Monday, September 24, 2012

"Real Characters - Samson"

FBCRB 9/23/12

Real Characters – Samson, Judges 13-16

I want you to picture this scene.  It is a cold and rainy night in a dark alley in the middle of the concrete jungle of the metroplex.  A crumpled piece of rubbish lies on the ground.  Two dented trash cans are being inspected by a hungry dog.  There is a boarded up shop on one side with a for rent sign painted on it.  Far in the distance a police siren blares.  Through the shadows and the mist a voice cries out; a woman’s voice:  “Help, help!” she cries.  “Please, somebody help!”

From out of nowhere, faster than a speeding bullet the superhero flies.  His super sensitive ears have heard the cry of the woman and with arms outstretched and chin strong and eyes determined he races through the clouds to save her.  He reaches the alley just in time to see the masked villain yank the purse from the beautiful woman’s grasp and start to run off.  But as he turns he immediately hits the brick wall of the superhero’s chest. As he looks up into the clean-shaven and handsome face of the superhero, the superhero grabs him and throws him over the chain link fence with a thud.

The beautiful young woman blushes and blinks her eyes at the mighty man and starts to thank him as she reaches for the purse.  Our hero puts his palm on the woman’s forehead and pushes her hard into the wall and flies off with her purse.

What do you think about that “superhero” now?  Have you ever looked up to someone and had them really let you down?  Have you ever found out that the person in whom you had so much respect was in reality a nasty old dirtbag?  Have you known of anybody who could have been a hero but lacked the character to pull it off?

You may have seen the video of the young couple who was recently at the baseball game, sitting in the outfield and the foul ball came right at them and the boyfriend ducked out of the way and let his girlfriend get hit by the ball.  There’s a hero!  I understand they broke up not long after that.

What makes a situation worse is when a person has been given all the tools they need to accomplish a task and be a hero and they waste it.  That is the situation we are going to see in our passage this morning in the book of Judges.  When I was a kid I had several Bible story books like this one and I can remember reading and re-reading the story of Samson.

I loved the stories of how he killed a lion with his bare hands and later ate honey out of the carcass.  He killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey, tied the tails of foxes together and burned down the Philistines fields.  He pulled up the giant gates to the city and carried them 40 miles away.  And those are true stories.  Samson was a real character in the Bible and these stories are real and true.  And so we continue with our study of real characters in the Bible and while we see that Samson was a real character, he also lacked real character.

When I was a kid, I didn’t care about Samson’s character.  I just wanted to read about him whipping somebody or doing some outrageous feat of strength.  And honestly, I don’t know that I have read about Samson in years and when I did so this week, I read it over and over again trying to figure out why this was even in the Bible.  Was it just to impress little boys who wanted to grow up to be like Samson?  I hope not given Samson’s illicit feelings toward women!

Turn to Judges Chapter 13 and let’s try to figure out why the story of Samson is here and what we can learn from it.  Let’s read verses 1-5 to start.

Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Before Samson was even born God had a special plan for his life.  It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 139 that says, “13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Samson was born to be a Nazirite.  The Nazirites, according to Numbers 6, were to be dedicated or consecrated to the Lord in a special way.  Even among a special people, the Nazirites were to be even more so.  They were not allowed to eat or drink anything from a grapevine.  They were not allowed to touch or be around a dead body and they could not cut their hair.  And Samson was intended by God to be a Nazirite for life.

In verses 24 and 25, it says, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him.”

God obviously has plans for Samson and has set him apart from others so that through him God might get glory. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t call us to be Nazirites?  I don’t have much hair but what I do have would look horrible if I didn’t cut it.  And I don’t eat a lot of fruit but I do like grapes.  I don’t really have a problem with staying away from dead people but overall I’m real glad I am not called to be a Nazirite.

I’m real glad God has not called me to be consecrated, dedicated or set apart.  I’m glad I’m not called to be different than everybody else or set apart for God’s glory, aren’t you?  But unfortunately, there’s a problem.  It’s this pesky old Bible.  You see, those words I used to describe Samson are the very definition of the word “holy”.  To be holy means to be consecrated, different, set apart for God’s glory.

And the other problem is that we are called to be holy.  When you think of being holy you might think of angels or God Himself and you wouldn’t be wrong.  You might read the front cover of your Bible and it might say “holy” and that is true.  You might even think of your saintly Christian mother as being holy or maybe somebody like Billy Graham and you would be correct.  Those are holy people.  Your Bible is holy.  This place is holy.  Even this day is holy. 

