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If You're Not Dead You're Not Done

Samson  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:17
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NOTE:
This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
Engagement
We’ve been looking at the life of Samson for 4 weeks and based on what we’ve learned about his life so far, I’m going to share what might very well be one of the most surprising verses in the Bible.
Many of you know that Hebrews 11 is often called the “Faith Hall of Fame” because it contains the names of the great heroes of faith from the Old Testament - people like Noah and Abraham and Moses and David. Although none of those people were perfect and they made mistakes, often significant ones, they had a heart for God and it’s easy to see why they are included in that chapter.
But there are also a few surprises in that chapter. For instance, when we get to verse 31, we might be a little surprised to see Rahab mentioned knowing that she was a prostitute. But when we consider the faith that led her to protect the Israelite spies, maybe the inclusion of her name is not quite as unexpected as we first thought.
But then in verse 32, we read this:
Hebrews 11:32 ESV
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—
Now I get some of the names on that list. For sure David and Samuel were men of faith. And so were Gideon, Barak and Jephthah. But Samson? Now I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God - every single word of it. But based on what we’ve seen so far I have a hard time believing that Samson made the list.
Tension
But at the same time, I’m also really encouraged by that verse because it means that it is possible for anyone to turn their life around and exercise faith, regardless of their past.
Some of you here this morning might feel a bit like Samson. You’ve really made a mess of your life and you’re wondering if it’s too late to change things. You’re wondering if God could ever love you based on how you’ve lived your life up until now. You’re wondering if there is any possible way to be forgiven and make a clean start.
Others haven’t fallen away from God to that extent, but you still have some things from your past that are weighing you down and keeping you from serving God the way you know you should.
If that is the case, then this morning’s message is good news for you. Actually it’s great news.
Truth
This is the fifth and final message in our series on the life of Samson. And to close the series, I want to bring us full circle back to the main idea from our first message from Judges chapter 13:

It’s not how you begin, but how you finish that matters

In that first message, we focused the idea that Samson had great potential that he never lived up to. He was born into a godly family and was blessed by God and equipped by the Holy Spirit. But because of lust, compromise and anger he never accomplished even a fraction of what God had called him to do. And so step by step he walked away from God until he was taken captive by the Philistines. Instead of delivering God’s people as he should have done, he has his eyes gouged out and is made to grind grain like a common beast of burden.
Can you imagine what that would have been like for Samson? Walking around in circles chained to the wooden post of a grain grinder while people mocked him and made fun of him. It just doesn’t seem that things could possible get worse for Samson, but Samson is about to find out that they can. But in the midst of those horrible circumstances, Samson is also going to discover that regardless of where we find ourselves, it’s never to late to find our way back to God. Even if we don’t begin well, it’s still possible to end well. Or as I’m going to phrase today’s main idea:

If you’re not dead, you’re not done.

As long as you are still breathing, then God can still use you regardless of your past. Let’s see how that was true in the life of Samson and how it can be true for us, too.
We’ll pick up the account of Samson’s life in verse 23 of Judges 16:
Judges 16:23–27 ESV
23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.
All the Philistine big shots gathered together in the temple of their main God, Dagon. Dagon was the god of the harvest and had the head of a man and the body of a fish. He was essentially a merman.
I don’t know about you, but I think I would have a pretty hard time taking seriously a god who looked like that.
Dagon’s temple was obviously huge, probably more like some kind of coliseum that had layers of seating on top of each other. We know that at a minimum there were 3,000 people just on the roof, so it’s likely that there were several times that number there in total.
And they are there drinking and having a good time and yelling “Thank you man-fish god for delivering Samson into our hands”. And then they command Samson to come out and entertain them. They probably stripped Samson and completely humiliated him. There is a sense in which Samson deserved that. But the larger problem is that he also robbed God of His glory and God obviously didn’t deserve that.
That’s a sobering thing for us to think about, isn’t it. When we rebel against God, we not only suffer the consequences of our own decisions and often hurt others, but we also rob God of His glory. And that ought to break our heart.
It’s hard to imagine that things could get any worse for Samson. And so he is faced with the same choice that we face when we’ve blown it - when we’ve wasted the gifts, resources, talents and abilities that God has given us when we’ve rebelled against God and robbed Him of His glory.
When that happens, there are two possible ways we can respond:

TWO POSSIBLE RESPONSES TO FAILURE:

