AGCC Sun a.m. 10/5/1997

(see also: 7/14/91)



-or -


TEXT: Judges 15:9-20

INTRO: How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you feel very inadequate or that you have inadequate supplies to do a job you've been given? How do we normally react in these circumstances? Probably by not getting involved!

Here is where the Church and many Christians often find themselves...given a task to reach and teach others, or to minister in some way to others and with the sense that they are not adequate or adequately supplied to do the they do nothing.

Too often thinking in the Church works like this: "If we only had the resources or the finances we could really minister".

If we had waited until we had the money or the materials to do the work of the ministry here in Vergennes we wouldn't be here today!! As we used what was available, the best at the time, God built up the work!

This is the real secret to being effective for God...look around you and use what is available..the best that is available and go with it! This is what Samson did and he won a great victory!

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God has made available all that we presently need to the do the work he calls us to, we just need to choose the best and go with it!


A. Despair! 15:9-10

1. It was not a good day for the men of Judah...their own brother Samson had burned the fields of the Philistines using torches tied to the tails of foxes and then he let them run through their fields, now the Philistines were angry! (You might say Samson had burned them up and outfoxed them!)

a. The Philistines showing up near the land of Judah was not considered a welcome sign!

b. The Philistines already were dominating Israel. It looked like a bad day coming!

ILLUS: You see a "60 Minutes" news team in your office. You call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold. You turn on the news and they're showing emergency routes out of the city. Your twin sister forgot your birthday. Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell's Angels on the freeway. Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat. Your income tax check bounces. You put both contact lenses in the same eye. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 18.

2. The sight of 1,000 Philistines drove despair into the hearts of Israel.

3. The Philistines ask for Samson, it is their desire to kill him!

a. Samson had been Israel's champion and savior against the Philistines

b. But all the men of Judah saw was no Savior, just trouble!

c. Unfortunately they failed to see in Samson a they didn't stand up with him against the enemy!

B. Dominated! 15:11-13

1. A strange irony now appears, the 3,000 men of Judah give in to the 1,000 Philistines out of fear...they are so dominated by their own fears that they can't see that they have the Philistines outnumbered 3 to 1 .. and they also have Samson, God's champion fighter!

a. How out of focus their lives were!

b. They failed to see correctly and this cost them their spiritual vitality!

ILLUS: Several years ago an Eastern Airlines jet crashed into the Florida Everglades killing dozens of people and wounding many others. Flight 401 was bound from New York with a heavy load of passengers heading for Miami. As the plane was about to land the crew noticed that a light that notes that the landing gear was down and in position wasn't lit. The plane flew in large looping circles while the crew tried to determine if the landing gear was down and locked. Just in case, the crew members began fooling with the light bulb just in case it was something simple like a blown light bulb. The bulb seemed stuck, they couldn't get it out to check it, so they all began pulling and prying at this instrument panel trying to get this 75 cent light bulb out of it's socket. As they struggled with the bulb no one noticed that the plane was losing altitude and the plane simply flew right into the swamp! An experienced crew got lost over a battle with a 75 cent light bulb and it cost the lives of dozens of people!

2. Instead of destroying the enemy, they go after their own brother Samson to tie him up and deliever him to their enemy!

a. It is a sad day when God's people would rather attack one another instead of the enemy!

b. Samson sees their fear dominating their lives and he asks of them only one thing...that they don't kill him!!

(1. The reason for this is simple, if they attempted to destroy him, he would have to retaliate and kill his own his request for them not to kill him was a desire not to harm them!

(2. Samson was obviously confident that he could destroy whatever came against him with God's strength...and he didn't want this to be his own brothers, he cared more about them than they did him!

3. Samson was dominated by faith, the men of Judah were dominated by fear!

a. Samson was not afraid of 1,000 Philistines

b. 3,000 men of Judah were too afraid of 1,000 Philistines!

4. The ones that were really "bound up" were the men of Judah, not Samson!

a. They would rather co-exist with the enemy and be miserable than destroy the enemy and be free!

b. They had learned to live WITH the enemy instead of standing against him.

c. This let their lives be dominated by fear and failure.


A. Dynamic 15:14-15

1. As soon as Samson was seen by the Philistines all bound up in rope and being brought by the 3,000 men of Judah they began to laugh and shout in victory!

a. Satan always has a good time when we "bind up our brethren" and deliver them to the Devil to do with them as he pleases!

b. This makes God mad...and when God gets mad, things start to happen!

2. Immediately in the wake of the enemies' mocking...God's Spirit is stirred in Samson and the ropes that bound him broke like string!

a. Energized by God's strength Samson is ready to do battle!

b. Ironically...the 3,000 men of Judah still do nothing, except watch!

3. Samson is ready to works this way!

a. Notice carefully what Samson does....he chooses the best of what is available to do the work of God!

(1. This area called "Lehi"' means in Hebrew "Jawbone" ...this rocky area probably was covered with skulls of animals.

(2. Please note however that Samson does not just pick up any jawbone to use as a weapon, he picks up a 'FRESH JAWBONE' old jawbone would have been too brittle to use, so Samson is wise enough to pick a fresh one that still had its bulk and strength...he chooses the best that is available and trusts God with the rest!

(3. No doubt Samson would have used another weapon had it been available, but it wasn't....what do we do when God calls us to serve Him in some way, do we wait until we have the best stuff before we engage the enemy, NO!...we look around and use the best that is available and trust Him with the rest.

b. Nothing gets done for God by those who have to wait until all the things are ready that they think they need to do the job, use what's available, and wisely take the best of that!