And this pesky old Bible says that we are to be holy.  Now I know that messes up some of your plans.  I know that may interfere with what you want to do or how you want to be seen but holy God says in I Peter 1:15 and 16, “14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”  

It also says in Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy” and so you think you might try to be a little bit holy when you can.  But that verse continues with, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  Is that convincing enough for you?  Now you think you might want to be holy but how do we do that?  Does that mean we have to be monks, living in a cave and chanting over and over?

No.  In fact we are supposed to be in this world but not of this world.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”  It doesn’t say get out of this world but just don’t be conformed to it.  We should look different than the rest of the world.  We should be different, set apart…holy.

Well, Todd, that sounds real good.  I would like to be holy but how can we do that?  What does it look like in the life of a believer to actually be holy?  You say I don’t have to be a monk and I don’t have to be a Nazirite.  How do I do that then?  That’s a great question and it brings me back to Samson.

I don’t believe it is a coincidence that God called Nazirites to take the vows regarding their appearance, diet and habits.  God didn’t just arbitrarily come up with some crazy things for the Nazirites to do just on a whim.  He made those laws for a reason and we can use them as guides in our own lives to be holy as God has commanded us.  Let’s go back to Numbers chapter 6.

In that passage it says that the Nazirite is not to eat or drink anything from the grapevine.  He is not to cut his hair and he is not to touch a dead body.  Those laws refer to what we take in our bodies, how we look and what we do.  I can tell you right now that Samson did a poor job of keeping his vows and he paid for it.  But for us today, if we want to be holy we need to

1)      Be holy in what we take in to our bodies.

2)      Be holy in how we look.

3)      Be holy in what we do.

I hesitate to start this first point because I realize I forgot my steel toed boots and I know I am going to step all over my own toes this morning.  This point may be painful for most of us this morning.  In fact, this whole sermon may be painful because of the difficulty of being holy.  But if we are to start, it needs to start with what we allow into our bodies.

We talked about what the Bible says about gluttony a few weeks ago on Wednesday night.  I don’t know why the topic of gluttony is thought of as funny or as something that, well, we shouldn’t do but since nobody else is worried about it I guess I won’t really worry about it.  Since everybody else eats too much it must not be a sin.  We found out that Wednesday night that is not correct.  God calls gluttony a sin.

But it is not just what we put in our mouths that cause problems.  To be holy, we need to regulate what goes in our nose, eyes and ears as well.  Let me illustrate.  If somebody in this community that doesn’t know me saw me coming out of the One Stop with this stuff in my hands, what do you think they would think?  (Fake Playboy, fake explicit lyrics CD and root beer can in a bag)

They probably wouldn’t think anything at all.  That’s what people do.  That’s why places sell this stuff, because people buy it.  But if I came out of the One Stop carrying this stuff and you saw me, what would you think?  You would be very disappointed because you expect me to be holy.  But the fact is we are all called to be holy just as God is holy and we should be holy, different, set apart from this world by what we allow into our bodies.

Samson didn’t place a high enough premium on his Nazirite vows.  In fact, he did the best with the vow to not cut his hair because that one took the least amount of self-control but in the end he blew that one as well.  Read Judges 16:15-17:  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 sick to death of it.17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

He obviously put no value on his vow and so he told Delilah the secret of his strength.  It took her 3 times and lots of nagging but he gave in and revealed to her his secret and he ultimately looked like anybody else.  We all know the story about how she shaved his head and when she did he lost all of his God-given power.  And when the Philistines barged in the room he jumped up and thought he would destroy them as he did before not knowing that because he had not valued the vow, God was not with him and they overcame him and took him into slavery.

Without all that hair, Samson looked like everybody else.  How about you?  When people see you what do they see?  Do you look and act like everybody else or is there something that sets you apart?  Yes, we are to dress modestly and appropriately unlike most people in this world but there is more to our appearance than how we dress.


When people see you, and make no mistake this world is most definitely watching us, what do they see?  Do they see someone who is holy, separate and different or do they see the world?  When they see you at work, at home, shopping, on the lake, on the golf course, gun range or in your car, do people see Jesus in you?  We can try to do the right thing.  We can try to be nice to people.  We can smile and say “God bless you, brother” all day but until people see Jesus in us we have failed to value our vow of holiness.

And I can stand up here all day long and encourage you to think WWJD, what would Jesus do, and give you specific ways in which we should emulate Jesus but it all boils down to one thing; one word…love.  John 13:35 sums it all up best:  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  It doesn’t matter how many Bible studies you go to or how many scriptures you have memorized.  The world is watching us and the one way that they will see that we are different is not how big our church is or how many people go each Sunday.  They don’t care about our budget or how much we enjoy being together.  They want to see, they expect to see, they must see that we love each other but not only each other but people in our community and around the world.  Without that love we are a resounding gong.

