Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Loss and Recovery of Spiritual Power - by Bruce Edwards

Judges 16:4-6,19-20
4  And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 
5  And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver. 
6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee...
19 ...And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. 
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.

            Alright so let's move into the message for today.
            I encourage you to keep your Bibles open and to look at the Scriptures.
            These last three weeks I have been preaching a series entitled, "Sermons From Solitary Confinement". 
            Now that terminology in English may be a little difficult for some of you.  Solitary confinement means a prison. Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament many people who believed in God and served God were put in prison because of their faith.  If you live a righteous life for God, you can expect the devil to come and attack you. You may not be put in a prison of brick walls and sealed bars. But the devil will try to place you in circumstances where your service for God becomes ineffective.
            And so in this series we have been looking at some of the circumstances that people of God found themselves in.  They were put in a real prison of brick walls and sealed bars, and their faith was tried.  And as we read their stories we can be encouraged to trust God in our circumstances as well. 
            Today we're going to look at the story of a man called Samson. And from his life we are going to learn a very special lesson. And the title of the message today is: "The Loss and Recovery of Spiritual Power".
           Okay I'm going to pick out a few verses from the Scripture that we read a little moment ago. 
            In verse 19 it says: "And Samson's strength went from him".
            In verse 20 it says that Samson said, "I will do as I have always done - but he did not know that the Lord had departed from him".
            Then we have a very interesting verse, and it says that "the hair of the head of Samson began to grow again". 
            Verses 19 and 20 are talking about the loss of spiritual power from Samson. But verse 22 describes how Samson begins to get that power back again.  The hair of his head began to grow again.  Samson began to recover the power that he had with God! 
            One of the saddest experiences of pastoral life is to see somebody lose their power with God - but one of the greatest joys is to see that same person recover that power.
            Now when I mention power, I'm not talking about those weaknesses that we feel in difficult circumstances.  (All of us face challenges in our walk of faith.  And in those circumstances we feel our weakness, and we call upon God - and He answers us, and He sees us through those circumstances to a place of victory.)  I am talking about somebody here who knows that they had power with God, but they've lost that power.  Today I want to encourage you that today you can recover that power with God!
            Samson's hair began to grow again.  He began to feel the power of God upon his life.  Today somebody's hair is going to grow again!  Hallelujah!  Today once again in this service, somebody is going to feel the power of God upon their life again!
            Now let me just give you a little bit of background about this story.
            It is found in the Bible in a book we call the Book of Judges (in English).  The Book of Judges records a very special time in the history of the Jews.  Israel had no king.  And for a period of time the Jews would worship God and they would serve Him faithfully, but then they would go away from Him.  And God would send to them people who we call in English judges (a different word in Japanese) - these were men and women who were able to lead the nation back to God again.
            (And there's a book in the Bible called the Book of Ruth.  That story of Ruth happened during the time when these judges ruled.)
            So this period of history was a time when the Jews served God - and went away; served God - and went away.   And in those circumstances God raised up  a man called Samson. 
            Now we're going to look very briefly at his life story.
            His parents had no children.  One day the angel of the Lord visited them.  They did not know it was an angel - it (that person) just looked like any other man.  But the angel told them that they would have a son and that this son would not be just like any other child - he would be very special and he would do a special job for God in the nation.
            And the angel told the parents something very strange.  First of all the angel spoke to Samson's mother, before she even conceived.  He said, "You are not to have any wine.  You are not to have any fermented juices.  And when that child is born, you are never to cut his hair".
            And so this boy Samson was born.  And the angel said to his mother, "He is to be called by a special name - he is to be called a Nazarite."  
            Now I don't want you to confuse this word with the name of a person who comes from the town of Nazareth, like Jesus.  It's a different name.  This word refers to a special kind of people.  We don't have time to go into the details today, but throughout the Bible we can find out what kind of people these people were. They were people whose life was totally dedicated to God.  They were dedicated to serving God and doing His will.  They did not live ordinary lives like ordinary people.  They did not drink wine or other fermented drink.  And they had long hair - even the men.  And that long hair was a sign that their life was totally dedicated to God.  Samson was a Nazarite.  He came at the will of God to do a special purpose. 