4. We cannot wait to do God's work only when we think we have everything we would like...make use of what's already been given you...and pick the best of it!

ILLUS: The city dump. That's what it was that day in 1904 when a young black woman, Mary McCloud Bethune, saw it. Nevertheless, she and other willing hands built a shack on that desolate place, for she had a dream that, with God's help, she could help other black women learn to read and write. The first desks were wooden packing crates; the ink was blackberry juice.

As I wandered among the collection of tall buildings, classrooms and dormitories that is now Bethune-Cookman College, I stopped at a plain stone that marks the place where Mrs. Bethune's body was laid to rest at the age of seventy-nine. It had taken more than half a century for her dream to become a reality. The words carved on that stone told her whole story: "She has given her best so that others might live a more abundant life." -- Walter Harter

5. Samson had no time to think about what he didn't have, only to grab the best of what he did have....shouldn't we do the same in faith today!?

a. This is what makes faith so dynamic to the Christian

b. And what seems so foolish to the unbeliever!

B. Deliverance! 15:16-17

1. As 3,000 doubting and fearful Israelites watch, Samson delivers them by killing all 1,000 of the enemy Philistines with a single Jawbone and God's power!

2. Where they had fussed and fumed about how bad they had it under the Philistines' hand and got nothing done, Samson had just showed them the way of faith...and victory and freedom!

a. In a play on Hebrew words Samson states that with a "Jawbone of a donkey he made a bunch of donkeys out of his enemies!" (see 2:16)

b. Samson decided to do something about the irritant instead of just accepting it!

c. Faith acts to change things!

ILLUS: There once was an oyster whose story I tell, Who found that sand had got under his shell,

Just one little grain, but it gave him much pain, For oysters have feelings although they're so plain.

Now, did he berate the working of Fate, Which had led him to such a deplorable state?

Did he curse out the government, call for an election? No; as he lay on the shelf he said to himself

"If I cannot remove it, I'll try to improve it." So the years rolled by as the years always do,

And he came to his ultimate destiny--stew. And this small grain of sand which had bothered him so,

Was a beautiful pearl, all richly aglow. Now this tale has a moral--for isn't it grand

What an oyster can do with a morsel of sand; What couldn't we do if we'd only begin

With all of the things that get under our skin. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 19.

3. It does not require superior equipment to defeat our enemy, just faith and the wisdom to use the best that is available to us already!

a. It is for this reason no Church has to settle for "just existing"

b. Every work of God can move forward, it does not lack what is needed!

c. Every believer already has at hand what God can use to help us win the fight!

4. Deliverance is an act of faith utilizing whatever is the best at hand! God can and will use even a "bonehead" if that is all that is available!


A. Distress! 15:18

1. Does faith mean easy? NO! Samson discovers that acting in faith can also be exhausting!

a. The battle left him weak and tired...he could have used the help of his 3,000 brothers!

b. As with many spiritual battles, when they are over there can actually be exhaustion after victory!

(1. certainly Elijah discovered this with his victory over the prophets of Baal...he fled to the desert and in a depressed state asked God to strike him dead!!..

(2. Elijah was simply tired and spent!

2. Note that Samson is careful to state that God had given His servant great is not pride speaking in complaint, just exhaustion!

3. What seems like a loss right now however is really a great gain for Judah..the Philistines won't be quick to bother them soon again!...though Samson is now tired, God will not abandon him or ignore his need....great things were to come from all this present suffering!

ILLUS: There are years in South Africa when locusts swarm the land and eat the crops. They come in hordes, blocking out the sun. The crops are lost and a hard winter follows. The "years that the locusts eat" are feared and dreaded. But the year after the locusts, South Africa reaps its greatest crops, for the dead bodies of the locusts serve as fertilizer for the new seed. And the locust year is restored as great crops swell the land. This is a parable of our lives. There are seasons of deep distress and afflictions that sometimes eat all the usefulness of our lives away. Yet, the promise is that God will restore those locust years if we endure. We will reap if we faint not. Although now we do not know all the 'whys', we can be assured our times are in His hands. -- Ron Hembree in, Fruits of the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1969).

4. Samson cries out to God...the source of his strength is also the source of his needs!

B. Delivered! 15:19-20

1. God opens up a fissure in the rock and out from the rock comes living waters!

a. How true this still is... Christ is the Rock, and from Him springs rivers of living water to refresh our souls!

b. Samson is revived and receives back his strength thanks to God's provision.

2. God will not neglect the needs of those who respond in faith.

3. It is interesting that the writer here states that this fountain was still flowing at the time this was written!

a. God's provisions are always greater than our need!

b. Others can benefit from the outpouring of God's blessings when we are faithful to Him...certainly the men of Judah were able to continue to be blessed with this miraculous provision long after this incident.

4. Every confrontation of the enemy is an opportunity for us to act in faith, to take the best of what is available and trust God to give us the strength and wisdom to use what is around us to do the work He has called us to...don't be afraid!

ILLUS: When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity. -- John F. Kennedy

5. The life of faith isn't always accomplished with this best equipment, but always with the best results when done in faith and God's strength!

CONCLUSION: If Satan can't get a Christian to crash, he will settle for containing one! So many Christians are willing to co-exist in peace with the enemy because they feel they are powerless to fight back, but God can take what is available and with His power make it enough to win! Are you co-existing or conquering?