Maintaining Your Spiritual Strength- part 6
MAINTAINING YOUR SPIRITUAL STRENGTH
How in the World Will We Live - Part 5
"Your strength must come from the Lord's mighty power within you. Put on all of God's armor so that you'll be able to stand against all the strategies and tricks of Satan." Ephesians 6:10-11 (LB)
THREE THINGS THAT WILL WEAKEN YOUR LIFE
1. Self-indulgence weakens your life. (Judges 14:1-20)
Excuse: "Just this once."
"Don't be misled; remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it; a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death." Gal. 6:7-8 (LB)
To maintain spiritual strength, I must discipline my desires.
"Strengthen yourselves with (Christ's) way of thinking... Live your lives controlled by God's will, not by human desires." 1 Peter 4:1-2 (GN)
2. Resentment weakens your life. (Judges 15:1-17
Excuse: "They hurt me first."
"To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do." Job 5:2
"You are only hurting yourself with your anger!" Job 18:4
"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Prov. 29:11
3. Carelessness weakens your life. (Judges 16:1-20)
Excuse: "It will be different for me."
"You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say." Prov. 18:20 (GN)
To maintain spiritual strength, I must maintain my commitments.
"He always does what he promises, no matter how much it may cost." Psalm 15:4
What is the weak link in your life?
When are you going to do something about it?
MAINTAINING YOUR SPIRITUAL STRENGTH
How in the World Will We Live - Part 5
Judges 14. If you've ever watched a marathon you know a lot of people start out but don't finish at the end. I think that's a parallel to the Christian life. Many people start out good in the Christian life but somewhere along the line they get waylaid, sidetracked, they run out of energy. How do you maintain spiritual strength so you make it to the end of the race? That's what we want to look at today.
Life can be draining. It can wear you down. How do you keep the strength to keep doing what you know you ought to be doing so that you finish the race. Ephesians 6:10-11 (Living Bible) "Your strength must come from the Lord's mighty power within you. Put on all of God's armor so that you'll be able to stand against all the strategies and tricks of Satan."
Satan has a strategy and plan to sap your spiritual strength. We're going to look at it in this series. Today I want us to look at three things that weaken your life.
If you want an example, we have the life of Samson. Judges 13‑ 16. Samson was the Rambo of the Bible, physically. Spiritually, he was the Pee Wee Herman. He was a moral wimp. He had everything going for him -- good looks, talent, beauty, ability, strength, God's blessing on his life, good family home life. He had some early successes. Things went real good for Samson early in life. But somewhere along the line, he started losing his strength. He got sidetracked. He ends up life a failure, a loser, a broken man. I want us to look at three things that wrecked his life that we can avoid.
If you'll learn to deal with these three things, you can make it to the end of the race. Since our society puts so much emphasis on the first one, let's look at it this morning.
1. SELF INDULGENCE WEAKENS YOUR LIFE.
I'm talking about an undisciplined life style, living only by your feelings. Does our culture encourage or discourage self indulgence? No question. Ice cream commercial -- "You owe it to yourself." "I ate the whole thing", "If it feels good, do it". Even good things can become harmful if they're not controlled -- food, money, sex, sleep. All these things that are gifts of God can be misused and if they're out of control they can damage our life.
Samson's weakness was women. No doubt about it. Three chapters, three different women. He's continually running out on relationships. He's scared to make a commitment. Have you ever met anybody like that? We've got a society full of people like that.
Judges 14. "Samson went down to Timnah. He saw a young Philistine woman and when he returned he said to his father and mother, "I've seen a Philistine women in Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife." His father and mother replied, "Isn't there an acceptable woman among your own people? Must you go to the Philistines to get a wife?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me. She's the right one.'" "Right one" literally in Hebrew -- King James version says "she pleases me". She's pleasurable. He saw her and says, "I've got to have her!" New International Version says, "She looks good to me." Kirk translation, "She lites my fire!"
Here's Samson's first mistake. Don't make decisions on pleasure rather than on principles. We must learn to make decisions based on principles rather than pleasure. If we don't, we'll fall into self indulgence. We do the fun thing, the convenient thing, the pleasurable thing, not necessarily the right thing. The fact is, God had said "Don't do it!", his parents had warned him, he had made a vow himself not to marry an unbeliever. But when he sees this woman his convictions go out the door. He ignores his plans, he follows his glands.
He says, "I've got to have her!" His excuse is, "Just this once. It's no big deal."
Look what God says: "Don't be misled; remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it; a man will always reap just what kind of crop he sows. If he sows to please his own desire he will be planting seeds of evil and surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death."
He's saying, Whatever you plant, you're going to reap. Whatever you sow, you're going to reap. It's a fact of life.