That’s how we are to be holy in how we look.  Let’s see how we are to be holy in what we do.  Nazirites were forbidden from touching or being around dead bodies.  Samson killed so many people he couldn’t keep track of the number and so he violated that vow as well but for us today nobody wants to be around a dead body.  Ooh pastor, I don’t have a problem with this part of the sermon at all.  I don’t like death.  I don’t want to see it or be around it.  I don’t want to have anything to do with a dead person.

I’m glad to hear that but what about that nasty old dead person inside of you that you keep dragging around?  II Corinthians 5:17 says, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Romans 12:1 says, “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”

Do you have trouble with the first 2 points, being holy in what you take in your body and in how you look?  Do you find it hard to leave your past behind?  Is it difficult to love some people?  Satan knows that about you.  He knows how to push your buttons and he will come to you and say, “Hey, you know that thing you used to like to do?  You know that feeling you get when you think about that certain person?  Let’s do that again.”

That’s when you say leave me alone because that is the old me.  The old, dead person who no longer lives because for me to live is Christ and I throw that nasty old rotting corpse of what used to be me on the altar of prayer to God and ask Him to take that away.  Burn that up because that is no longer who I am.  And when Satan comes back again and again, just chunk that old dead guy up there again and present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

There is a story that I use for an illustration.  It has questionable doctrinal reality but it’s good for an illustration.  A man dies and goes to Heaven and Jesus is showing him around.  He shows him the pearly gates and the gold streets and they get to the mansion that Jesus has built for the man and they go inside and look around.  It is, of course, incredible.  Everything a person in Heaven could ask for is right there.  Lots of room, lots of space, a great view.  A lawn that never needs mowing.  They look all through each room and each is better than the last.  The man looks out the back and sees a shed and asks Jesus what’s in the shed.  Jesus says, “Ah, nothing.  Don’t mind that.”  The man says, “No. that thing’s huge.  What’s in there?”  So Jesus takes him out there and opens it up and it is full of wonderful and glorious blessings, things too great to even imagine.  The man is startled and asks Jesus why all this is out here and not in the house.  Jesus says, “Well, these are all the blessings that could have been yours if you had just been obedient.”


Samson was set up to be blessed by God.  He had everything he needed to bring great glory to God.  If he had been obedient we would still be singing songs about him; we would still be naming baby boys after him.  Who knows how history might have changed if only he had valued his vow to be holy?  But he missed out on a lot of blessings that God had waiting for him.

I want to read one last little passage about Samson.  I want to read his last words in chapter 16 verse 28.  Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "O Sovereign LORD, remember me.  You remember the scene.  Samson has been taken as a slave by the Philistines and they have gouged out his eyes and now they bring him into the coliseum to make fun of him.  Thousands of people are there just to mock him and praise their false god for overcoming their enemy.  Samson hears the mocking and asks someone to place his hands on the giant pillars that hold up the coliseum.  And just before he pushes them over and kills them all, himself included, he makes one final statement.  “Oh Sovereign Lord, Remember me.”

Oh Sovereign Lord, Lord of all.  Creator of all.  The one in whom all is made and sustained.  Your will be done.  Whatever you want will happen and I am ok with that because I trust you.  Remember me like the thief on the cross, he says there is nothing I have done that is worthy of you but I bring all my bad decisions, all my disobedience to you and simply say, remember me.  Can you relate to that?  Is that what you need to say today?

Father, forgive me.  I know I have not been holy.  I know I have brought dishonor to your name and I have missed out on blessings because I have not been holy in what I take into my body, in how I look and in what I do but I come to you right now and just ask that you remember me.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Real Characters - Job

