Jay Wicks – Samson, Dying to Self – Salem, OR - 2008 January 13

Hebrews 11:32 "And what shall I say more? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy)" A phrase in the 34th verse says "out of weakness we're made strong." It gives a list of faithful people who through faith and the power of God working in their lives were victorious in serving God, in glorifying God and honoring God with their lives.

It speaks here about Samson. I would like to speak a little bit today about Samson. We have the story of Samson over in Judges 13 through the 16th chapter. This was a dark time and history of God's people but there was a boy, a son was promised. It tells us that this boy was to be a Nazarite, an exceptional child. He had exceptional strength. You remember that his mother was told not to drink wine or strong drink and when this lad was born she was not to cut his hair. This was part of the vow of a Nazarite. He was a Nazarite from the womb. Now, not all Nazarite's were lifetime Nazarites but this boy was. He had incredible strength and power. One time he came across a lion and it says that he rent him or tore him like he was a little goat. Another place tells us that they bound him with two new cords and he took his arms and tore them apart like it was just flax or like they were just threads. He took the jaw bone of a donkey and killed 1000 men.

The enemy could not understand or figure out where his strength lay. They tried everything to find out. Come to find out, it was in his hair. When they finally found out they tricked him and trapped him and cut his hair. Then he lost his strength. He lost his vision, you remember they put out his eyes. They put him in the prison, the mill, to grind. Blind and weak going around, and around, and around, a captive. He lost all of his joy, he lost all of his peace. When I think of that story I think of my own Grandfather on my mother's side. He heard this gospel many, many years ago, in the 1920s. When he heard it he recognized it and made his choice to be part of it. He was a part of it for a time then he got offended and fell away. He lived the most of the rest of his life without God. He lost his strength, he lost his vision, he lost his faith and his life was just around, and around, and around. I am glad that was not Samson's choice but it was the situation that he found himself in. We read in the 16th chapter that his hair began to grow again. Samson's strength was connected with his hair. With God's people today it is not so, our strength is connected with our prayer. The enemy knows that if he can cut off our prayer life then we lose our strength, we lose our vision, we lose our faith. Samson said that if he lost his hair then he would be just like any other man. If we are cut off from prayer then we would be just like any other person. We would find ourselves in the same category that others find themselves in. So, we pray to get the strength because it is a power that other people don't have. It gives us understanding, it gives us help, so we guard our prayer life. I have often heard it said, people who have lost out, people who have gone away, and others. What happened? They said, I stopped praying, stopped praying and they lost faith. Now here is Samson in the prison house grinding, going around, and around and around and it says, his hair began to grow. I thought of those who find themselves, and my grandfather did, find themselves captive like Samson and helpless, their course should be to begin praying again, then their strength, which comes from God, would return. That strength which comes by faith from God would begin to grow. It says there that Samson's hair began to grow and his power returned. He was still blind and on this particular day, out there in that arena there were 3000 men and women gathered to honor their gods and to make a mockery of Samson and his God. That arena must have been quite a feat of architecture because it was held upon two pillars and all of these folks up there and they bring Samson out to mock him. A little child brings him in. They bring him out there to make sport of him and he feels the pillars of the building. He put his hands against them and then prayed. Judges 16:26 "And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, 'O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.' And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines.' And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life." He had greater victory in his death than he had in his life. God answered that prayer and gave him his strength. I think of my grandfather, he lived so many years without the Lord then he found that he was dying of cancer. It is one thing to live without the Lord but it is another thing to die without the Lord. My grandfather humbled himself. Pride had gotten in the way but when he found that he was dying he humbled himself and asked for the workers to come and they did come. My grandfather wanted to know if the Lord would accept him after turning his back on him. They assured him that He would, that would be God's will, that would be what God wanted, if he would serve the Lord with all his heart and soul then God would accept him. My grandfather made his choice again and his joy came back and his faith and hope returned. That was the first contact that my family had with the gospel. He was anxious that his children would hear and believe. And that was the beginning of my story when my parents began to attend the meetings. My grandfather had greater victory in his death than he did in his life. When he was dying and with what little strength that he had, he gave it to the Lord and the Lord blessed it. I like that verse over there in second Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." There was now a power in my grandfather's life that he didn't have when he wasn't serving God and God's strength was made perfect in weakness. In his illness he asked my parents if they would come to meetings. Well, what could dad and mom say? There he is on his deathbed and he is asking them if they would come. Well, of course we would come. In his weakness he was able to accomplish something that is very difficult to do, ask people to come to meeting. God's strength was made perfect in weakness. My dad began to attend the meetings. Isn't that wonderful? That applies to us today to, God's strength is still made perfect in weakness and we don't have to fear our weakness. You know how it is in this world, we don't want to admit to weakness or to show weakness but our weakness appeals to God. There is something in our weakness and our need that touches the heart of God then His strength is made perfect in weakness. In our most feeble efforts His strength is made perfect in that. Here, in the case of Samson, with what little strength that he had, with the help of God and an answered prayer, he accomplishes more in dying than in his living. OK now, that is a little key we want to focus on. We want to accomplish more in our dying than we do in our living.

