Samson was a ruler in Israel for twenty years. His story is told at length in Judges 13–16. It began strikingly, with an angel’s announcement to his sterile parents that they would, miraculously, have a son and that he would become a judge in Israel. After Samson grew up, he was indeed a judge in Israel for twenty years. The term “judge” did not mean then what it means today; Samson was a military leader and tribal chieftain. The Israelites’ main enemy at that time was the Philistines.
This leader had everything going for him: supernatural strength, good looks, and a relationship with God. Yet, in spite of that, he was his own worst enemy. He wasted his life and brought all kinds of troubles on himself.
Unfortunately, human nature is universal, and we today can fall into the same kinds of traps as Samson. Samson made a mess of his life because he made three fatal choices and didn’t learn from his mistakes. He typified three of the most common ways that we bring troubles on ourselves. If we can identify these three traps, we can work out the problems we are in right now and avoid some problems in the future.
LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES
First, we are asking for trouble if we refuse to learn from our mistakes. Samson had two big weaknesses in his life, and he never learned to control either of them. All of his life they plagued him, and later they caused his downfall. The first weakness was a bad temper. Samson often got angry; he frequently blew up. A primary motive for his actions was revenge. Samson killed thirty men to get their clothes because he burned with anger (Judg. 14:12–19). He set a field afire just to get even (15:3–5). He said to a group of men he didn’t like, “Since you’ve acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you” (v. 7). Later he said, “I merely did to them what they did to me” (v. 11). And then he killed another thousand men.
The other weakness was uncontrolled physical desire. He was physically strong but morally weak. He deliberately ignored God’s principles; his life was really a pathetic cycle of failures. He never learned; he kept making the same mistakes over and over again. For him it was really kind of a game: “How close to the fire can I get and not get burned?”
Samson played this kind of game with Delilah, a Philistine prostitute. She kept asking the source of his strength and kept getting teased by Samson, but each time she got a little closer to the truth. He was playing with temptation as he toyed with her, and soon he got burned. But we tend to do the same thing. We say things like “Just this one time” to allow ourselves guilty pleasures. “What’s one time going to hurt, anyway? Just this one time I’m going to worry; just this one time I’m going to get depressed; just this one time I’m going to try this or that.” None of us plans to be a failure—it just comes on us naturally. And gradually. It is a step-by-step process, as little by little we become weakened. Our whole lives do not fall apart in one day; the problem builds up over a period of time as we refuse to learn from our mistakes.
You may be saying, “But this is an area of my life that I have no control over. I am defeated in it over and over again. It is a chronic area of failure in my life, and I just don’t know how to overcome it. That’s just the way I am.”
The good news is that God says, “I will give you the power to break out of that cycle of failure.” When Samson finally faced the facts, God broke his cycle of failure, gave him the power to do what he should do, and gave him victory. God will do that for us when we face the facts.
Rick Warren, God’s Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
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