I'm going to start with some easy questions first. Is God loving? Is He faithful? Has He proven Himself to be full of grace? Yes. Absolutely. Is He to be feared? Is he to be obeyed? Is he to be worshiped? Of course. Is God just? Is He merciful? God fair?
That can be a hard question for some people to answer. We want the answer to be "yes". As believers, we want to be able to say that God will always be fair, He has always been fair and He never changes. Some people would say that it may not be fair now but in the end it will all be made fair. Honestly, I don't know where that passage is found.
We see lots of places where God says He will reward us for what we do and how we react and for our obedience; some of that reward will come in this life and some of it in Heaven, but nowhere, that I know of, does God ever say He will be fair to us. He has proven Himself just. He has proven Himself trustworthy. He has proven Himself loving, merciful and gracious.
But how do you respond when faced with a situation where you go to visit some family in another city and when you arrive your family tells you the bad news that soon after you left home your house caught on fire and everything you own is now in ashes?
What would be your response if you took your 5 year old son to the doctor and the doctor diagnosed him as having leukemia and gave him 1 year to live?
How do you react when your wife of however many years comes in one day and says, "I don't want to be married anymore."?
When the doctor says you have breast cancer, what is your first reaction?
When the doctor says, "I'm sorry. She's gone." What is the first thing you say to God?
Unless you have been in that kind of situation, you don't really know how you would react but we have a great model in the book of Job. Job is the book just before Psalms and it is an absolutely fascinating story about a real character, a real person who lived nearly 2000 years before Jesus. Scholars think it is probably the very first book of the Bible written but the story is as applicable today as ever.
Now a good preacher would probably turn the book of Job into at least a 3 or 4 sermon series and you could do many more than that if you wanted. But since you have me and we only have one sermon to sum this book up, we are not going to do justice to the study of Job but that’s ok. Turn to the book of Job and let’s see what God would want us to learn from it today.
Brian Amerman spent 40 years with the railroad and just recently retired but it is my understanding that he had not been there long when he applied to be a signalman. For his interview, he was told to meet the inspector at the signal box. The inspector asked him, “What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading toward each other on the same track?” Brian said, “That’s easy. I would switch the points for one of the trains.”
The inspector then asked, “What if the lever broke?” Brian said, “Then I’d jump down out of the signal box and I’d use the manual lever over there.” Next, the inspector said, “What if the lever had been struck by lightning?” Young Brian said, “Then, I would run to the signal box and phone the next signal box to let them know what was happening.”
The inspector continued on, “What if the phone was busy?” Brian said, “Well, in that case, I would rush down out of the signal box and use the public emergency phone at the crossing up there.” Then, the inspector said, “What would you do if the public emergency phone had been vandalized?” Brian said, “Oh, well, then I would run into town and get my uncle.” That answer puzzled the inspector. So, he asked, “Why would you go get your uncle?” Brian answered, “That’s simple. Because he’s never seen a train wreck before.” Contributed by: Lyndon Marcotte to
If you are like Brian’s uncle and you have never seen a train wreck before then hold on because you are about to see one. You are going to see one in the life of Job here this morning but more than likely you will see one in your own life one of these days if you haven’t already. The truth of the matter is that none of us are immune to tragedy and some of you may think you are attracted to it like 2 magnets.
The question is not if it is going to happen. The question is how are you going to respond when it does happen. The first chapter of Job could be a semester’s worth of study at the seminary but for today I just want to read verses 1-3 and 6-22.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
Stop right there for a second. I wish we had time to develop all of the significant points that are just in the first 3 verses but for now I just want you to notice where it says that Job was blameless and upright. This, of course, doesn’t mean he was perfect even though that is how the KJV translates it. The definition of that is to be complete or well-rounded. Think of him as a mixture of Donald Trump and Billy Graham with a little Mr. Rogers thrown in.
Of all the people in the Bible, Job is probably not the one we think of to be like. We might want to be like David or Paul or Stephen, but Job is pretty low on the list of guys we want to emulate and that is a shame. By the time this is over, I hope you will see that becoming more like Job is a good thing. Maybe not exactly like Job in every way but we can learn 3 things in our effort to become like him. To become more like Job it will take:
· Faith
· Integrity
· Discernment
The first is faith and we will see that in verses 6-22.
Now read 6-22. 6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”8Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.”22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
I don’t care how this story ends, I find it hard to believe that anybody could read this part and say God is fair. In fact, somebody who didn’t know God, someone who had no relationship with Him might read this and have a good argument that God is a big old meanie-head. Satan practically dares God to do something and God falls for it? Is God mean or just stupid?
Those are understandable points and questions for people to have that do not have a relationship with God but we, as believers, know a different side of God, don’t we? Job had a relationship with God based completely on faith. Faith is the only way to have a relationship with God. It is the only way we can do it and it is the only way God will allow it. And faith is the only way that Job was able to say what he did in verse 21. It is only by faith that Job was able to lose everything he had in this world and still praise God.
The thing about trials and difficulties in this life is that it not only requires faith to get through them but it also strengthens your faith on the other side. If you just have enough faith to believe that God will get you through a small trial then you will, after the small trial, have faith that God will get you through the big stuff.
George Muller knew about big trials. He was known for starting orphanages in the mid-1800s with little or no money and yet saw the Lord do awesome things in his life. He said, “God delights to increase the faith of his children. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God’s hand as a means. I say – and say it deliberately – trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, are the very food of faith.”