We think of Jesus, he was a promised child and he came at a very dark time in the history of God's people. He had a power in his life, power to heal, the power to raise the dead. He had a power in his life that others did not understand. They found fault with him. They tried to trick him. They tried to trap him. They would do whatever they could to reduce him. He had this power in his life and they were never able to take that from him. He gave his life, they didn't take it from him. So, we see him with his tremendous strength doing the will of God, the armor of God with him. Those seeking to belittle him, to destroy him, to ridicule him, but he has something that he understands, the truth that he knows and understands and it causes him to give his life. In John 12:24 we see this great truth that He knows. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." He knows that except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit and he knows that he, like a corn of wheat, has to fall into the ground and die. Now, he could live out his life, he could avoid suffering, but then he would be alone. There would be no salvation for us, there would be no redemption. He could live out his life and maybe become an old man but he would be alone and we wouldn't be with him. There is going to be an eternal harvest of those He loves, those that God loves, who souls are so precious. He knows that he has to die so he lets himself be led. In the case of Samson, a little child led him, with Jesus that was the spirit of a little child that led him. He let himself be taken. When they come for him, he doesn't fight. He knows that this is how fruitfulness comes. They tied him and they mistreated him. It says that one of the disciples, Peter, drew out his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant and Jesus stopped him and said, "Don't you know that I could call 12 legions of Angels?" That is over in Matthew 26:53, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" He still had the power, he had all of Heaven behind him, but what hope would there be for us? The scriptures were going to be fulfilled and it would not be with a sword. It was going to be by dying. So, he just lets himself be led. We have already heard about how they treated him. How they spit upon him, they mocked him before he was to die. I like this picture of Samson standing between those two pillars. Jesus was put on that cross and he was put in a position where the greatest victory that was ever known to man was about to happen. Jesus was nailed to the cross, suffering and with his last little strength He prayed to God, bowed his head and died. Then all of the power of Satan came tumbling down just like all of those people in that arena when Samson pushed those pillars apart came tumbling down. The Veil of the temple was rent in twain and Satan's kingdom was conquered. Those, who were like in the Old Testament, Abraham, Moses, who were like hostages because of their sin, on that day when Jesus died on the cross, they were freed. The power of Satan was broken and that is our hope of salvation, that Jesus when he died on the cross, the power that sin has over us was taken away so that we can be forgiven and our past can be put away because the offering of Jesus was acceptable to God. Well, I guess we could say this, it almost seems awesome to say this, because we know that power in his life but he accomplished something in his death that he couldn't accomplish in his life and that is our salvation. When he was willing to die that accomplished something for us.

