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Wasted Potential of a World Changer: Why We Need to Finish Well

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
November 12, 2020 3:00 am

Wasted Potential of a World Changer: Why We Need to Finish Well

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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November 12, 2020 3:00 am

Some of the greatest human achievers of all time had failings. Abe Lincoln lost a number of elections and nominations, lost his job, lost all his money, lost a sweetheart, but eventually became perhaps our most memorable president. The Bible is also replete with stories of failures who became successes.

Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie shows us it’s not how you start, or detour, but how you finish that matters. Pastor Greg continues his series called World Changers.

View and subscribe to Pastor Greg’s weekly notes.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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The following message from Pastor Greg Laurie is made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. To find out how to know God personally, go to knowgod.org. K-N-O-W, knowgod.org.

Hey, would you do me a favor? Share this message with someone who needs to hear it. You don't decide the day of your death any more than you decided the day of your birth, but you do decide the spiritual state you will be in when you die. We decide how our story will end spiritually. Coming up today, Pastor Greg Laurie points out it's never too late to do what's right. It's never too late to fully surrender ourselves to the Lord.

It's not enough to just know what is right or even to be used by God for a time. You need to finish this race. This is the day when the lost are found This is the day for a new beginning Amazing grace, how sweet the sound Oh, can you hear all the angels are singing? This is the day, the day when life begins Some of the greatest human achievers of all time had failings.

Abe Lincoln lost a number of elections and nominations, lost his job, lost all his money, lost his sweetheart, but eventually became perhaps our most memorable president. And the Bible is replete with stories of failures who became successes. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie shows us it's not how you start or detour, but how you finish that matters. Pastor Greg continues his series called World Changers. This is the day, the day when life begins Alright. Well let's grab our Bibles and we are going to turn to Judges chapter 16.

And the title of my message is, The Wasted Potential of a World Changer. And we are going to look at a guy who had an amazing beginning but not a great ending. And in fact I have to admit I am even a little surprised he made it into the Heroes Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. In fact his name is just mentioned among other names. Samson.

He is just included. And listen. We decide how our story will end spiritually. You don't decide the day of your death anymore than you decided the day of your birth. You don't decide how you will die or where you will die, but you do decide the spiritual state you will be in when you die. And we don't know when that day will come. You say, no God decides that.

No actually you decide that. God wants you close to Him. God wants you in friendship and fellowship and intimacy with Him.

But that is my choice to have that relationship with the Lord or not to have that relationship with the Lord. And here is Samson who had a great beginning. I mean he had superhuman qualities.

Physically there was none stronger. And God's Spirit came upon Samson to make a stand at a very dark time in the history of Israel. Similar to Gideon's time.

Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. And the Bible also says and judges that the word of the Lord was scarce in those days. So Samson was dedicated to the Lord and God wanted him to take the vow of a Nazarite.

Among other things that meant that you would never drink alcohol and secondly that you would grow your hair out. But no sooner does he get started when he starts doing the wrong things. The devil sized him up. Found his Achilles heel and came up with a hack.

I know how to get this guy. And he designed a special instrument to bring Samson down and her name was Delilah. By the way the word Delilah means delicate. So this beautiful delicate feminine probably petite girl comes up to Samson. And he is attracted to her. And this proved to be his undoing.

So let's look at the story now. Judges 16 starting in verse 4. By the way I am reading from the New Living Translation. Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. And the Lord said the Philistines came up to her and said to her, Entice him and find out where his great strength lies and by what means we may overpower him so we can bind him to afflict him.

And every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver. So Delilah said to Samson, Please tell me where your great strength lies and with what you may be bound to afflict you. Samson said, If they buy me with seven fresh bow strings not yet dried I will become weak like any other man. So the Lord of the Philistines brought up her seven fresh bow strings and they are lying in wait and staying with her in the room. And she said to him, The Philistines are upon you Samson. And he broke the bow strings as a strand of yard breaks when it touched his fire.

So the secret of his strength was not known. We will stop there. But she would not give up. She kept tormenting him. She kept nagging him. And now she goes in for the kill. Go back to Judges 16 verse 15. Then Delilah pouted, How can you say you love me when you won't confide in me?

You have made fun of me three times now. You still haven't told me what makes you so strong. So day after day she nagged him until he couldn't stand it any longer. Finally Samson told her his secret. My hair has never been cut. He confessed I was dedicated to God as a Nazarite from birth.