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
That should be very comforting to all of us but it also tells us something about God. Job didn’t fail this test of trial and difficulty because of his faith in God but also God knew Job could withstand it or he wouldn’t have put him through it. God had faith in Job! Do you understand that? When we are tempted to sin in any way, God is right there to say, “You can do this. You can overcome. I know you can. I have faith in you. I am not putting too much on you.”
Wow! That is incredible to think that the One in whom we have faith has faith in us and if we are just obedient then we can become more like Job. Let’s look at the next thing that is required of us if we are to have the character of Job. Let’s look at Job’s integrity. Look at chapter 2, verses 7-10.
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
We don’t know exactly what Satan struck him with but Job’s symptoms, as we see throughout the book included painful sores over his whole body, nightmares, bad breath, fever and pain. And yet through all of this he maintained his integrity.
The dictionary defines integrity as having high morals or firm principals but it also says it is the state of being complete, undivided or whole. Job knew what integrity was and he placed a high price on it. In fact, as you keep in mind how the dictionary says it is being complete, undivided or whole, look at how Job himself describes it in chapter 29 verse 14:
I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.”
From head to toe Job was covered, complete, undivided and whole.
He wore his integrity as his garment and nobody wants to be seen partially clothed. Nobody wants to be seen in rags or patchwork. And you will be seen. The question is how much is your integrity worth? When God looks at you, not to mention your friends, family and even non-believers, but mainly when God looks at you, how much is your integrity worth?
What is your tipping point? By “tipping point”, I mean, how much does it take before the negativity, trials and hardships of this life, trials that we all go through, how much of that can you take before your integrity starts to fray and tear and you start blaming God and cursing God?
For most of us it would take quite a bit, right? We have all been through some difficult times and I will tell you that I have yet to blame or curse God but what I am tempted to do at times like that is just ignore Him. When God doesn’t do things like I, in my great wisdom, think it ought to be done, then I sometimes am tempted to just say, “Ok God, why don’t you just go your way and I’ll go mine. Until I get this figured out, just leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.”
And when that happens, do you know what happens next? Satan does a little happy-dance because he knows he has found the chink in my armor. Do you remember that passage in Ephesians 6 that talks about taking up the full armor of God? Satan looks at that armor and sees that it is lacking in integrity, that there is a tear in it, a spot that is unprotected and he takes careful aim and takes me out. Another win for the evil one. Another loss of blessing for me and another example for the world to see that there is no difference in Christians and non-Christians and that one god is as good as the next.
How much is your integrity worth? For some it may be pretty cheap and will become obvious when you have a bad hair day or broken finger nail. For others it may take more. For Job, NOTHING was as precious as his integrity and as he proclaimed in chapter 13, verse 15, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him!” Oh, God I pray that is our response as well!
Job had faith and integrity. Let’s look at Job’s discernment. At the end of chapter 2, Job’s 3 buddies show up. They had heard about his troubles and it says that they came from far off just to be with him and comfort him. And it says in verse 13 that they sat on the ground with him for a week without saying a word. Those are good friends. They really are. But as we all know the problem came at the end of that week when the silence ceased and the talking began. And from chapter 4- chapter 37 it is nothing but talk and as so often happens that talk was worthless.
For 34 chapters his friends try to convince Job that he has sinned and that is what is causing his problems. In chapter 4 verse 7 Eliphaz says, “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
” In chapter 11, verse 6 Zophar says that God has even forgotten some of your sin. In chapter 25 Bildad even questions whether a man can be righteous in God’s eyes.
But Job, as I said before, has a relationship with God. He knows Him. He has spent time with Him. He has worshiped. He has sacrificed. He has prayed and meditated and he knows the character of God as well as any man can and in chapter 26, verses 1-3, he sarcastically says to his friends, How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble!3 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
And what great insight you have displayed!”
In times of trouble, most of you know you will get lots of advice. Some of it may be good advice. Some of it…not so much. The question is, how do you know what to do? Well, the answer is and always has been, what does God say? What does the Word say? What is God telling you in your quiet time? The answer is not, what do your friends think? The answer is not even, what do you think? The answer is, what is God telling you?
Does the Word say that joy comes in the morning? Then joy comes in the morning. Does God say He will never leave you nor forsake you? Then hang your hat on that. Does God promise blessings for obedience? Celebrate that! Count on that! Claim that promise! Does God promise this life will be fair? No. Have the discernment to know the difference between what God says and what you wish he would say. Know what His word says and you get that discernment by prayer, Bible study and worship.
Turn to the last chapter of Job, chapter 42. And as you do I will just say that while I want to be like Job in a lot of ways, I ultimately want to be like Jesus. That’s my goal. Job wasn’t perfect but Jesus was and that is my goal. But I love the last chapter of Job. Read 7-9.
7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lordaccepted Job’s prayer.
I know this life isn’t fair. I know it is extremely difficult sometimes. But in the end, I want to be known as Job was known. I want God to call me His servant. You can’t be God’s servant and be a servant to your work. You can’t be God’s servant and be a servant to your spouse, your hobbies, your kids or anything else. It is time to decide, right here and right now. Whose servant are you? To be God’s servant is going to require faith, integrity and discernment. It may not be fair, but it will be worth it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Real Characters - Saul" I Samuel 13, 15, 18