Let's say we're going on a cruise to the Orient. Ten miles out the captain says, "Folks, don't be disturbed but I want you to know as we cross the Pacific, we have a leak in this boat. It's not a big leak. It's only five inches wide and in a big boat like this, what's one little leak? And it's just one!" The fact is a leak is a leak! And it's just a matter of time before it will sink the ship. Sometimes Satan tempts us into saying, "This one area of my life is out of control but it's no big deal. I'm a little indulgent in that area but so what? Have you said that lately? It's just one area. Everyone has to little indulgence, It's just one thing!" A leak is a leak! Anything that's out of control in your life can eventually sink your ship. Self indulgence is going to catch up with you.
The point: To maintain spiritual strength, I must discipline my desires. That's the lesson. 1 Peter 4:1-2 "Strengthen yourselves with Christ's way of thinking. Live your lives controlled by God's will, not by human desires." Just because you want something doesn't mean you should have it. Just because you can afford it, doesn't mean you should buy it. Just because it's pleasurable, doesn't make it right. Just because everybody else is doing it, doesn't mean you have to do it. You say you hope your kids are hearing this. I hope you are hearing this. You set the example. I worry about the fact that we may be raising some self indulgent kids because if you can afford it, you get it whether you need it or not. Self indulgence weakens your spiritual life. it saps the strength.
2. RESENTMENT WEAKENS YOUR LIFE
Samson lived a life of constant anger. He was in a state of anger constantly. He reacted violently to everything. His primary motivation in life was "I'm going to get revenge!" In one of the stories, he killed thirty men just to get even on a bet. I wouldn't want to be around a guy like that. He was a very violent, angry, bitter, resentful person. His whole motive in life was, "I'm going to get even."
Judges 15:3, "Samson said to them, `This time I have a right to get even [underline "get even"] with the Philistines and I'll really harm them." v. 7 "Since you've acted like this, I won't stop until I get my revenge." v. 11 "I merely did what they did to me." His excuse is, "They hurt me first."
Here's the second mistake. The first is when you make decisions based on pleasure rather than principle. The second mistake that will drain the energy out of your life is when you react rather than act towards circumstances.
Samson was a reactor. Resentment is always self defeating. It hurts you more than it does the other person. It saps the strength out of your life.
Job 5:2 "To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do." It doesn't make sense. Job 18;4 "You are only hurting yourself with your anger!"
Resentment is a waste. It wastes time because you're always caught up in the past. It wastes energy because it drains you emotionally. When you're resentful, it drains you of energy. It wastes creativity. Sometimes we're so creative thinking of ways to get back at the guy at the office, or that person who hurt me early in life.
Samson was a pretty creative guy. 15:4 it says he went out and caught three hundred pair of foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. (That took awhile, I'm sure!) He then fastened a torch to every pair of tales. (Original tale-lights) He lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burnt up the shocks and the standing grain together with the vineyards and the olive groves. A pretty creative guy! But what a waste.
Proverbs 22:29 "A hot tempered man always gets into trouble."
We live in a very angry culture. Not only do we live in a self‑ indulgent culture that says "If it feels good, do it!" we live in an angry culture that says, "Get even whenever you get the chance." A dog-eat-dog world! Violence is modeled for us every night on television. It's the Robocop mentality. If you don't like them, you blow them away. That's bound to affect us eventually. Don't allow yourself to get resentful against people who hurt you and don't ever waste any time trying to get revenge. It saps the strength out of your life. It will drain you as quick as self indulgence. If you don't believe we're in an angry culture, just go try to Horseshoe bay at 4pm in the summer time.
The lesson is to maintain spiritual strength, I must restrain my reactions. You only have a certain amount of energy, you might as well use it in the right way. Restrain your reactions and don't waste any energy on resentment.
Leaders are pretty good targets. They're easy targets. If you're a leader at work or at church or in school, you're visible and it's easy for people to take pot shots at you. Even in Gibsons every once in a while somebody will have an ax to grind with The Salvation Army or the Sunshine Coast Community Church. Usually it's somebody who comes for the first time and never comes back again. They'll write me a nasty little card, telling me all the things that are wrong with me and The Salvation Army and everything like that. I used to get upset about that. Frankly, I don't even read them any more. I never read any anonymous ones. I figure if they don't care to put their name on them I don't care about reading them.
When somebody writes a criticism that's real attacking, I made a policy about 5-6 years ago, that I just don't respond to personal attacks. I don't have the time or the energy to do that. I'm too busy trying to do what I believe is God's will. I don't have the time or the energy to go around defending myself for everything. You don't either.
Find out what you believe to be the will of God for your life and go for it. If you spend all your time trying to get even with people who've hurt you, you're wasting time and energy and you're wasting creativity. The spiritual strengths is draining from your life.
Samson had a problem with this. Am I saying never get angry? Of course not. There are some times you need to get angry. Just control it. Sometimes anger is a legitimate response. When you think about twenty million babies killed through abortion, you ought to get angry. But you need to control it. There are some things you need to get upset about.
