I was shocked when I heard the story and everyone else was shocked as well. A man died — a member of a church I formerly pastored. I’ll call him Bill. It was not the fact that he died that was shocking. Everyone will eventually go through the valley of the shadow of death. Nor was it the way he died that was so shocking. He died of a heart attack — a common cause of death in our country today. The shocking thing was where he died.
He died in what I would call a porno place, a store which featured pornographic literature, videos, and even live models. An active member of the church, a married man, a Christian, had a heart attack and died in a porno place. As people discussed this event, the question which was often expressed — not always in exactly the same terms — was, “What was a person like him doing in a place like that?”
That question came to my mind when I read our text. Samson in prison. Samson humiliated before the Philistines. Samson the sport of their drunken entertainment. Then, this man of God, this judge who led Israel for twenty years, put his hands against the two central pillars of the pagan temple and brought down the building upon the Philistines — and upon himself. The biblical writer concluded sadly, “Thus he killed many more when he died than when he lived” (Judges 16:30).
What was a person like him doing in a place like that?
How did Samson get into such a predicament? It wasn’t his birth. Some people excuse their actions by saying, “I didn’t have a chance from the beginning. Born into poverty and despair, I was just another nobody from a long line of nobodies.” Born to lose — that’s what some say about their lives.
Samson couldn’t say that. Judges 13:5 indicates that Samson was set apart by God from his birth, and his parents provided everything he could possibly need to live a life of effectiveness for God.
How did Samson get into such a predicament? It wasn’t his lack of ability. Some people explain their actions by whining, “I was always just a one talent sort of person. Everybody else had brains and talents but I was just incompetent from the beginning.” A young man with an inferiority complex went to the counselor for a series of tests. The counselor returned with this word, “You don’t have an inferiority complex. You’re just inferior!” That’s what some say about their lives. They are just inferior.
Samson couldn’t say that. He had incredible strength and unparalleled ability. Judges 14:6 provides one expression of his amazing strength. Samson, walking down the road, a roaring lion coming toward him. No problem for Samson. He tore the lion apart with his bare hands. Samson had the competency to live a life of effectiveness for God.
How did Samson get into such a predicament? It wasn’t the absence of God. Some people explain their actions by complaining, “God just never cared about me. I would pray and seek God’s face, but I never saw any evidence of God in my life. I just couldn’t do it on my own. That was my problem.”
H. G. Wells called God “A very absent help in time of trouble.” That’s what some people say about their lives. God is never there when we need Him.
Samson couldn’t say that. From the moment of his conception, Samson was set apart by and marked by God. Judges 13:25 says, “And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him.” Judges 14:6 says, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.” Judges 14:19 says, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.”
Samson had a remarkable beginning in a family which loved him and dedicated him to God. Samson had unparalleled competency and strength with which to serve God. And all through his life, at every critical stage, God came to him with power. And yet, here he is in our text, in this disappointing predicament — a slave, blind, mocked by his peers, eventually taking his own life along with a few thousand Philistines.
What was a person like Samson doing in a place like that? How did Samson get into such a predicament? It was not because of his birth or his lack of abilities or the absence of God in his life. It was because of his choices or should I say his bad choices.
Samson chose to marry a Philistine woman instead of choosing a wife among his own people (Judges 14:1-3). She betrayed him and he left her. Bad choice.
Samson chose to get revenge for the Philistines, burning up their fields, killing many of their warriors, stirring up an unquenchable hatred for him among the Philistines (Judges 15:1-10). Bad choice.
Samson fell in love with the beautiful but deceitful Delilah who immediately cut a deal with the Philistines to help them capture Samson (Judges 16:4-6). She persuaded him to tell her the secret of his strength and, when she cut his hair, the Philistines took him into captivity. Bad choice.
Good circumstances, outstanding abilities, and the presence of God in our lives can be neutralized in an instant by improper choices. It happened to Samson. And it happens to us over and over again.
The longer I live the more I am convinced that the essence of life — the single factor which determines the quality of our lives — is our choices. For the simple fact of life, written clearly in the story of Samson, written in between the lines in the stories of our lives, is that choices have consequences.
“Everybody,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, “soon or late sits down to a banquet of consequences.” Choices have consequences.
“Life is not a gamble in the deepest sense of the word,” John Claypool once said, “it is an investment with a predictable relation between causes and consequences.” Choices have consequences.
Dr. Pierce Harris was long time pastor of the First Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Harris spoke one day at the state penitentiary. He was introduced to the prisoners by one of the inmates. In his introduction, the inmate said, “I want to tell you a story about two boys. They lived in the same neighborhood. They went to the same school. They played together. They went to the same church. One of the boys decided he would be smart so he rebelled against his parents, quit going to church, did what he wanted to do instead of what was right. The other boy continued to go to church and do what was right and treat other people with love.
“These two boys are now grown men and both of them are here today. The boy who continued down the right path and remained faithful to the things he had been taught is the great minister who is going to preach to us today. The boy who decided to be smart and rebelled is the prisoner who introduces the preacher to you today.” Two boys. Same neighborhood. Same school. Same church. Yet, two diverse destinations. Choices have consequences.
On the night of February 6, 1996, east of Tampa, Florida, three teenagers were cruising, bored, looking for something different to occupy their minds and their time. So they decided to pull up some traffic signs, just for the fun of it.
A little later, their 18-year-old buddies were driving around, listening to music after a night of bowling. They breezed through an intersection without stopping, because the stop sign was missing, and they were broadsided by a truck. All three were killed.
On Friday, January 20, 1997, in a Tampa courtroom, these three teenagers who decided to pull up some traffic signs “just for the fun of it” were each sentenced to 15 years in prison. Choices have consequences.
We have freedom in making our choices. However, we are not free to choose the consequences of our choices. They are built into the consequences themselves. Therefore:
– we need to choose carefully
– we need to seek wise counsel as we make the key decisions of our lives
– most of all, we need to choose from the perspective of the long view.
How sad it would be to have it said of us what was said of the man whose story I told at the beginning of the message, what was surely said of Samson: what is a person like you doing in a place like this!

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