“With great power comes great responsibility” – Spiderman.
It’s a pity that real-life super-hero, Samson, never read Spider-Man comics. He was given supernatural strength to be a leader. Instead, he became a loner who usually acted irresponsibly. He was a man of great physical strength whose gifts blinded him to even greater spiritual dangers. Only at the end, when he lost his two eyes, was he finally able to see.
That’s exactly what he did – a feat analogous to crawling on your belly underneath a pickup truck, getting up with it on your back, then carrying it up the hill!
But there’s no mention of God’s spirit coming on Samson in power. I get the feeling that if Samson had seen himself as God’s agent in the past, if he’d ever been conscious of his mission, that untended fire had gone out. The guy’s alone, on his own.
Watch out! If we don’t stoke it, the fire will burn low. Stay close! The fire go out if we walk away. We can coast on a bike just so far before it wobbles . . . and falls.
The web is spun for the unwary fly. Enter the black widow, Delilah. Now begins the last game Samson will ever play. Deluded by his own power, intoxicated with a new romance, he thinks it’s funny: This girl will do anything to learn his secret!
“Bow strings didn’t work? Huh. I thought . . . no, no, it’s ropes! Ropes’ll do the trick!
“Aw, Honey, calm down. It’s, uh, weave my hair into a loom (snort)!”
Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote a book, The Ten Stupid Things Men Do To Mess Up Their Lives. Samson needed only four. As her lust for silver grew, Delilah’s nagging increased and Samson’s good humor evaporated. So he told her everything. He thrusts a lock of his hair in her face: “This is where the power comes from! Cut ’em off, I’m weak. Satisfied?” Oh, yes. She was.
In the movie The Natural, Roy Hobbs throws a blazing fastball and displays the uncanny ability to hit any pitch. “You’ve got a gift,” his dad tells him, “but it’s not enough. You’ve got to develop yourself or you’ll fail.” It’s a lesson Roy forgets, and he pays dearly. What was his downfall? It was the same thing that toppled televangelists in the 80s. And it wasn’t sex.
The way some us in the church talk, you’d think sexual immorality was the Mother of All Sin. It’s not; it’s just one of Her offspring. The fall of mighty evangelists, the fall of mighty Samson, came about because of the Great Sin, the thing that made the Devil the Devil, pride.
I could point you to tarnished preachers and Christian recording artists in disgrace. We’d all agree that the cult of Christian celebrity is a bad thing – and there’d be applause in Hell. They love it down there when we tell just part of the truth!
The whole truth is, we’re all infected with pride. Fame, money, power – these don’t create pride. They reveal it. They’re like cannon balls shot into a river, causing whatever’s down below to float to the surface.
We don’t have to be strong like Samson or rich like Trump or a titan with a tennis racket like Federer to fall prey to pride. Amazingly, all we have do is come to church!
Years ago, perfect Sunday School attendance was rewarded with a gold lapel pin. For each year of perfect attendance, you received a new pin to attach beneath the last. One fellow was so proud of his Perfect Attendance pins that he wore them to church every Sunday, a long chain flopping on his chest! They say his chain got so long, he tripped and broke his leg. Thus ended his perfect attendance.
If you’ve been in church a long time, you’ve heard a lot about pride. In fact, church is where we learn to spot pride – in other people. But remember, whenever we see pride, we’re looking in a mirror!
Harry Potter uses a Cloak of Invisibility to hide himself from his enemies. Every week, we come to church and put on a Cloak of Respectability, which makes it easy for us to hide our true identities. Somebody said, “When you know all the rules it’s easy to fake it.” After we’ve been to church for a decade, we certainly know all the rules! In fact, the more deeply we become involved in the church, the blinder we can become to our own sins.
So be careful how much you do for God. Be careful as you preach, read the Bible, tithe; as you teach, evangelize, shepherd. Like a pair of elevator shoes that makes people think we’re taller than we are, our church work can give a false impression. Worse, we can get the wrong idea about ourselves: “God’s pretty lucky to have me around!”
Samson’s pride led him to play a dangerous game with Delilah. If we’re not very careful, we can play that game too. Another name for it isRussian Roulette. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (
One last time she calls out, “The Philistines are upon you!” One last time he charges into action. Out go the lights, up come the chains, down goes Samson. Round and round goes Samson, grinding grain. Woman’s work. He would’ve laughed at the irony – God’s gift to women! – if he weren’t in such pain.
But God can turn burning shame into a holy flame. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken andcontrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (
Something began to happen to Samson down in that prison. His hair began to grow back (Why the Philistines didn’t bother to keep it cut is a mystery. Maybe they forgot about him. Maybe they thought, “So his hair grows! What good is he without his eyes?) But more than just his hair came back; his memory returned. He remembered His Nazarite vow, his glory days. With those memories came regret, and with that regret came repentance.
When Samson got hurt, Samson got real. A.W. Tozer said, “Before God can use a man greatly, He first must hurt him deeply.” According to Steve Brown, “Authenticity is possible only in the context of public shame, forced honesty, or Christian experience.” Shame forced Samson into honesty and back into the arms of the God he’d spurned. In his pain, he became the authentic Samson, the Genuine Article. And now, God help his enemies!
The Philistines threw a party. They brought out their dancing bear, their circus strongman to have a little fun with. Yeah, this was going to be quite a show! Of course, as you know, Samson brought down the house.
What will bring down the strongholds of our culture and topple the false gods of our time? What is real power?
David Ring was born with cerebral palsy. He has a speech impediment so bad, you have to struggle to understand him. But he holds audiences spellbound: “They said I’d never ride a bike, but I did. They said I’d never get married, but I did – I’ve got five kids to prove I did okay. They said I’d never preach but I’ve preached 265 times this year. And I got cerebral palsy. What’s your problem?”
Our problem might be that we expect advantage without adversity, power without pain, wisdom without weakness. Yet Paul wrote that God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He also wrote, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (
What Paul, David Ring, and Samson learned, we all must learn. Do we want to gain some advantage? We can, but not without adversity. Do we want to be somebody? There’s nothing wrong with that. But we have to remember this: God delights in making somebodies into nobodies so He can make the nobodies into the somebodies He had in mind! Do we want a crown? Great! The crown is ours! Just not without a cross.
To paraphrase that web-slinging super-hero, Spider-Man, “With great power comes great . . . humility.”