If my head were shaved my strength would leave me and I would become weak as anyone else. Delilah realized he finally told her the truth. So she sent for the Philistine leaders, Come back one more time.

He has told me everything. So the Philistine leaders returned and brought the money with them. And she lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap. And she called to a man to shave off his hair making his capture certain. And his strength left him.

Then she cried out, Samson the Philistines have come to capture you. And he woke him and thought, I will do as I have before and shake myself free. But he didn't realize the Lord had left him. Underline that verse.

He didn't realize the Lord had left him. So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes and they took him to Gaza where he was bound with bronze chains and made to grind grain in the prison. We will stop there.

Wow. What a sad story. If Samson were running a race he would have just fallen and fallen hard.

And it would appear he would never get up again. Look at what Delilah says to him in verse 15. If you love me you will do this. Listen to this. Any person who would ask you to compromise your principles as a believer to prove your love does not really love you. Ok. So some guy says to you, girls if you love me you will go all the way with me. Uh uh. He doesn't love you.

He is a dog. Hey if you love me you will lie for me. If you love me you will cover for me.

Wait a second. Don't ask me to compromise my principles to prove my love. The fact of the matter is if I love you I will tell you the truth. Because the Bible says open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

We completely misunderstand love sometimes and we confuse lust for love. And what is amazing to me is he is comfortable enough with Delilah to fall asleep in her lap. Talk about sleeping with the enemy. And then this sad statement in verse 20. He didn't realize the Lord had left him.

See this is what happens to people when they get caught up in sin. They think everyone is against them. No one understands them. Everyone is judging them.

You don't get it. I am different. No you are not different. We are all the same. We are all vulnerable. We are all capable of doing crazy stuff.

We have to know that about ourselves. And you can come into the sway and influence and intoxicating effects of sin if you are not careful. And that is what was happening now to Samson.

He thought he would shake himself free as he had done on other times. And that reminds us of something. Sin blinds you.

It finds you. And it grinds you. See the Philistines took Samson. Gouged out his eyes and bound him with bronze chains.

And he was grinding grain in the prison. Sin blinds you, finds you, and grinds you. First sin blinds you. You do irrational things. I have heard of men.

Of course you have too. I am sure walking away from their wives who love them. Their children. To go have some stupid fling. I have heard of women abandoning their families to go find themselves. You know.

Crazy stuff. It blinds you to the truth. It seems so appealing at first but then you know you find yourself trapped. Number two sin finds you.

And what does that mean? The Bible says your sin will find you out. I know you are getting away with it right now but it is going to catch up with you sooner or later. You know there is that euphoric like excitement the first time you cross the line with that person. After that first sexual encounter or after you visit that first illicit website.

Or after you steal that object. Oh I got away with it. That was fun. Sin can be fun. Can't it?

Right? The Bible speaks of the pleasures of sin for a season. For a season. For a time. There is a little bit of a rush. But now here comes the repercussions like a ton of bricks crashing down on you.

And that is what we don't think about. Oh well I am having fun. They lied.

They lied to me man. It is fun. I am not lying to you. It is fun. And then it kills you. So if you are down with that go for it.

But I think we like to ignore the other part. Well I will never get caught. No one will ever know. I will never face the repercussions. Sin blinds you. Then sin finds you. And then sin grinds you.

Then there is the repercussion of sin. Broken families betrayed trust. Damaged witness and reputation. Devastated children with deep wounds that they may carry for the rest of their lives. Hey who cares about that?

What about your needs right? That is what we will say. That is what sin can do. Strong warnings about sin. And some of Pastor Greg's most heartfelt counsel is straight ahead.

So stay tuned. And now Pastor Greg continues his look at the downfall of the great strong man Samson in his message called Wasted Potential of a World Changer. God gave Samson a second chance. And by the way verse 22 of Judges 16 is a life verse for all bald men. However the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven. I often read this verse.

I hold the Bible to my head. I say, Lord let it be even now unto your bald servant Greg. Just let my hair begin to grow. His hair began to grow again.

I love that. See Samson was learning. He was learning the hard way. So here he is down grinding the wheat you know in the mill going around in circles. His eyes are gone. He can't see anything.