Self indulgence will weaken your life. Resentment will weaken your life.
3. CARELESSNESS WILL WEAKEN YOUR LIFE.
When we're careless with our health, it weakens us. When we're careless with our money, it weakens us. When we're careless with our words... does that ever get you in trouble? "You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say." Proverbs 18:20.
When we're careless with our time. When we're careless with our commitments, it weakens us. I mean when you make a commitment and you fall out on it. You promise to do something and then you don't do it. Every time you break a commitment, it weakens your life.
Samson made some commitments to God. In fact, that was the reason he was strong. His supernatural strength was a gift from God due to his commitment to God. The Bible tells us that early in his life, he took a vow called the Nazirite vow. The Nazirite vow said, "I belong 100% to God. I'm going to dedicate all my time and energy and effort to God's work." God said, "OK, you're special. As a sign of that you're to do three things that will make you different from everybody else."
1. No alcohol. Samson was never to drink any alcohol his entire life.
2. He had a special diet. He was only supposed to eat certain foods that were very different from what the rest of the people were allowed to eat.
3. He was never to cut his hair. It was a daily reminder that he belonged to God.
He had made this commitment and that was the source of his strength. You're only as strong as what you're committed to. But Samson toyed with this commitment. He was continually compromising his convictions for convenience sake. He played around. He was careless with his commitment. He toyed with temptation. His goal was, "How close can I get to the fire and not get burned? How close to the cliff can I get without falling off?"
Every once in a while somebody will come to me and say, "Can I be a Christian and do -----?" I want to stop them right there. Time out! That's the wrong question in the first place. The issue is not how much can I get away with and still call myself a Christian. The issue is am I willing to do what he says? The issue is not how far away can I get from God's rules and principles and still claim to be a part of the family of God? the issue is not how far away from God can I get and still claim to be a believer. But how close to God could I get. It's not always a matter of right or wrong, black or white. Sometimes there are grey areas and you just want to stay out of the grey. The Bible says "Avoid the appearance of evil."
The best example of Samson's carelessness was in his relationship to Delilah. That story is in chapter 16. Delilah was a real babe! She was the third woman in three chapters but this one he was sure was the right one. When the men who were the enemies of Samson found out that Delilah was his girlfriend, they hired her for twenty-five grand to find out the secret of his strength. So every night she would woo Samson into telling her what his secret of his strength was. Samson played along with it. He was playing with fire but he went along. He was teasing her.
The first time he said, "I'll tell you my secret of strength. Tie me up with seven bow strings, like from a bow and arrow." So he goes to sleep. The next morning he wakes up and surprise! He's tied up with seven bow strings and there's strange men in the room and his wife says, "Wake up! Wake up Samson!" He pops the strings, beats up a few guys and throws them out.
She comes back the next night and she says, "Samson, tell me! What's the real secret of your strength." He says, "It's new ropes." He's playing with her, toying with temptation. If you bind me up with new ropes then I can't break through new ropes. So he goes to sleep that night. The next morning he wakes up and surprise! He's bound with new ropes. And there are men in the room. He gets up, breaks the ropes, knocks them out, and throws them out the door.
You would figure he would know something is going on here, wouldn't you? I think Samson's elevator didn't go all the way to the top! The lights are on but nobody's home. More brawn than brains. This guy is not too smart.
So the third night his girlfriend says, "Ah, Sammy baby... " (A man is never weaker than when a woman is telling him how strong he is.) "You're making a fool of me." He says, "If you braid my hair then I'll lose my strength." He's getting closer to the real thing. He's getting closer. He's teasing. He knows exactly what he's doing but he's saying, "I can handle it." Ever heard that line? "I've got it all in control. I can handle it. I know how far I can go and I won't go any further." Who do you think you're kidding? He's being careless with his commitment.
So the third morning he wakes up and his hair's braided and he still has his strength. He gets up and bloodies a few more noses and tosses the guys out.
But he was careless once too often. He kept playing with what he knew he shouldn't be playing with and finally he gave in. His lifestyle of self-indulgence, resentment and carelessness finally weakened him and he gave in. 16:15 "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've made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your great strength.' With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death." v. 17 "So he told her everything." A tragic phrase! He told her everything. He finally gave in. He had said, "It will be different for me. I can handle it." But that was Satan's set up.
In the last few years we have seen dozens and dozens of leaders fall through scandals. Financial scandals, sex scandals. You name it! Leaders in government, leaders in sports. Why would a guy making ten million a year throw it all away on cocaine? Leaders in business. Leaders in politics, even leaders in the ministry. You look at that kind of thing and say, "Good night! How can that happen?" How does that happen that guys who start out so good hit the skids and throw it all away for nothing -- a moment of pleasure. How can that happen?
