Look Ahead, Not Back

The following is from our new devotional, Give Me A Faith Like That. As we approach the end of 2022 and the beginning of a new year, we all can look back and find a few regrets. May Samson’s story encourage you to take Paul’s attitude as your own, and forget what lies behind to press on toward the prize for which Jesus called us!

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God,that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”

–Judges 16:28

Faith Examined

It might seem out of place to include Samson’s story in a devotional about faith. Samson’s story is very sad, a testimony to a wasted life, a picture of what happens when we take the gift of life that God means to use for His glory and spend it on ourselves. Even so, his story is included in scripture for a reason; his imperfect faith teaches us much about the grace, mercy, and sovereignty of God.

Samson’s birth was unusual. The angel of the Lord visited his parents and promised a son would be born. This was exciting news, because up until this time his mother was barren. The child was to be dedicated to the Lord as a Nazarite from before his birth. His mother was given strict instructions not to drink wine or eat any unclean thing while pregnant. God chose Samson and set him apart for His sovereign purposes from the womb. Normally, the Nazarite vow was a voluntary act for a specified period of time, when a person would abstain from three things as an act of consecration or dedication. However, Samson was to be a Nazarite from birth to death, by God’s own choosing. The Nazarite vow meant he was never to drink wine or anything from the vine, never to cut his hair, and never to go near a dead body.

Samson had a special calling on his life, and he also had a special gift, which was supernatural strength. God’s intent was that Samson would use this gift to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but as you read through the story of how he spent his life, you see that instead, Samson used his gift of strength for his own pleasure and glory. He was drawn into relationships with foreign women who worshipped other gods. He lied. He broke the Nazarite vow when he killed a lion and then went back to get honey from it. He demanded a wife like a spoiled child, and his arrogance and temper cost her life. And he foolishly gave away the secret of his strength when he was deceived by a woman.

Samson wasted what God gave him on physical pleasures and pride. He caused the Philistines trouble at times, but he never accomplished what “could have been” if he had instead chosen to use his gifts and influence for God’s glory.

Toward the end of his life, we find Samson in prison, the object of mockery and scorn. His eyes are gouged out and his strength is gone. He is a broken man and seemingly forgotten by God.

This was not, however, the end of his story.

Unnoticed by those who held him prisoner, his hair begins to grow back. One day, his tormentors call for him to be bound between two great columns upon which a house rested. The Philistines wanted Samson brought out to amuse themselves; he was the entertainment of the day. Over three thousand men and women filled the house and the roof, including the lords of the Philistines.

We can’t know for certain what was going through Samson’s mind that day as he listened to the sounds of revelry and mocking, but we do see a glimmer of hope that his heart was repentant at the end and filled with regret for wasting the life God had given him. He asked God for one final moment of supernatural strength to avenge the loss of his eyes. God heard his request, and in grace and mercy, the power of God surged through Samson once again and brought destruction on the enemies of God’s people.

Faith Enacted

Samson’s story reminds us that no matter how broken we are, no matter how far we’ve fallen, no matter how wasteful we’ve been with the gifts and blessings God’s given us, there is hope for repentance until the moment we take our last breath. God hears the prayer of faith and repentance, even in our dying moments.

I believe God forgave Samson at that moment. God’s calling and choosing are irrevocable (Romans 11:29), and Samson is listed in the great hall of fame chapter of Hebrews 11 as one of God’s faithful servants. His life stands as a reminder of how not to serve God, but also as a beacon of hope for those who find themselves at the end of a life filled with regret.

If Samson could speak to us, I feel confident he would tell us not to wait until the end of our lives to get over “ourselves” and surrender our lives to God for His glory. But, he would also give us hope if our story mirrors his.

What has God given you? Are you using it for your glory, or His? Give me a faith like Samson, that returns to God in my darkest moments, trusting that He is able to redeem what I’ve lost, and will welcome me home at the end.

Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

Faith Expressed

Dear Father, We are often like Samson, caught up in our own pleasures and seeking satisfaction in other things instead of using the gifts and blessings You have given us to bring You glory. May we set aside our own desires and live faithfully for You. And if, by chance, we are approaching our death and realize the mistakes we’ve made, may we not be too proud to ask for Your mercy, and renew our faith in You, even if it’s the last thing we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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