Remorse
This is our natural response. Remorse means that I feel bad about what I did, or sometimes it only means that I feel bad that I got caught. And remorse can manifest itself in a couple of different ways:
I can express remorse inwardly. “I feel bad about what I did. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m a horrible person. I hate myself. I hate my life.”
I can express it outwardly by claiming I’m the victim and blaming other people. “I wouldn’t have done this if I just had a better spouse or better parents or better kids or more money.”
Remorse focuses on the bad. It continually looks back.
Repentance
Repentance is the Spirit led response. It means that I own up to what I’ve done and take personal responsibility for it. “I blew it. It’s my fault.” But it’s more than that. It’s turning away from what is wrong and turning toward that which is good and right. It is turning away from self and turning to God.
Last week we saw that we don’t ruin our lives all at once. We do it one step at a time. and repentance means that I make a choice to stop before I take that next step and I turn around and go in the other direction.
Repentance recognizes the bad, but it doesn’t dwell on it. It looks to the future.
So let’s see which of those two options Samson chooses.
Judges 16:28–31 ESV
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.
If it wasn’t for what we read earlier in Hebrews 11, I would probably conclude that Samson is still seeking just to serve himself here. It seems that his main goal here is merely to avenge what the Philistines had done to him. But because of the fact that his name appears in the Faith Hall of Fame, I have to believe that at this point Samson has some kind of spiritual awakening. For the first time in his life he’s broken and humbled and it’s no longer all about him. Samson addresses God as the “Lord God”, which indicates humility and reverence on his part. So I am convinced that Samson chooses repentance and not just remorse here.
Samson understands that what he is asking God to empower him to do means he is going to die along with all the Philistine big shots. But he is willing to do that in order to finish his life well. His prayer here is the perfect illustration of what we said earlier:

If you’re not dead, you’re not done.

Samson essentially says to God, “I may not have long to live, but whatever I have left I will give to the God who has given me all that I have. With my last breath, I will let God use me to accomplish his purposes.”
The end of Samson’s life is proof that even in our failures, God can still accomplish His purposes. Remember back in Judges 13 that when Jesus appeared to Manoah and his wife, He revealed that Samson would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Up until now that had done a pretty poor job of that. Samson had killed 30 Philistines to pay off a gambling debt and killed another 1,000 with the jawbone of a donkey when he got caught up in a cycle of revenge. That hardly made a dent in the Philistines’ rule over Israel.
But when he used the very last bit of his strength to pull down the pillars of Dagon’s temple, he killed many times more Philistines in that one act than he had done in his entire lifetime. And not only that, he took out a great deal of the political and economic leadership of the Philistines, something that would contribute to Israel finally being able to conquer them under the reign of King David.
Application
So let’s close by seeing what we can learn from Samson about...