I'll tell you exactly how it happens. They were careless. They were careless in their commitments. They failed to take God seriously. It didn't happen all at once. They didn't just wake up overnight and find themselves in a scandal. It was choices that they made -- little choices at the start that weren't even right or wrong. It was a matter of good and better and best. They began a gradual slip and slide.
Bill Hybel says "Nobody falls off the cliff of character overnight." I agree. It starts by little slippages and carelessness and a failure to keep basic commitments and habits like reading God's word on a daily basis and doing the things that count in life. All of a sudden they wake up one morning to a rude awakening to find "I've lost it all!" Because of self-indulgence, resentment, or/and carelessness.
The lesson is to maintain spiritual strength I must keep my commitments even when I don't feel like keeping them. That's the mark of maturity. I must keep my commitments to God, to my mate, to my children, to my employee or my employer, to all that I'm accountable to.
Psalm 15:4 "He always does what he promises, no matter how much it costs." There's an old saying that says, A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You are only as strong spiritually as your weakest commitment.
What are you committed to? You are as strong as what you're committed to. In the Sunshine Coast community Church we have two avenues to help build spiritual commitment in you so you'll make it to the end of the race. One of them is the C.L.A.S.S. programs -- the basic classes: 101, 201, 301, 401 to help guide you through four basic commitments that you need for the Christian life. If you haven't taken those classes I encourage you to come to them. If you're already a member of the church, I encourage you to take 201. In that class we talk about the three indispensable habits that you need in your life in order to maintain spiritual health, spiritual strength so you make it to the end of the race and you don't get fatigued and drop out. I encourage you to sign up for that class.
It's sad to say but some of you five years from now, some of you will be spiritually washed up. I hate to say that but it's true -- the law of averages. Why will that happen? Because you never took God seriously in the first place. You never made some basic commitments like we talk about in 101, 201, 301, 401 to build your Christian life on the right base.
There's another avenue to encourage you in your spiritual commitment. That is small groups. You need the support of other people who are just like you who are going through the same things you're going through who you can share with, get to know, pray with, be encouraged by. If you think you can make it in the Christian life by yourself, you're fooling yourself. You're not going to make it. The cultural pressures are too heavy. You've got to have support.
What happened with Samson? Samson's life was a tragedy. 16:21 "Then the Philistines seized him, gorged his eyes out, took him down to Gaza, binding him with bronze shackles they set him to grinding in the prison." The champion becomes a clown. The superstar hits the skids. He loses his freedom. He loses his power. He loses his potential.
It would be a tragic story if it left it there. But the Bible tells us when we read the rest of the chapter that in prison, he had a change of heart and said, "All right, God, I'm finally going to get serious with You. I'm finally going to get real and quit playing around." He recommitted his life to God. The Bible says God gave him a second chance. If you know the rest of the story, Samson's last day of his life was his greatest victory. It was such a great victory that he's listed in Hebrews 11, God's hall of fame -- Who's Who? After his greatest failure came his greatest victory when he got serious about his commitments.
Like to ask you to consider a couple of questions:
1. What is the weak link in your life? Is it self indulgence? Do you find yourself saying, "Just this once.... I can handle it... It's no big deal... I can do these kinds of things, watch these kinds of things, read these kind of things, eat these kind of things and it won't bother me." Where do you think that idea is coming from? When you base your decisions on pleasure rather than principle -- "It feels good!"
Is resentment the weak link in your life? You're still trying to get even for past hurts? Is carelessness? You've allowed some slippage in your commitment to Christ. You've bought into the lie "I can handle it. It won't bother me." You've been flirting with something you know is wrong. You've been careless with spiritual habits. What's the weak link?
2. When are you going to do something about it? Why don't you start doing something about it now? We're moving into and new period for our church. A new building and a new start. Maybe you need a new start and that would became by building some commitments into your life. Some of you need to join the church. That would be your next step of commitment. Some of you need to take 101 or 201 or 301. Maybe you need to join a small group. Be a doer of the word and not a hearer only.
Some of you are saying "It sounds good but I feel like I've messed my life up so much God could never use me." You're wrong! God took Samson. Take heart. He never gave up on Samson and He's never given up on you. You can come back to Him today. The playboy ended up becoming a prophet.
It doesn't matter so much where you've been as the direction of your feet this morning. You come to Christ and say, "I give You all my life. Take it and remake it into something beautiful."
Father I know that there are people here this morning that You've spoken to, some dealing with the area of self indulgence -- it's a small area of their life but it's a leak that could sink the ship. There are some here that are struggling with resentment who need to let it go. There are some here who have been careless with their commitment to You. They need to get serious. I pray that this church will be filled with people who, not only start well in the Christian life, but end up well. I pray that for my own life. I pray that for our staff and I pray that for these here today. Help us to make the commitments we need to make. In Jesus' name, Amen.