Potential.  Potential is a word that can bring great hope or bring great disappointment, all in how it is used.  "She has potential."  That brings great hope.  "She had potential."  What a disappointment.  If your time has not yet come and you have potential, that's exciting.  If your time has come and gone and you still just have potential then that's just sad.

This little rubber band has potential.  It really does.  In fact, when I stretch it, it is the very definition of "potential energy".  When I stretch this rubber band it has the potential to do all kinds of things.  It has the potential to fly across the room.  It has the potential to go really fast and to cause you pain, especially if you are on the front row.  When I pull it back, you respect it because you know what it can do.  But now, when I stop stretching it, it has no potential.  It is worthless.  It's just taking up space with no redeeming qualities.

All it can do now is go back to my desk drawer and tell all the other rubber bands about the good old days when it almost flew across the room.  It almost did this and did that.  It had great potential there for a while.  But now it's just pretty pathetic.

Does that sound like anybody you know?  We probably have all known someone who failed to live up to their potential; someone who had everything going for them but squandered an opportunity to use it.  "Potential" is a word you will hear often on Sunday afternoon during the early part of football season.  All the young guys are described as having potential and when somebody has potential on the football field, it is obvious to anyone with an experienced eye.

The coaches see it.  The other players see it and even the opposing scouts see it and do their best to plan to do whatever they can to minimize that potential.  It's the same way in our spiritual lives.  We have often talked about this life being a battle.  There are dozens of passages in the Bible that refer to this life as a battle or a war and we are given everything we need to survive and thrive in this battle if we just use what is given to us and live our lives to our full potential.

And we all have great potential to do great things to further the Kingdom of God.  We are all given gifts and talents by God that will allow us to do great things that will make the name of Jesus famous.  And when we have those gifts we are commanded to use them.  If you can sing, sing.  If you can teach, teach.  If you can clean, organize, prepare, witness, pray, give wise council, whatever you can do, we are told to use that gift to the glory of God.

But I have to warn you:  The potential in that gift is seen by all who have an experienced eye, including Satan, and like an opposing scout, he is doing his best to minimize your potential.  We are told in I Peter 5:8 that he is a roaring lion looking to devour us and if he can't kill us, he at least wants to keep us from living up to our potential.  If at the end of your life all that can be said is, "He had potential", then Satan says that's one for the win column, baby!

There was a young man in the Old Testament who had great potential.  He had it all, in fact.  He was tall, good-looking, smart, and strong with an humble personality and a noble character; a lot like me in so many ways.  But unlike me, he was chosen to be the first king of Israel.  And when God told Samuel to anoint Saul, Samuel said that there was no one like him among all the people.  Later it says that the Spirit of God dwelled inside Saul.

Now that's potential!  This was before Pentacost in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit came on everyone who believed and remained there.  In the Old Testament the Spirit would come into some people and not into others and could leave at any time.  But Saul had the Spirit of the Living God living inside of him and so his potential just skyrocketed.

Can you imagine what Satan felt as he looked at Saul?  Satan is a good judge of potential.  He is a great scout for the opposite team.  He knows what to look for and I think when he saw Saul he must have been a little nervous.  He wasn’t nervous when he saw that Saul was head and shoulders taller than everybody else.  He wasn’t intimidated by Saul’s good looks.  Satan didn’t much care about Saul’s bloodline or ancestry or what he had done in the past.  Satan saw that Saul had the Holy Spirit living inside of him and was very concerned about what Saul might do in the future to further the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately Satan is a good judge of character and when he sees somebody with that kind of potential he goes to his tried and true playbook and pulls out some trick plays that work all too often.  I want to look at 3 things that Satan does to minimize Saul’s potential and I hope we will be able to recognize these plays in our own life so we don’t wind up like Saul, with an empty life that once had so much potential.