            (Just for your information: Samuel - the boy Samuel - was also a Nazarite; in the New Testament - John the Baptist was a Nazarite; and for a short time even the Apostle Paul took a Nazarite vow.) 
            Samson was born with a very special purpose on his life.  And we read about that in Judges 13:5 where it says that he would "deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines". 
            And so for that purpose he was dedicated unto God before he was born, and he lived a life that was dedicated unto God.
            And as a sign of that his hair was long.  And so as we read through the life of Samson, we find that the Holy Spirit came upon him at special times.
            Now this experience of the Holy Spirit is different from what you and I experience when we believe in Jesus Christ.  Five times in the life of Samson it says the Holy Spirit came upon him mightily, and began to move him
            So we can look at some of the things that Samson did with the power of the Holy Spirit upon him:
            On one occasion it says that Samson saw a lion catch a little lamb [or a goat].  The Holy Spirit gave him supernatural strength to catch that lion and release the lamb.
            On another occasion it says that the Holy Spirit came upon Samson and he killed 300 men with one hand [or singlehandedly].
            Then there was another occasion when something very strange happened.  It says that Samson caught 300 foxes, tied their tails together, put some grass around their tails, set the grass on fire - and all the foxes ran into the field and burnt all the [wheat] field.  These were all [or each] actions as part of his mission to free the Israelites from the Philistines.
            There is [or was] another occasion when Samson was being held in the city, but he broke free and went out to the gate of the city, picked up the gate of the city, and walked away with it!
            And then there was another occasion when once again, singlehandedly, he killed 3000 Philistines.
            So that is a brief summary of the life [or some of the deeds] of Samson.  Remember that he was a Nazarite - his life was dedicated to the service of God.  And the Holy Spirit came upon him to help him achieve those things.
            But Samson lost that power with God! 
            So briefly now I want to take you through that part of his life when Samson lost that power with God that he had.
            Remember that his life was dedicated unto God.  And when we lose our power with God, it does not happen suddenly.  Usually there are things in our life that eventually result in us losing that power with God. I'm going to mention some of these just now.  I want you to think about your own life.
            The first thing we know about Samson was that he had an uncontrolled passion.  The Bible says that he had a weakness for women.  That eventually brought him into a relationship that resulted in the loss of his power.
            The Bible mentions three women in the life of Samson.  And each of them were outside the will and permission of God.  And those relationships eventually resulted in him losing his power with God.
            Now God blesses the union between a man and a woman [husband and wife] - God has permitted us to enjoy the pleasures of that union.  Some of us have other things that we enjoy in life that God has given us to enjoy.  As I mentioned in the sermon last week - everything God gives us, there is a frame around it - boundaries around it.  While we remain within those boundaries, God will bless the pleasures that He gives us.  But when we go outside those boundaries, it will result in the loss of power with God.
            There was something else in the life of Samson - and it was that he held his calling from God very lightly. 
            Before he was born, God had determined that his life would be special.  He was a Nazarite.  His life was meant to be served [spent] totally for the service of God.  But he allowed other things to come into his life.  And he began to think that that calling was not all so special after all.  He began to pursue other interests, which resulted in the loss of his power. 
            We find Samson in a relationship with [a woman named] Delilah.  In her presence his hair was cut.  Remember that his long hair was a sign of his dedication unto God.  When his hair was cut it was a symbol that he had lost his power with God.
            There is [was] something else in the downfall of Samson - and it was that he surrendered a sacred trust that was given to him. 
