Short daily devotionals for the socially distanced. These are thoughts from my daily time in the word. I use a bible reading plan that will have me in a different section of Scripture every day.
I hope they serve to give you courage and hope. You can subscribe to receive them as a daily email at the bottom of the page.
Tuesday, April 7th
Reading: Judges 12-14
24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
— Jdg 13:24–25 (ESV)
I can remember God calling me to serve Him when I was very young. The road between God extending that call and me actually being in any sort of position to respond was unnecessarily long and meandering due to my own own rebellion, but the call remained. Since I said “yes” to that call there has been one thing that has troubled me immensely. How and why would God use a sinner like me to accomplish some of His good purposes in the world? There have been times when that question has caused me to want to quit. I would see God gift and empower me to minister to His people, and then I would get home and still be the sinful me that I had always lived with. It is humbling, but also exasperating.
Judges is a tough read. It chronicles the life of God’s people when everyone just did what they wanted, and truth be told, when everyone does what they want, it isn’t pretty. In the story of the conception and birth and Samson though, there are threads of God’s covenant running in the midst of the people’s rebellion. But, here is the deal … Samson isn’t a very likable fellow. In fact, he is a fairly unlikable fellow who makes lots of terrible decisions and seems to have a bit of a “rage monster” or “Incredible Hulk” anger and strength combo. And yet, the refrain, throughout the life of Samson is that the Spirit of the Lord empowers him to accomplish remarkable things. How can that be? How can God work through such a sinful individual? Just three brief observations today.
There is a Difference Between the Spirit’s Gifts and the Spirit’s Fruits
Samson is clearly gifted by the Lord with some supernatural abilities that the text tells us again and again is the result of the Spirit. There is a difference then between the Spirit’s gifts and the Spirit’s fruits. The gifts are just that…gifts, given to us as a kindness of God. The fruits though require life long growth and care. They grow out of a life of walking in the Spirit. This should still be our focus and desire, that we would grow fruit. If God has given you remarkable gift, great! Be humble, be thankful, be faithful, and walk a life that focuses on fruit and not just gift. I have met too many Christian leaders who are incredibly gifted and also jerks. The reason for this is that we celebrate gift over fruit.
People Have the Ability to be Called by God and Still Desire Approval from People
Samson is right at the center of the covenant purposes of God with His people. He is called from the womb and set aside for a special part in Gods story, and yet, he is insecure, and it is this insecurity that leads to so much of the folly he experiences with his friends, his enemies, and the women he pursues.
We need believers who are secure in the call of God, so secure that they can serve people wholeheartedly without requiring constant recognition, affirmation and praise. This never ending need is the root of so much of our sin.
The Covenant Love of God is Stronger than All of our Rebellion
Watching Samson’s story unfold is like watching a slow motion car wreck directed by Tarantino. And yet, God is faithful to him, and even more importantly, God is faithful to His own covenant purposes, and he keeps Samson, even in the midst of the disastrous consequences of his sin.
Many years ago, a wonderful old Assemblies of God pastor by the name of Sam Ennis pointed out to me that Samson is in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. The writer of Hebrews was waxing lyrical about the great heroes of the faith, when he said…
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— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
— Heb 11:32–34.
Samson gets as much real estate in this list as David! How?
The hall of faith is really a hall of God’s faithfulness. God works through sinful people, because it’s the only people He has. Let us be a people then who humbly press into the call of God on our lives. Let us not shrink back in a false humility, failing to understand the grace of the call, and let us not advance forward arrogantly thinking that we somehow earned the gifts He has given us.
He will accomplish His purposes through us. Let us humbly pursue the fruit of the Spirit and leave the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit to the great and faithful gift giver.
Courage, dear friends.