. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the way, the pathway of daily living as we give our lives to him, the way is about the journey of our life… when I used to climb Mt. Baker a lot, one of the skills I tried to develop was to choose the best route – the goal was easy to understand – make it to the top, but how to get their was crucial to being successful, the way across a crevasse field. Samson chose a way that was not godly, a way that sent him on a downward spiral, a way of destruction.
Jesus is the truth – A concept our world rejects is absolute truth, only one ultimate truth and that is Jesus Christ. Unchanging. As a mountain climber can focus on reaching the top, so a person of faith can focus on Christ, the truth. Samson got off track in that he let his emotions take him down, he is a man unfocused starting out “in love” and ending up, as we shall see next week, “in revenge.” Fierce anger. His faith does not seem to be a part of his purpose in life, as his focus shifts back and forth like the wind. As we make decisions, our emotions are real, but they are to yield to the truth of Jesus Christ. In everything we do, obviously our emotions are a part of who we are, but yet every decision must be evaluated on whether the Lord Jesus Christ will be honored. Jesus is the truth, not my self satisfaction, my ego, my desires, but what will glorify God and honor Christ.
Jesus is the life – Jesus is to characterize our life. What made Samson’s heart tick? What got him really excited? What makes your heart beat? only the life focused on Christ will ultimately provide stability and purpose and meaning. The more we focus on Christ, the more we will find abundant life.
Judges 14 reads as a negative example and is a lesson in how to not live a life of faith. The answer is really simple and that is to turn the negative downward spiral into a positive. I don’t think I want to write a book titled, How to make a mess of your life in Seven Easy Steps. Let’s change the title, here are working titles: How to Climb out of your hole of darkness and the light of Christ. Or How to Get out of Your Mess, Or Quit being such a Slob! Or Not making the same nutty decisions as Samson, Or Don’t live by your emotions…OR You Can be Stronger than Samson… OR, “When I am Weak…”
Ch. 1. Instead of Go The Wrong Place, the Title: Go to the right places. Surround yourself with healthy people, avoiding situations and places that will get you into trouble, you know yourself, listen to the Spirit guide you, your gut instinct just may be the still small voice of God…
Ch. 2. Instead of Look for the Wrong thing… Look for the Right thing… stay focused on what you know is right, think about that which is positive,…Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life….
Ch. 3. Instead of Reject Godly Counsel, Listen to the Spirit, learn God’s will, follow what you know to be true instead of the whims of your emotions…maybe your parents are right after all. Maybe your pastor knows a thing or two! Maybe the Bible has something incredibly relevant to say…
Ch. 4. Instead of Continue Down a Wrong Path… Flee the Devil… even if you fall and give in to temptation and flirt with disaster use every resource you have, crying out to God, to turn around admit your sin and don’t fall to the bottom, while you still can, before your life is compromised and you get deeper into the hole….
A downward spiral begins so innocently, fooling yourself to think what you are doing is harmless, allowing your emotions to control you instead of what you know to be right. Samson was empowered by the Holy Spirit, yet he was enslaved by his own emotions. When you are controlled by your passions, you will spiral downward, out of control, but yielding your heart, your emotions, your will to the Lord and focusing on Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life, means to be controlled by the Spirit of God. Amen.