            Many times over, in the story, we read that Samson told Delilah everything that was in his heart.  This refers to his special relationship with God. Samson knew where his strength came from.  [His parents would have told him the story about how even before he was born, the angel had visited his parents.]  He was a very special child.  He was dedicated to the service of God.  Samson knew these things and he held them in his heart.  But when he was with Delilah he opened up and he told those secrets to her.
            Sometimes God will speak to you in a special way.  He will tell you things that only you are meant to know.  You are meant to hold those things in your heart.  They are something between you and God alone.  And nobody should know about them but you and God alone!
            I think of Mary the mother of Jesus.  The angel visited Mary and told her that she would have a special child born.  That child would be the Son of God - that we know is Jesus Christ.  The Bible says that she held those things in her heart.  Samson's downfall happened because he didn't hold those things in his heart - he shared them with somebody who would not appreciate the sacredness of them and the special circumstances.
            So he had an uncontrolled passion; he held his calling lightly; he surrendered a sacred trust that he had in his heart - and the outcome of that was that Samson was taken and was placed in a prison.
            And we can see the circumstances of him when he was in prison.  Then he was a miserable figure, with no strength whatever - physically or spiritually.  He was confined to the prison.  They even tore out his eyes - he couldn't see what he was doing.  They bound him with fetters on his feet so that he found it hard to walk.  And in that prison he was made to do the work that normally an animal would do.  What a miserable figure of a man who has lost his power with God!
            Worse than that, the Bible says that even the Lord had departed from him.  You see because Samson's strength came because God was with him.
            This is the figure of Samson that we see.  A man who had a special birth; a man who had a special mission in his life; a man who experienced the awesome power of God in his life - and now he' s powerless; in a prison; living a life like an animal.
            But you see God has promised to be always with us.  And when God calls us He will always fulfil His call.  This is not the end of the story - we're talking about the loss and recovery of spiritual power.  When God calls you to a service, He will always fulfil it through you.
            So now I want us to look at how Samson recovered his spiritual power with God.
            I want you to remember that he is still there in prison.  His life is miserable.  He's living the life of an animal.  And the first step towards recovery is that the Bible says, "his hair began to grow again". 
            Remember that his hair - his long hair - was a symbol of his dedication to God.  There is a lesson that we can learn from this, and the lesson is that even in adverse circumstances, God's mercy is there. 
            His hair began to grow again!  Slowly but surely, the strength that he had began to return.  God was there with him, even in the prison. 
            God will always fulfil His purpose.  He will find a way to bring you back into relationship with Himself.  He will find a way to restore His power on your life. 
            And to do that sometimes He calls the circumstances in your life to bring you to that relationship.  It may be that you are going through difficult circumstances right now. They may be related to you personally; they may be related to your family; they may be related to your work situation.   God may have ordered those circumstances so that He can bestow His mercy upon you.
            I often wonder why it is that so many Japanese people visit this land of Australia.  Why do you come here?  You have a beautiful country - Japan!  But sometimes circumstances happen so that God can get your attention.  Those circumstances may have happened in your life when you were in Japan, or God might have even brought you into this country and placed you in very special circumstances. 
            Today you find yourself here in this church service, and I am talking to you about how you can have power with God.  This place, this time, this circumstance may be a circumstance ordained of God for you.  Oh don't miss this opportunity to get to know God!  You may never have another opportunity like this.
            There in the dungeon in the prison, Samson found the mercy of God.  His hair began to grow; he found his strength returning. 
            There was something else that helped him recover his strength.  The rulers had a party, and they said, "Bring Samson out of the prison."  And so Samson came out of the prison.  But there was a little boy helping him walk because he couldn't see.  And wherever Samson went the little boy went with him holding his hand. 
            What does this teach us?  That we need to rekindle our heart for God.  How do we do it?  We can rekindle a heart for God by being in fellowship with God's people.  The little boy was Samson's eyes.  Everywhere the little boy went, Samson followed.  And I can imagine that the little boy described for Samson what was happening in the party. 
