The similarities between Samson, his rise and fall, and the modern day church is quite revealing. Let me take you through his life right quick and see if you can see the parallels...
Samson was, to say the least, a very blessed man. He was dedicated to the Lord at an early age and grew up to do mighty things. From time to time the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he engaged in remarkable feats.
On one occasion when the Spirit of God descended on him, he tore a lion in two. On another he killed 30 Philistines. On yet another when the Holy Spirit rushed upon him “mightily,” he killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Samson was a powerful man - when the Spirit of God was upon him.
But when he succumbed to Delilah, and she tricked him, the power of God departed his life. He was now like other men. The Bible is explicit on this: “The Lord had left him.” Samson’s life is in for a dramatic change. The Bible states:
“So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes.
They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and
forced to grind grain in the prison...”
Notice the 4 things that happened to Samson and the picture it gives us of most churches today:
1- Samson was now a slave
2- Samson loses his vision
3- Samson grinds grain at the prison
I will save the 4th one for later.
The 4 things that happened to Samson happened because the power of God left him. And the same 4 things have happened to many churches - because there is no spiritual power operative in our churches.
Samson was now a slave. How this sounds like today’s church! Millions of Christians are “slaves,” prisoners to sin, in spite of the glorious liberty Christ has brought us. Porn addiction is more prevalent than ever. Alcoholics are all over the church. And then there’s the socially acceptable sins, such as gluttony. We eat like pigs and die early deaths. God help us. The power of God departed Samson and he became a slave. The power of God is no longer operative in many of our churches - and the “slaves” are everywhere.
Next, the Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes. He lost his vision. Is this not true of many churches and Christians? We are wondering aimlessly because we have no vision. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Solomon wrote long ago. Never was that more true than today. Most churches are surviving - not thriving. We are no longer the potent force the early church was. They filled the town with their doctrine, the book of Acts states. But such is not true of us.
I pastored a church for almost 12 years. I stayed in the “survive” mode and even came to a point that if the offering was good, I was happy. Shame on me! And there are many churches that are likewise. “Let’s just get by,” they have come to believe. We have close to 400,000 churches in our country, yet we still have no powerful effect on our country. We have lost our vision.
Next, Samson is in the mill grinding grain. His life became a dull, monotonous, humdrum existence. This is the testimony of many believers today. There is no zeal in their hearts, no holy fire that burns. Many believers cannot even recall the last time God even spoke to them. They are like Samson, living a predictable, boring, empty life. In one of his books, John Eldredge asks what comes to mind when you enter most churches and look at the men. They are bored, he says. Indeed.
Dear Pastor. I know the burdens you bear in your ministry. I have pastored before and know the pain it brings. But I am not sure you can keep fussing at your congregation’s lack of commitment - that may not be the problem. It could be your preaching is void of God’s power. You may say, “But I preach the word of God!” But, if the power of God does not rest upon you, your preaching is doing little good. If you have to, take a Sabbatical, go off to a solitary place, and dwell there until you be endued with power from on high!
There is one more thing that happened to Samson before he died. And this is number four.
One day thousands of Philistines gathered at the coliseum for a good time. They got drunk and began to demand that Samson be brought out. Look at The Message translation of Judges 16 in describing what happened:
Everyone was feeling high and someone said, "Get Samson! Let him show us his stuff!" They got Samson from the prison and he put on a show for them.
Do you see what happened to Samson when the power of God no longer operated in his life? He became a source of entertainment! Does that sound like today’s churches? Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good time. I love to laugh. I love to cut-up. Anyone who knows me will tell you this is true.
But it remains true that when the Power of God is no longer operating in our churches, we will create an atmosphere of entertainment. Every church service will be planned around putting on a show.
I think of our kids growing up in church today. Most of them have never really seen the power. They go to church and hear good singing and good sermons(?). But they hardly ever see the manifested, glorious, awe-inspiring power of God. Instead, they come on Sunday morning and watch “the show.” Is it any wonder that 75 to 80% of our kids will quit going to church when they graduate from high school? I think of a friend of mine who a few weeks ago in Sunday School asked, “Where is the power of the Holy Spirit?”
I hurt for my own children, who simply find church boring. How can I blame them? They hear how they ought to be “committed,” but they hear it from adults who know next to nothing about the power of the Spirit of God!
But Samson’s story does not end there...
You will recall that when he was brought out before the Philistines he was assisted by a young man, who, at Samson’s request, led him to the two pillars that held up the coliseum. Standing between them, Samson prayed:
Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time.
And God heard him: Down came the coliseum, and thousands of Philistines perished.
Folks, herein lies our answer! If we would see Bible power, we must engage in Bible practices: We must become a praying people. We cannot keep doing things as we have done them. Our Wednesday night suppers might have to be shelved for a while,
substituted with prayer. Choir practice might have to be disbanded for a time; substituted with praying, asking God to send us an old-fashioned, devil-hating, sin-killing, soul-saving, God-sent revival!
We cannot keep demanding that prayer be restored to our public schools, football games, and political gatherings, when our churches have also abandoned prayer!
It has been said that insanity is “doing the same things over and over - expecting a different result.” But that is precisely what we are doing. We want a revival, but we refuse to pay the price. We must, as Samson did, return to prayer. If we fail to do so, we may well stay in our slavery: blind, bored, and awaiting the next “show.”