What do we do when we realize we’ve blown it? What happens when we realize there some things that we can’t undo? When we’re embarrassed by our actions, when we’ve hurt the people that we love, and we didn’t listen to God or anyone else? Many of us take this kind of failure very personally.
Today we can learn from Samson, the superman of the bible what do when we fail in massive ways. Samson’s story is told in Judges 13-16. Samson was given so much by God, yet his story shows that he did more wrong than he did right; he had more failures than victories. He was extremely strong physically yet incredibly weak morally, relationally and spiritually. His story shows us that it’s not so much how we start but how we end that counts. It’s not so much about failure but what we do after that matters.
Here’s a partial list of his failures, he was set apart by God to be a Nazarite. The Nazarite Vow is found in Numbers 6: 1-21. To summarize: he was to never cut his hair, never touch a dead body and never to touch anything related to a grape vine. He broke all of these vows. In addition he didn’t listen to his parents, he was a loner without any friends, he joked with, partied with and tried to marry the enemy. He had a temper, he killed people and he lived for revenge. He frequently visited prostitutes and he ran to temptation instead of away from it.
What did all this get him? He was betrayed by a woman he claimed to love, he was captured by the enemy, the Philistines his eyes were burned out and he was now a slave grinding grain with a millstone like a beast of burden. He was mocked and ridiculed. One commentator has said, “Sin is blinding, binding and grinding.” For Samson it didn’t get any lower than this. What does he do now?
23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” …
25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars, Judges 16:23-25 (NIV)
At this low point, I believe that Samson was praying while he grinding. I believe he was confessing his wrongs. He was getting right with God. We will see that he comes to a point in his life where he remembers who he was created to be. “I wasn’t created to be a beast of burden, blinded and made fun of. I wasn’t created to be entertainment to my enemies; I was created and set apart by God to do something significant.”
I pray that we all realize that we are greater than our failures. Just because we failed at something does not mean that we are a failure. To fail is to be human. Only Jesus is perfect.
A failure is an event, not a person.
We’re going to see in Samson’s life, a guy who failed over and over and then when it looks like he failed way too much for God to ever even love him much less use him, we’re going to watch and see a God who still accomplishes His purposes through a man that repeatedly could not get it right.
Here’s some good news. Just because you’re down, you are not out! If you failed at something, you are not a failure, because a failure is an event not a person.
Now, there are two responses to failure:
Our Natural Response is Remorse.
Remorse, “I feel bad about what I did, I shouldn’t have done it, I’m a bad person.” Sometimes remorse will turn inward, “I’m horrible, I’m no good, I’m the worst person who has ever lived, I have no future, I hate myself, I hate my life!” and it turns inward.
Other times, it turns outward to blame. “I’m the victim and it’s someone else’s fault.” It’s, “This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t…”, and “I didn’t ask for this!” and It’s all Delilah’s fault”
What if instead of turning inward, outward we turn upward?
Our Best Response is Repentance.
There is remorse, the natural response; there is blame, but the better response is repentance. “I own it, it’s my fault, I blew it.”
“I’m turning away from that which I did wrong and I’m turning toward that which is right.” That’s repentance.
Most of us don’t ruin our lives all at once. How do we do it? One step at a time. And if we’re going in the wrong direction, what do we do? Turn to God. Remorse focuses on the bad. Blame focuses on other people. Repentance turns from the lower, that which is higher; ‘re’ means turn, ‘pent’ means the highest, we turn from our lower, sinful ways, and turn back to God’s higher ways. It’s not just, “I feel bad about this”, but “I’m turning completely to God to let him redeem me to his divine purposes.”
All of us, we’re going to do some things we can’t undo. One day we will all come to the horrible realization, that we can’t unsay what we said, we can’t undo what we did, but we can repent. Not, “I’m sorry, I got caught.” But, “I was wrong, God I confess and am turning to your ways not mine.
Repentance says, “I’m not going to let what I did stop me from doing what God wants me to do.
We cannot change our past, but we can change our future. If we’re down, we’re not out. Don’t internalize the failure; we are not what we did, we are who God says we are. And watch as Samson realizes this
26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Judges 16:26-28 (NIV)
“God please strengthen me just ONE MORE TIME.” ‘I’ve blown it a thousand times, but I don’t need a thousand more chances. I’ve blown it too many times to count, but I don’t need multiple opportunities. God, all I need from you is one more chance. One time God, one time. Just find it in your mercy to give me your strength just this once more.
He’s broken. It’s no longer about Samson, now it’s all about God. “From this moment forward, whatever I have left I will give it all to the God who gave me all that I have.” And he steps across the line and he says, ‘I’m no longer the main character of this story, my God is the main character of this story and everything that I have I will use to honor him just one more time.’
Here Samson is at the lowest point; massive public humiliation. Nobody believes there’s anything good in this guy, and internally he has a private moment with God just as some of you will have. “Just one more time God, one more chance. You give me Your strength and I will use the rest of my life to leverage what You give me for Your glory and for Your goodness.”
30 Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. Judges 16:30 (NIV)
Samson was born to “begin to deliver his people from the Philistines.” He did what he was created to do! But he did it best when he was yielded to God. What more could we accomplish with God’s help rather than doing it on our own?
Are you ready to repent and turn to God s ways instead of your own?
This story shows us that even in our failures, God can still use us. Even though we’ve messed up, it’s not over yet. We are not what we did; we are who God says we are.
The enemy loves to make the strong weak; but our God loves to make the weak strong! Let’s not just try to improve ourselves to be a better people, let’s be God’s people! People who say, “It’s no longer about me, it’s all about Him.”
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, Samson’s life is summarized by saying, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised.”
Samson was called faithful even though most of his life wasn’t. Will you join fellow failure like me to turn to God and be faithful?