            Maybe today there is a Samson in this room - your spiritual eyes have become blind.  You wonder where God is.  You think, If God is real why are my circumstances like they are?
            God brings a little boy into your hand.  He brings a Christian believer into your life, a neighbour.  And they take hold of your hand, and they said, "Come on, come with me, come to church with me, see how we love God, see how we worship Him, hear how He blesses our life".
            Maybe today there is a little boy in your life.  Don't be afraid where he leads you.  That person in your life now is ordained of God to bring you to know Him. 
            One thing that that little boy did for Samson was this: Samson said to the little boy, "Help me feel the big posts that hold up the building - I want to feel them".  Remember Samson is blind.  He doesn't know where those big posts are.  So the little boy takes Samson's hands, and he stretches them out, and he touches the posts.  And he stretches out his other hand and he says, "Here's the other post out here".  Samson begins to feel the posts that support the great building. 
            I want to suggest to you what those two posts might be.  Remember Samson is recovering his power and strength with God.  I want to suggest to you that one of those posts is called grace or mercy; and the other post is called truth.  And the Bible tells us that when Jesus Christ came to the earth He came to bring the grace and the truth of God to us. 
            Oh Samson had known what that grace and truth was.  He knew that God's grace was upon his life because he was specially born.  He knew that grace and truth was upon his life because the Holy Spirit came and strengthened him to do great things.  But Samson went away from God.  And he needed to touch the grace and truth of God again.  The little boy put his hand upon the two pillars of the building.  I hope today I'm helping you to put your hand upon the pillar of grace and the pillar of truth today.
            Now there was something else that helped Samson recover His strength.  It says that he "called upon the Name of the Lord".
            Look what it says in verse 28 of chapter 16, verse 28, "And Samson called upon the Lord and said, Remember me!  Lord I pray, Strengthen me just one more time!  Just once!"
            Samson began to call upon the Name of the Lord.  In doing so he admitted his failure and his weakness. 
            In the past he knew that God's power was upon him.  Perhaps he began to think that that power was in himself and not in God.  But there in the prison, with his eyes blinded, with chains around his feet, living a life of an animal, he came to realize something - that by himself he was absolutely weak and had no strength at all.  But he called upon the Lord.  "Lord, remember me!  And strengthen me just one more time". 
            Is there somebody here today that needs to call upon the Lord, and say, "Remember me, and strengthen me again"?
            It says finally that Samson took a hold of those pillars.  It says in verse 29, "And Samson took hold of the two pillars which supported the house (verse 29)".
            I've suggested to you that these two pillars represent God's grace and God's truth.  Today you have heard about the grace and the truth of God - you've heard about it in the singing of the songs that we sang in worship; you've heard about it in the testimony that we had; you've perhaps even heard about it through your friends.  But there's something you need to do about God's grace and about God's truth.  You need to take hold of it! You need to say, "Yes, God's grace is true, and I can believe what the Bible says about God.  And so I take hold of grace and I take hold of truth!"
            Samson took hold of the two pillars.  His hair had begun to grow; the little boy had helped him put his hands upon the pillars; he had called out to God and said, "Remember me and strengthen me!"  As he touched those pillars, faith began to work and his strength returned.  And he pressed himself against the pillars, "Arrrggh!!"  And boom! it began to fall.
            Now of course we may think that's a rather horrible story.  Remember though that Samson had a mission from God - that was to release Israel from the Philistines.  In that one act he did release his nation to freedom again.  Samson in that moment died with the Philistines.  But with his death, his mission was accomplished.
            And Samson's death is a picture of our dying with Jesus Christ upon the cross.  When we surrender our will and our lives to Jesus Christ, it's just as if we died with Him.  Our weaknesses died with Him.  Our sin died with Him.  
            But Jesus Christ rose from the dead!  And we also are risen with Him to a new kind of life.  We are restored to fellowship with God.  The power of God's Holy Spirit is given to us.  God's calling comes into our life.  And we are sent forth to do a task for God in the earth.   