Judy kids with me that I always have 3 points in my sermons so that everyone will know it’s a good sermon because everybody knows you need 3 points to have a good sermon.  Well I tried this week to find either 2 or 4 things about Saul just to be different but God showed me 3 so I’m going with that.

We will look at 3 different passages in 3 different chapters of the book of I Samuel.  I changed it after the bulletins were printed so don’t try to follow that necessarily.  First let me tell you what Satan wants us to do or to be and then we will see what the Bible says about these things in the life of Saul.

When these 3 qualities manifest themselves in our lives you can bet that Satan is at work trying to minimize the potential we have to further the Kingdom of God.  It worked in the life of Saul and it will work in our lives as well if you allow them to remain.  The first thing Satan likes to see in our lives is for us to be worried.  The next thing he likes is when we are selfish and the last thing Satan enjoys is when we are jealous.  He knows that with those 3 attributes that our potential, as it was for Saul, will be reduced down to nothing and that at the end of our life, people will think of us and say sadly, “They had such potential.”

Turn to I Samuel 13 and let’s read verses 5-15.

Looking at the mismatched numbers, one can understand why Saul would be worried, right?  The Philistines had thousands more troops, many with chariots and all of them well-armed and we find out in the passage after this that the Israelites didn’t even have any real weapons!  Who wouldn’t be afraid?  That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight with thousands of gunfighters. 

And then is one of those times when it didn’t matter how much taller and good-looking Saul was.  When all your army has to defend themselves with are sharp sticks and harsh words, it’s going to be a bad day.  The good news is that the cavalry is coming.  Samuel was the prophet who anointed Saul to be king according to what God told him and it was Samuel that told Saul to wait there at Micmash and don’t do anything and don’t worry about the battle because he would be there in 7 days and he would sacrifice to God and ask for his wisdom and blessing for the battle.

Have you ever been almost patient?  Have you ever almost done what you were supposed to do?  Have you ever been almost obedient?  Do you know what almost-obedience is called?  Disobedient.  And the reason he was disobedient is because Saul got worried.  And he had good reason to be worried as we saw with all those troops coming against him but he also had an even better reason to not be worried.

His troops were scattering like rats from a sinking ship.  They had no real weapons.  He had to do something.  He told Samuel in verse 12 that he felt compelled.  “You weren’t here, Samuel.  God wasn’t here.  And so I had to do something to save the day.  I had to do something.”

And so Saul went through the motions of making a sacrifice because he figured that was what needed to be done before God would bless the battle but God wasn’t interested in a cow or a sheep being burned up on an altar.  That wasn’t the point.  God wanted Saul to wait on God; to have faith that God would prove Himself faithful to do what He said He would do.  But Saul got worried and disobeyed God by “acting foolishly” as Samuel said.

Do you think worry is a sin?  Does it displease God when we sin?  Yes, for one thing His word tells us not to do it.  In Philippians 4:6, we are commanded, “Do not be anxious [do not worry] about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And that is an incredible promise to us as believers; to have the peace of God and we get that peace when we refuse to worry.  But as we see in the life of Saul, the reason that worry is a sin is not just because it robs you of your peace.  It’s not because you won’t get a good night’s sleep.  The main reason that worry is a sin is not because it affects you but also because it affects the Kingdom of God.  Worry leads to trying to do it on your own and that is never the best plan.  Worry leads you to do things that will bring dishonor to God, His name and His throne and this family.

Mickey Rivers was an outfielder for the Texas Rangers years ago.  His philosophy was this:  “Ain’t no sense worrying about things you got control over, because if you got control over them, ain’t no sense worrying about them.  And there ain’t no sense worrying about things you ain’t got control over because if you ain’t got control over it there ain’t no sense worrying about them.”

Not exactly Shakespeare and not exactly biblical but pretty good advice.  God doesn’t want you to worry but Satan does.

The next thing Satan likes to see in your life is when you are selfish.  Turn to chapter 15 and let’s read verse 1-14.


Some time has passed from chapter 13 and we see that Saul is militarily in much better shape.  He has gone from 600 men to nearly a quarter of a million.  But unfortunately his character is still lacking.  God makes it plain what is supposed to happen.  Samuel makes it clear that they are to kill every man, woman and child and to destroy everything that had anything to do with the Amalekites.

We saw something very similar in our study of Joshua just last week when God told Joshua to take Jericho and kill and destroy everything in it.  And you remember that Achan took some of the bounty for himself and hid it in his tent.  Well, Saul took so much stuff he couldn’t hide it in his tent but he did try to cover it up.

