THE STRONG ONE
Monday, August 6, 2012
Olympics 2012. Welcome to HT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus and starting a new week together, a program called “The Strong One”. Sometimes you’re strong but you’re still weak. Remember last week, an Olympian trains for years, life is total discipline. Food prep is spot on. You keep tedious records of how you train. You follow closely what works and doesn’t. And then for Jack Oliver, a 21-year-old British weightlifter, the alarm fails to go off. An hour later somebody is banging on your door, waking you up and you think you’ve lost all those years of your life. But then a reprieve. You dress in 30 second. You manager to catch a bus and you still make your event. You run and somehow manage to catch a later bus to the London ExCel arena. You fail to complete your first lift but then recover and bring in your best ever performance for the home crowd. Remind you of a time in your life? Certainly, I’d say it did for me. Olympics 2012. On the line with us …
Open- Everlasting God- Chris Tomlin- This is a very popular worship song taken from Isaiah 40. There are many different artist who sing it. Brenton Brown is the author and he also has a good version that sounds the same. I just find the words not as clear, that's the reason for picking the Chris Tomlin version. From "See The Morning" Sparrow Records.
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles
Which Olympics are you watching? In the US it became the Michael Phelps Olympics when he set the record for the most gold medals ever won by an athlete. And it became a woman’s gymnastics Olympics as we watched the amazing performance of the American team. But for the North Koreans it’s a weight-lifting Olympics – that’s where they shine – they’ve chalked up three gold medals. As I watched them compete the other night I was amazed by the sheer strength they displayed.
What makes a person that strong? How do you get to that level of almost super-human strength?
Physically it’s being born with the right body and after that, it’s all about training. And training. And training.
But what about spiritually?
What makes us strong spiritually?
Watching those athletes strain to lift those barbells reminded me of another one of the world’s strongest men – Samson. We tend to put certain bible characters in the “kid’s story” category –we do that with Samson. But Samson’s story has a lot to tell us about how we get strong as believers and it has a lot to tell us about Jesus -- the Strong One.
Let’s look at it and get some answers – first about how we get strong and second, about the Strong one, who makes us strong.
Samson lived in the time of the Judges. The Israelites had settled in Canaan but their problems were far from over. Judges 13:1 tells us, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.”
Then it immediately launches into God’s promise to send someone to deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines. A man named Manoah had a wife who was sterile. An angel appears and promises that she will conceive. Their son will be a Nazirite. A Nazirite was someone specially set apart for God – they didn’t drink alcohol, and they didn’t cut their hair. Their long hair was a sign that they belonged lock stock and barrel to the Lord. That baby, Samson, the angel said, would “begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
Samson’s story is long and complicated – so I’ll condense it: He demonstrated a supernatural strength when the Spirit of the Lord came on him and performed amazing feats. He also fell in love with a woman – not his wife – Delilah was her name. She was a Philistine and at the urging of her countrymen she tried to trick Samson into telling her the secret of his strength. Eventually he got so tired of being nagged he told her, Judges 16: 17 “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” She waited until he was asleep with his head in her lap and then called a man to come and shave off his seven braids. Samson woke up weak as a kitten because, as verse 20 tells us: “the Lord had left him.” They seized him, gouged out his eyes, and put him in prison. Let me finish the story by reading from Judges 16: 23-30
“Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”
When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”
While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars,
Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”
Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.
Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”
First, what does Samson have to teach us about how to be strong as believers?
Simply this – our strength comes from the Spirit of the Lord. That’s where Samson’s physical strength came from. That’s where our spiritual strength comes from. And it’s a gift of Gods’ grace.
Samson’s long hair was a symbol of his devotion to the Lord. It meant he belonged to the Lord; his life was given over to the Lord. Just like us. As believers our lives belong to the Lord.
And just like we can Samson wavered in his devotion. He let himself be lured away and his strength left him.
It can happen to us – we get lured away and end up spiritually powerless. Like Samson, we lose our eyes – our spiritual eyes. We can’t see things clearly. Like Samson, we get bound and chained by our enemies -- by the things that want to own us. In the end, Samson is a picture of great weakness – a weakness we all experience.
And yet, he didn’t say, “I’ve blown it, I’m suffering what I deserve, I give up.” He called on the Lord for strength, and the Lord gave it to him. Samson used that strength to give his life over to the Lord again
Samson is definitely not a hero. And yet, by God’s grace he IS a hero.
His story is a story of God’s grace from beginning to end:
God sent Samson to rescue Israel from the Philistines even though they were being ruled by the Philistines because of their sin. Grace is God’s blessing on his sinful people. Grace is God’s great love and goodness being poured out on those who deserve just the opposite.
God showed grace to Israel and he showed grace to Samson. Samson broke his Nazarite vows more than once, he allowed himself to get seduced by Delilah, he was ruled by his selfishness and ended up telling his secret out of petty irritation just to get her to leave him alone. Like all of the Bible’s so-called heroes, Samson was a great sinner. And yet, when he cried out to God in his weakness, the Lord sent him the Holy Spirit and restored his strength. That’s grace. Grace poured out on a sinner.
And it’s the same with us. When we cry out to the Lord as sinners -- in our weakness -- he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He forgives our sins. And he sends us help. He gives us his Spirit to make us strong.
Not only that, just like with Samson, he allows our circumstances to become an opportunity to serve him -- even when it’s our sins that have gotten us into trouble. God’s grace trumps our sin every time. Samson ended up in a terrible situation because of his sin and yet his situation became the perfect set-up for a total victory over the Philistines. God’s grace means we’re never living God’s plan B for our lives. We can trust him to work all things together for good which means that by God’s grace are always living God’s Plan A for our lives.
First, Samson’s story shows us about how to be strong as believers.
Second, it tells us something about the Strong One – Jesus.
All through the bible there are people the theologians calls types of Christ” which means they are a preview, a picture of what Jesus is going to be when he comes. Something they do gives us a hint of what Jesus will do. Samson is one of those “types.” When he brought down the temple onto his own head and died to deliver his people from their enemies his act was a little imperfect picture of Jesus. Jesus became weak for us. He allowed himself to be crushed by death for us. He died so we could be saved.
He died in weakness BUT he was raised by the power of God and it’s his strength that strengthens us. He is the Strong One who makes us strong.
Close- Your Name- Paul Baloche (think osh gosh when pronouncing his last name)- Also a very popular worship song written by Paul Baloche. From "A Greater Song" Integrity Music. Some lyrics:
Your Name is a strong and mighty tower
Your Name is a shelter like no other
Your Name, let the nations sing it louder
'Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your Name
Jesus, in Your Name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord, give us strength to live for You and glorify Your Name
Chariots of Fire
For a gift of any amount
Winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture! The inspiring true story of British athletes competing in the 1924 Olympics. Ben Cross and Ian Charleson head a sterling cast of newcomers and veterans. The story, told in flashback, of two young British sprinters competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics....
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