            I'm bringing this message to a close now.  We have read and talked about a story in the Old Testament which happened probably about 3,000 years ago.  But that story is applicable to you and I today.  The Bible says that in the last days many shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.  As I said at the beginning of this message, Satan will come and he will want to destroy your life.  He will do everything he can to stop God's mission for your life being accomplished.  But God promises to us His strength to be victorious. 
            The Book of Galatians has a lot to teach us about this.  Samson was drawn away from God by Delilah.  A very interesting word in English - betwitched - in Japanese it's very different of course.  This is the same word that we would use for fortune tellers.  In other words, through deception - through something that looks good - there is evil working through it.  The Apostle Paul said to the Christians in Galatians, "Who has drawn you away? Who has deceived you?"
            Then he gives them the secret of how they can return to God, and how they can be restored to power with God.  That secret was the power of the Holy Spirit.   He begins to talk to them again about receiving the Holy Spirit.  He begins to talk to them again about walking the life of faith.  So he speaks to us today and he says, "Come back to a life of faith.  Come back to a life in relationship with the Holy Spirit".
            The Apostle Paul in the Book of Galatians says something else: "Why have you turned away from the Lord, and gone back into slavery?"  Remember Samson - he had power with God, but he turned away from God - he ended up in prison.  And the Apostle Paul asks the question, "How did that happen?" 
            And he also gives us the secret of coming out of that slavery.  It talks about them experiencing again Jesus Christ living within them.  And today we need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ lives within us!
            Galatians 4:19 says, "Oh my children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ is formed in you".   The way out of that deception is to realize that Jesus Christ lives within you!
            Finally the way we often go into slavery is by losing our first love.  And the way back is through repentance and doing what we did when we first received Jesus Christ into our life.  
            The way back to power with God is through faith and relationship with the Holy Spirit!
            The way back to power with God is to acknowledge that Jesus Christ lives within you!
            The way back to power is through repentance and doing what you did when you first received Christ as your Saviour! 
            I said in the beginning of this message that there are many examples of this in the Bible.  The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament in chapter 11 lists a great list of people who had experienced these kinds of things.  And it describes those people's lives in this way: it says that "through faith they subdued kingdoms and wrought righteousness, and obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of the sword, escaped the edge of the sword, and waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the enemies of the aliens". 
            And right in the middle of that list, it mentions those who from weakness were made strong again.  Samson is mentioned in that list.  Today your name can be written on that list, on the honour roll of faith!
            Today we've talked about the loss and recovery of spiritual power.  We have looked at the life of Samson.  We've seen that he had a special birth; that he had a special mission on his life; that he was dedicated to the service of God; and through the power of the Holy Spirit he was able to do might things for God.  But he lost that power! because he held his calling lightly; he told people the secrets of his heart.  He ended up in a prison, living like an animal.
            God had His eye on him.  There in that prison, he found the mercy of God.  With the help of the little boy, he felt the pillars of the building again.  He remembered the grace and truth of God.  He called out to the Lord and said, "Remember me and strengthen me just once more!" 
            By faith in God the power was restored to him.  And he accomplished God's mission for his life. 
            The simple truth I want to leave you with today is that you can be restored to power with God. 
           Now I know that there are people in this room today who have never found God in their life.  I want to tell you that your birth was a special birth; that God has a special calling for your life; and He will give you the power and the strength to fulfil that calling.  That life begins by receiving Jesus Christ into your life.
            For the very first time you need to touch the grace and the mercy of God.  That grace is in Jesus Christ.  You need to touch the truth of God - and that truth is in Jesus Christ.  When you touch the grace and truth in Jesus Christ, the power of God's life will come into you. 
            Those of you here in this room today have not come here by chance. These are circumstances that God has planned for you.  Don't miss this chance to receive Jesus Christ and know God. 

            I'm going to ask everybody to bow their head and close their eyes...

...Transcribed by John Edwards

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