But before we go any further with Saul’s selfishness I need to take a time out and I would like to discuss something else we see here because it is also important to us in the times that we live.  In a recent Wednesday night study of “What does the Bible say about_______?” we looked at what the Bible says about Israel.  It seems very harsh for God to command Joshua and Saul to kill every man, woman and child and all the animals and destroy all the stuff.  Without going into a lot of detail, I want you to see why this happened.

Way back in Genesis, God told Abraham, the father of the Jews, that God would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him.  And the thing you need to realize, real quickly, is that you don’t know of anyone who is an Amalekite.  You don’t know any Philistines.  None of you are related to any Moabites.  There is no such thing as a Hitite anymore because of that promise.  And for future reference, if you are here this morning and you are from Russia or China or Iraq, just know that God has not changed.  It would be very wise to know if you are an American president that God has not changed His mind about Israel.

All of that is for free.  It doesn’t have anything to do with being selfish but it is a biblical truth and I just had to touch on it.  We will talk more about that later.

So we see that in spite of the clear directive from the Lord Saul keeps for himself all the good stuff from the Amalekites.  He keeps the best of sheep and cattle and he also spares the life of the Amalekite king.  This was not done from a merciful heart.  This was done so he could tie the conquered king to his chariot and lead him around town as a showpiece, to show that Saul was the conqueror and the other king was conquered. 

Obviously Saul is pretty pleased with himself.  It says in verse 12 that Saul had set up a monument in his own honor.  At least Achan had tried to cover it up.  He at least had some shame.  Saul had none.  He had nothing but selfishness.  I think it is interesting what Samuel says to Saul when he finally catches up to him on his country-wide “see how great I am” tour.

Saul greets the old prophet with “Hey, Lord bless you.  Mission accomplished.  I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do.  Ain’t I somthin’?”

Samuel says to his selfish king, “Then why do I hear sheep and cattle?”  If you had done what you are supposed to do then it would be silent around here.  I guess Samuel hadn’t seen the king tied to the chariot yet.  The biggest problem here is not that Saul took all the good things for himself.  It wasn’t so much that God didn’t want Saul to have nice stuff.  He didn’t want him to have that stuff.  He didn’t want Saul to have anything to do with the Amalekites and that included their stuff.

Let’s look at this from Saul’s point of view.  He had worked hard to beat the Amalekites.  He conquered the place.  He deserved to have some of the spoils of war.  And maybe that was true but that’s not the point.  At other times God allows them, even commands them to take everything home with them.  But the point is that God had a reason for making that demand and when we think even today that God is going to overlook some disobedience; that it’s not that big of a deal, then we are falling into that lie of Satan; that lie that keeps us from reaching our full potential.

Of the 3 character flaws that we are looking at today, I believe this one is the hardest to see in the mirror.  None of us think of ourselves as selfish, do we?  A little boy and his sister were riding a stick horse together.  They galloped around a little while and the little boy stopped and said to his sister, “If one of us would just get off this stick horse it would make more room for me.”  But he didn’t think of himself as selfish.  It made perfect sense to him and that’s when Satan gets the victory.


Satan loves it when we are worried.  He thinks it’s funny when we are selfish and he enjoys watching how things work out for us when we are jealous.  Turn to chapter 18.  Nobody thinks of themselves as being jealous either.  We just think of it as being wise or being careful or being just or even having the spirit of discernment.  The Bible calls it sin.  Galatians 5:26 says, ““Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”  That sure sounds like Saul; conceited, provoking, envying.  Look at chapter 18 verses 5-9.

Can’t you just see the scene here?  Saul is leading the triumphal parade and David is a few feet behind him.  The people are singing and dancing in celebration.  Mr. Selfish Saul is full of himself, doing the queen wave as he rides in his big gold chariot.  And then he hears this homemade song sung by some ladies as he passes.  “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

Not exactly Top 40 material but it is enough to make Saul jealous. I Corinthians 13 says that if we have love then we won’t be envious.  The thing about jealousy and envy is that it, like selfishness is so subtle.  We don’t often recognize it in ourselves and it is often one of the last things Satan has up his sleeve.

The Screwtape Letters is a fascinating book of satire written by C.S. Lewis.  In it he humorously describes Satan giving advice to one of his demon nephews on how to secure the damnation of a British man known only as “the patient.”  The nephew has a difficult time getting the patient to sin.  When Satan asks what the problem is the nephew says that the man is completely honorable and humble, not at all proud.  Satan then replies that the nephew’s job is to then make the patient proud of being so humble.