I was just thinking about something that happened several years ago when I was in the Lebanon field and Albany is just across the freeway where they had a Veteran's Day celebration. I thought about it and I wanted to go because I was a veteran. I went over on the day and saw the parade and it was impressive. There were quite a number there. We saw the high school band's playing the patriotic music. The marching bands with all of the young people in step. It was just wonderful. Then the military bands came marching along and then right behind them came the big guns, so to speak, the tanks and then came the Generals and high up officials. I hardly ever saw Generals but there they were, come marching by. It was inspirational. It just made you proud to be an American, and finally the last one went by and I thought it was over but I noticed that no one left. Everyone just stood there so I just stood there and we waited and waited and waited. No one was leaving so I didn't leave. Finally, way down about three blocks around the corner comes a man. He was carrying the flag of the United States of America. He was walking alone and his wife was walking a ways behind him. He was walking on two artificial legs. He had lost his legs in the war, he was a veteran. He had been marching a long time. You could see that every step now was a step of pain. He was marching and you could see that he was determined to finish this race. There was something in us that wanted to go out and help him to carry the flag. There wasn't anyone of us that was worthy to do that. So he just kept marching step by step to the end. I remember that I stood there and I realized that this man had given his legs for his country. I stood there and I cried. There was something that was just so moving about that. I remember that as I left the parade that there was something that had changed inside of me. The big guns, the marching bands and all of that had inspired me but this that I saw of one that had made such a sacrifice for the freedom that I enjoy, for the country that we love, that it was at such a cost, it was something that made me want to go away and be a better citizen. It moved me. Behind the scenes of this kingdom is this picture that we have of Jesus that is so important, we hold and respect and honor because all that we have in the Kingdom, the special meetings, the conventions, the wonderful privilege of fellowship on Sunday morning, all that our friends mean to us, we hear the singing and the songs. It all inspires us and makes us thankful for what we have but if were to take the dying life of Jesus out of the picture, there wouldn't be anything. It is that same dying life that must be in our lives or we don't have anything, just a form. Behind every faithful life, every Godly example, there is the dying life. That is the way that we can be a help in this world, to be a light. The dying life has power to draw people. We can accomplish more in our dying to ourselves, in denying ourselves than we can ever do in just going to meetings. It is the dying life that speaks loudly. We know a man who was a millionaire several times over. He was a success. He does well. He is one of us. There is something about that that is inspiring if we would want that; but when the time came for his testimony decision he lost it all to save his testimony. He sacrificed it all. Now there is something about that that is powerful but what is even more powerful is to be willing to die to self, to die to one's self. I have more respect for that man today with the little that he has than I had when he was a millionaire because there is a power in dying and it speaks loudly. We are going to face experiences, tests and trials and it is going to be like dying. You remember the time when Jesus there in Matthew 27:54 when he was on the cross; "Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God.'" They didn't say that when he was living, they didn't have that conviction, but when he died God shook the earth around them and there was an impression left that they feared greatly and they said, surely this was the son of God, truly this was the son of God. Jesus was just faithful in dying he didn't shake the ground, he didn't cause the earthquake. He was just faithful in dying on the cross. When he was faithful in dying then God caused the earth to shake then maybe that impression on those hardened people caused them to fear and believe that this was the son of God. Now if we are faithful in dying in our weakness and in our feeble effort to deny ourselves and to die then God will do the shaking around us. God will use that to making impressions around us. In that little picture in Judges that we have of that little lad guiding Sampson to those two pillars, I like that picture because in a sense because we could compare those two pillars to Luke 9:23, some very, very familiar verses; "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." One pillar we could call self denial and we will call the other pillar taking up our cross daily and following him, following Jesus. As Sampson placed himself between those two pillars and with a prayer to God to help him, he put all of his strength into that effort of moving those two pillars and all of the enemy came tumbling down. Jesus put all of his strength into denying himself and doing the will of God and power of sin and of Satan and all of that came tumbling down. There was a great victory. Now in our lives if we give all of our strength into denying ourselves and taking up our cross and with a prayer to God to help us, then all of the sin that does so easily be set us in our lives comes tumbling down. Sin in our life is a mere fact that we have not been denying ourselves and we have not been following Jesus. But when we put all of our strength and all of our force into denying ourselves and with a prayer to God to help us then sin has no power over us. There is a power given to us that we didn't have before and we have victory in our lives. This little thought now, Sampson prayed, let me die with the Philistines. Sometimes there is a prayer in our hearts or thought in our minds, let me live like the Philistines. That is our flesh. But he was praying to die and we should have that prayer, not that we would be living like the Philistines but that we would die like a child of God, to die doing the will of God. I just want to mention this thought of taking up our cross, we need to understand what that is. One lady said one time, she had a disabled child and said that is my cross. But no, she would have that child if she was serving God or not. What our cross it is what we do for Jesus sake. This is what God has asked of us, this is God's will for us, and that is our cross. As we put our strength in to doing His will, that is what brings victory. He does have a will and a way for us. We should focus all of our strength in doing His will daily and putting our force in to that and that will give us the victory as we go forth. I was just thinking that if Sampson was only pushing on one, say self denial, there are a lot of people that put a lot into self denial and not doing the will of God. In just denying yourself you become self-righteous. If you put all of strength into going to meeting, you want to be there and like the fellowship and you do not die to self, there is no victory. It is when we apply ourselves to both then there is victory in our lives. I like this verse, I Peter 4:1 "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." He just said that we should do like Jesus did, he laid down his life and gave a sacrifice that was acceptable to God and God blessed that. It was a wonderful victory that we are still enjoying and entering into today. If we arm ourselves with the same mind we will have the same kind of victory because he that has suffered in the flesh, willing to die to ourselves, has ceased from sin. If we are faithful in denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily and following Jesus, God will be faithful in doing His part.