Battle of the Heart

SAMSON! I'd be willing to bet that his name brings some sort of image to your mind. Big, strong, good looking guy? Victor Mature (remember the old movie?) Who would Hollywood cast in that role today? Michael Clark Duncan possibly. The guy is as big as a mountain and as strong as an ox! 


But there's a problem with that image! If you remember, everybody was baffled by Samson's incredible strength. If he had been big as a mountain and strong as an ox nobody would been surprised by his strength!


I think Samson was just a normal looking man. Men in his day were not that different from men in our day. He was probably about 5' 11" and 175 pounds, or so. Nothing special. Except for his hair. He couldn't cut his hair or trim his beard. As a Nazarite that was the rule. 


A Nazarite was not necessarily from the town of NAZARETH, like Jesus. A Nazarite (Numbers 6) was a man who voluntarily chose to make a special vow of consecration to God. It was usually for a set period of time, during which they would abstain from all "fruits of the vine", grapes, raisins, wine, and let their hair grow freely as an outward expression of their separation from other men. But God COMMANDED Samson to be separate! Not just temporarily, but permanently!


So here's this man who hasn't had a trim in 19 years, minimum! His hair (and his beard) would have been down to his knees, AT LEAST! No wonder the guy had anger issues! This just wasn't done in those days! Talk about a "boy named Sue syndrome"!


Samson had the potential to be, quite possibly, the greatest leader in all of human history. He was chosen by God before he was even conceived. He was blessed before he was ever born; set apart to lead, govern, and deliver his people! 


So what happened? He was weak. The strong man was actually a weakling! Instead of being separated from the rest of the world and devoted to God's plans and purposes, as his Nazarite appearance and condition implied, Samson made far too many decisions based solely upon his feelings and desires!


Early in his "career" as a Judge of Israel we find Samson telling his parents that he has SEEN the woman he wants to marry, and demanding that they make the necessary arrangements. It was bad enough that his decision to marry this woman was apparently based entirely upon her physical attributes, but he was already violating one of God's rules by choosing her! You see, this particular beauty was a Philistine, and God had expressly forbidden the Israelites from marrying anyone who wasn't Hebrew.


His reason was simple; when you join yourself to someone who worships another god you are setting yourself (and your partner) up for confusion and heart-ache! That was definitely the result in Samson's situation! The wedding was a fiasco, and before the whole thing was resolved (Judges 15:6) Samson's wife and Father-in-law were dead at the hands of their countrymen.


In the Apostle Paul's letter to the church at Corinth he warned the Christians there not to "yoke" themselves unequally with people who did not share their faith in Jesus Christ. This is not a value judgment against people who aren't Christians, but a loving guideline given to protect people!


If you intend to bind yourself to another person, whether in business or in marriage, you need to be certain that you are both on the same "sheet of music"! 


According to the Bible, the guiding motivation for all Christians is to be the Spirit of God, who moves in to live within them when they choose to follow Christ, while the guiding motivation for those who are not Christians has to be something entirely different. The core foundation of those two individuals is totally different, and that means that conflict and confusion is inevitable in their relationship.


"But Samson was obviously not led by God much of the time!" True. And he suffered for it. Samson insisted on having his way and God allowed it. God's plan was still fulfilled, but Samson didn't get to ENJOY the victories God used him to provide. Time after time Samson chose self-gratification over obedience, and the result in his life was blindness and death. 


Yet somewhere down deep Samson must have learned the lessons that God was teaching him along the journey, because he is referred to later (Hebrews 11) as a man of faith! That tells me that at the end of Samson's life he had settled in his heart to stop pursuing pleasure as his number one priority, and chose instead to pursue God's plan for his life. That's when God promoted him. 


Remember, God knew when he called Samson that he would make some wrong choices and do some foolish things. God was never caught off guard by Samson's rebellious and self-centered decisions! In fact, He planned for them. God's priority in Samson's life (as in yours and mine) wasn't the battles with the Philistines, but the battles within Samson's own heart. According to Hebrews 11, Samson won that battle in the end. JUST A THOUGHT..

- Pastor Robert Fountain

Don't Settle for Second Best

My wife and I were talking the other night and she commented to me that this year has been a weird one. In the past 12 months we've dealt with multiple hurricanes, potentially serious health issues, the sudden loss of her mother, a major decline in health of her closest friend (cancer), and then the abrupt and unexpected death of an old friend she cared deeply about just this past week.


I'm sure that many of you can relate. You may even be thinking that my wife's struggles are NOTHING compared to what you are going through!

It's like the old Charlie Brown cartoon where Lianas asks Charlie Brown, who has once again fallen for Lucy's football trick and is lying flat on his back on the ground; "Charlie Brown, do you ever feel like life is passing you by?" Charlie Brown replies, "No, I feel like life has knocked me down and keeps stomping all over me." Sometimes life is brutal.


That's why one particular phrase in the Bible has become a favorite of mine. The phrase? "And it came to pass…" You see, everything does! Come to pass, that is! "Life is but a vapor", King Solomon said. Nothing lasts forever.


Joshua, the Israelite leader, surely had it rough. His first 60 years were lived as a slave under Ramses the Egyptian Pharaoh. As a child he probably watched as his father and brothers were beaten by the slave masters of Egypt. Then as a young man he would surely have been among those forced to labor endlessly at Pharaoh's famous building projects.


Finally, when Joshua was 60 years old, a man named Moses came to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt! And lead them out he did! When they arrived at their destination Joshua was sent (along with some others) into Canaan to spy out the land, and he came back with an optimistic report! "The land is just as we were promised! We need to trust God and go for it!" But 10 of his co-laborers were not so filled with faith! They said, "NO WAY! It's too hard!"


And the people listened to the pessimists. Because of that fact all of Israel (including Joshua) wandered in circles for the next 38 and a half years! 


Eventually that season, too, came to pass, and Israel entered Canaan only to find obstacle after obstacle faced them. However, with each PASSING obstacle, with each passing victory, their faith grew. Joshua, in the last 10 years of his life, saw all his hopes and dreams fulfilled. He experienced victory after victory as HE was blessed to lead his people into their very first home, in freedom!


The sad thing is there were some who refused to enter. (Numbers 32) They decided to just stay where they were, on the far side of the Jordan River. And they were allowed to do so! 


But THEIR lives were just as hard as the rest of Israel! The only real difference was that THEY missed out on God's miraculous involvement. They never got to see the sun stand still in the valley of Aijalon (Joshua 10)! They didn't witness the walls collapsing and the supernatural victory at Jericho (Joshua 6)! 


Don't ever settle for second best just because it looks easier. You may miss out on the miraculous if you do! And you'll probably find, though not until the end, that your journey was really no easier for having chosen the "easy road". 


So hang in there! Yes, life is hard sometimes, but God is always good, and if you call out to Him in those hard times you'll find that He's eager to involve Himself in the "battles" of those who invite Him. And to quote someone wiser than I; "If God be for us, who can be against us?"


Just a thought,

- Pastor Robert Fountain