HOW TO CHOOSE REPENTANCE OVER REMORSE

Recognize that failure is what I do, not who I am
There are some of us who are paralyzed because we view ourselves as failures. Maybe we’re embarrassed or shamed by something that we did or didn’t do in our past. Maybe we hurt someone we loved. Or maybe we know that we missed some opportunity to do something that God called us to do. Or maybe we made a commitment to never again engage in some sinful habit in our life and then we turned around only a few days later or maybe even just a few hours later and did the same exact thing again. And so we feel like such a failure.
Samson failed God time after time in his life, but from God’s perspective, he was not a failure. After all, his name is written in the Faith Hall of Fame. And the same is true for you. You may have failed God time after time, too. But from God’s perspective you are not a failure. You are someone that He created so that He could love you and have fellowship with you. In fact, he loved you so much that He sent His Son to this earth to die on a cross so that every failure in your past, no matter how big, can be forgiven.
We have all failed God repeatedly, but that does not make us a failure.
Quit living in the past
As we said earlier, remorse looks back. It focuses on all the bad things I did in the past. But the problem with that is that I can’t undo anything I’ve done in the past. It’s kind of like sending a text or an email. Once I hit that send button, there is no way to undo or retrieve that message.
Samson couldn’t undo all the wrong he had done previously. He couldn’t undo his sexual immorality. He couldn’t undo the murders he had committed because of his anger. He couldn’t undo the times he had violated his Nazirite vow.
And you can’t undo your past either. You can’t unsleep with that person who was not your spouse. You can’t undo the harm you inflicted on others when you were addicted to alcohol. You can’t unlook at those images on your computer screen. You can’t undo the bad financial decisions you made. You can’t undo the times you yelled mean things at your parents.
Undoubtedly, there can be some profit in learning from our past, but we can’t dwell there.
I really like the illustration that Louie Giglio shared in the study the men have been doing during our Men’s Breakfasts. He likened our life to driving a car. We might occasionally have to look in our rear view mirror to see what is behind us, but we had better be looking forward through the windshield the majority of the time or we’re going to crash.
Or as Pastor Rick Warren put it:
“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.”
In order to truly repent, you have to quit going in the direction you’ve been going. But you can’t stop there. You also have to push some pillars down. That’s where the third step comes in.
Take specific steps to turn around
You may not be able to change your past, but you can change your future. But in order to do that, you have to take some specific steps to change the direction of your life. I’m sure most of you are aware that Albert Einstein once said”
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
And that is certainly true when it comes to repentance. Unless you take some specific steps to change your life, you are going to end up right back where you were.
Action
So here is what I want to ask you to do. Earlier I asked you to take a moment to get a piece of paper and something you could write on. If you’ve ever approached me on a Sunday morning with something important, you know that I will always tell you to either write it down on a piece of paper and give it to me or text or email me with the information. That’s because I know that otherwise I’m about 99% certain to forget what you told me because my focus is elsewhere. So this morning I’m going to ask everyone to take that piece of paper and write down at least one specific step you are going to take in order to repent this week.
I can’t possibly give you a complete list of potential steps that you might need to take, but I’m going to suggest a few possibilities with the hope that it will trigger your thoughts and help you discern what specific steps God might be leading you to take in your life.
Maybe you just haven’t been serious about your relationship with God and so you only read the Bible or pray sporadically whenever you don’t have anything else to do. So you need to find a Bible reading plan that you can stick to and find someone who can hold you accountable for following it. Maybe you made that commitment at the beginning of this year and you fell behind and quit at some point in time. Don’t let that hold you back. Just need to either pick up where you left off and go forward from there or just join back in where you would be if you would have kept up and recommit to sticking with it.
Perhaps you’ve been struggling in your marriage and this week you and your spouse need to call and make an appointment to get some counseling.
Maybe you’re dealing with some addiction and you need to check yourself into rehab or go to a meeting.
Maybe you need to confess to God that you haven’t been managing your money well and you need to ask for help. If that’s the case let me know and I can put you in touch with some people right here in our church who can help you with that.
Maybe you haven’t been giving to God generously and regularly and you need to start doing that this week.
Maybe you haven’t been a good employee. You show up late for work or you steal office supplies or you badmouth your boss. If that’s the case then tomorrow morning you need to show up for work early and begin to work as if you’re working for Jesus Himself.
Maybe you’ve been thinking that you need to spend more time with your kids and be a better parent, but you’ve been so busy making money that you haven’t been able to do that. Maybe that means that you need to sell some stuff you don’t really need and make some significant changes in your lifestyle so that you don’t have to work so much.
Kids, maybe you’ve been disobedient and disrespectful to your parents. So your specific step might be to start doing what you know you’re supposed to do even before your parents ask.
I know that some of those things might seem impossible to you right now. But if you are a disciple of Jesus, if you’ve commited your life to Him, then you have the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead living inside of you. So maybe you can’t do those things on your own. But you don’t have to. Just ask the Holy Spirit to guide and equip you.
If you’re not already a disciple of Jesus, then I can assure you that you won’t be able to make those kind of changes on your own. But the good news is that you can commit your life to Jesus today and the very moment you do that He has promised that He will send the Holy Spirit to live permanently in your life to help you.
Inspiration

If you’re not dead, you’re not done.

I am really encouraged by the account of Samson’s life in a way that I did not expect when we began five weeks ago. Obviously none of us would want our lives to take the same path that Samson took. We would hate to begin with such great potential and waste it because we were drawn away from God by our own selfish desires. We would hate to get caught up in a cycle of revenge that tasted sweet at first, but ended up tasting so bitter. We would hate to walk away from God one step at a time until we faced humiliation and robbed God of His glory.
But the truth is that we’ve probable all done that, although hopefully not to the same degree as Samson. And the good news for all of us is that as long as we’re not dead, God can still use us in spite of those failures as long as we’ll choose repentance over remorse.
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