The Loss That Went Unnoticed: Lessons on Backsliding As Illustrated in the Life of Samson

“He knew not that the Lord had departed from him.” This is an inspired comment, made about a man who might have done many more exploits for God, Judges 16. 20 lit.

Samson had enjoyed great privileges. He had been given a great opportunity to serve both his God and his people. The Lord had indeed once been with him. God’s Spirit had earlier come on Samson mightily and “moved” him, 13. 25; 14. 6, 19; 15. 14.

On account of his special (Nazarite) vow, his hair had not been cut, 13. 7 with Num. 6. 2-8. It is not difficult to imagine him as a fine and popular young man with a good head of hair. How thrilling must have been those occasions when the Spirit of God “began to move him”, Jud. 13. 25. Perhaps the word “began” suggests that there were great things in store for Samson spiritually, if only … !

The Israelites of Samson’s day were ruled over by the Philistines and, it seems, had generally come to accept this situation. Samson, however, was unwilling to conform. There is a tremendous need today for Samson-like young people who are strong spiritually and who refuse to conform to low spiritual conditions around.

For Samson danger lurked around the corner. His relationship with a woman from Timnath led to an unequally-yoked marriage. His father’s question was pertinent, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren … ?”, 14. 3 lit. This question is still relevant today.

Indeed, the young believer must beware of allowing any form of friendship with the world” to rob him of his true spiritual potential for the Lord. I well remember the time when I had an ambition to become a professional classical guitar teacher and performer. God said “no” plainly enough, but I persisted. God spoke louder and louder! Eventually I broke a finger on my left hand — and I got the message. I bowed to the fact that God was forbidding me to have my way. During all that earlier period, I suffered a marked loss of spirituality and power. Yet I scarcely realized this at the time and would never have admitted it — even to myself. Even today those wasted years haunt me. I had to learn my lesson the hard way.

It is possible that Samson had too much leisure time. This can be a very real problem for many today, with the present high level of unemployment. The devil and the world will soon find things for idle hands to do. They will gladly rob us of our spiritual strength. Keep active for the Lord. Beware the allurements of the world for, like the fire at the scene of Peter’s denial, they may warm the hands but will inevitably leave the heart cold.

Samson found that temptation, in the form of Delilah, was too strong for him. He betrayed the secret of his vow, and his hair was shaved off. Samson’S trouble lay in the fact that he only detected his loss of strength when the test came. His enemies drew near and Samson, confident in the knowledge of past victories, bent his mighty limbs for the fray. Alas, his power was gone! The strength which had made him a terror to a thousand Philistines was no longer there! Powerless, he sank a pitiable prey to his foes. His eyes were put out, he was bound in bronze chains and made to grind in the prison house. Are we in danger of losing our spiritual vision and vitality and of becoming fettered to the ambitions, pursuits, riches and power of this present world?

“Yet”, somebody may say, “it was only the cutting of his hair. What difference could such a detail make?”. But that is where the problem often lies — in a seeming detail. Obedience often hinges on mere “details”. These may appear to be unimportant in themselves but the principle behind them is everything. The repeated message of Israel’s prophets was that disobedience forfeited the blessing of God, and that only when God was with His people would they do great things for Him. This is true also of the individual Christian.

I have found that backsliding is still one of our big problems today. Indeed, when I preach the gospel, I not only plead with unbelievers to be saved and with unbaptized Christians to be baptised but with those who have grown cold in heart to return to the Lord.

It is not necessary, of course, for someone to sever all connection with Christian things to be a backslider. We can so easily suffer the loss of spiritual power without going that far. Backsliding in heart is our real danger. We may still keep up the pretence of living the Christian life, and yet be far from the Lord in heart. We can fool everybody else — but the Lord knows! Samson heard the cry, “The Philistines are upon you”. Then he found that he was powerless to do anything. Let us ensure that, when the crisis comes, we are not found wanting.

It is no easy thing to form an accurate assessment of our own spiritual condition. There are, however, two things which tell a man what he is — (i) what he wants, and (ii) what he does.

  1. As your will is, so are you. In which direction does the current of your desires go? If you watch its flow, you will soon determine whether your spiritual life is on an ebbing or rising tide.
  2. The second way to ascertain your condition is to examine rigidly your actions. “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord”, Lam. 3. 40.

We conclude on a note of hope. Think again of Samson — for there are few better examples of the use which God can make of a wasted life. Samson was a broken man. The strong man was crushed. He was compelled to cry to God for the restoration of his strength. In His grace God gave what Samson asked, and Samson accomplished more at the end than he had in all his earlier days, Jud. 16. 30.

Has your heart grown a little cold? Have you lost something of your earlier love for the Lord? Has your spiritual strength been sapped? Do not despair. Our God has promised, “Return, backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings”, Jer. 3. 22 lit. Remember Jonah, remember Simon Peter, remember John Mark … remember Samson!

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