His hair is shaved but it is starting to grow back. So one day the Philistines are having a big drunken feast to worship their false god Dagon. And by the way Dagon was half fish and half man. Sort of a merman. Instead of a mermaid it was a merman. Hey let's worship the merman. Let's worship Dagon.

Yeah. Then some Philistine had the stupidest idea in all of Philistine history. Let's bring up that Samson guy for entertainment.

You know he doesn't have any strength left so they bring up Samson. Walks upstairs. He is not looking around.

He can't see a thing. There is a little boy next to him. A little servant kid. And he says, Son would you show me where the foundational pillars of this temple are? And the little boy says, Sure.

Come on. And he walks over. He puts a hand on one pillar. He puts a hand on the other and he says, Lord give me strength to do this one last time.

And he pushes and the pillars come apart and the floor above collapses. And thousands of Philistines who are partying away worshiping a false god follow their deaths and he ends up killing more Philistines in the end than he had killed in his entire career if you will. So in a way it was a victory. But of course the sad part is he died with the Philistines. Remember God said he would begin to deliver Israel. Unfortunately he didn't finish the job he started. He had a great beginning.

Not a great ending. But God did give him a second chance. So let's learn the lesson of Samson.

It is not enough to just know what is right or even to be used by God for a time. You need to finish this race. But let me say this. Maybe some of you said, Well it is too late for me. I have made so many mistakes and I am in this messed up family and I know the same bad things that my mom and dad did I am going to do.

And then my kids are going to do. And there is no way to break this cycle of sin. I am telling you Jesus can change your story. He can change your story. And I have a great illustration for that because I have a letter that I received recently from a listener.

Her name is Lisa. It is a little bit long but stay with me. I think you will agree with me that this is an amazing story.

Lisa writes, Let me tell you how your ministry has changed my life. I grew up in an alcoholic home. My parents were alcoholics. My father was abusive to my mother. I was the second child of four. I had an older sister, younger sister, and younger brother and we were brought up as Catholics.

But I never knew anything about salvation or having a relationship with Jesus Christ. When I was nine years old my mother, father, and younger sister were in an alcohol related car accident in March of 1987. My father and younger sister passed away. My mother was in critical condition for several months. I disliked going to the hospital to visit her having to see all the tubes and wires and bandages.

I barely recognized her. My mother recovered after the doctor said she wouldn't walk again. Unfortunately after her recovery she continued with her drinking and binged not caring for her three children that remained alive. I believe because of the hurt, pain, and difficult life we had my older sister then committed suicide at the age of 20.

This story is just going from bad to worse. This hurt me very much Lisa writes. I felt hurt and alone like no one cared.

I would think why was I created to endure all this pain and hurt to be left alone. I often had thoughts of suicide. My brother was being cared for by my uncle and his family and my mom continued her drinking and I pretty much grew up on my own.

I finished school but I got pregnant at a young age. And then in 1997 my mom was driving drunk and she killed a woman. She was charged with vehicular homicide and was sent to prison. Wow.

It's just going down. God loves to interrupt stories like this. But it was during this time that she was incarcerated she began to listen to Christian radio and you were one of the ones she would listen to. She listened and listened until one night she cried out to God and surrendered her life to Jesus. Praise God she is now a born again Christian. She has been serving the Lord faithfully and the Lord has done great things in her life. And she fasted and prayed for my salvation for five years. And in 2003 I gave my life to the Lord.

I remember my mother saying she would listen to you on the radio every day. If she hadn't heard the message and gotten saved I don't think I would be saved. Thank you for your faithfulness to God.

Then listen to what she says. I lost two sisters but the Lord has given me many sisters in Christ. I am thankful for what Jesus has done for me on the cross.

God bless you and Harvest Ministry. Isn't that a great story. True story. You know people talk about generational curses. There is a curse on your family and there is no way to break the curse.

Nonsense. There is no generational curses. When Jesus died on the cross all curses, all sin was broken. And when you put your faith in Christ you are free from it. I don't need to go over my story.

You know it. My mom was an alcoholic. My mom was married in divorce seven times.

If statistics went their natural direction I would have been divorced multiple times by now. I would probably be drunk and slurring my words. I wouldn't be a preacher. I will tell you that. But God interrupted my story. And He turned my mess into a message.

And He did the same for Lisa. And He can do the same for you. And I don't care what trouble you have gotten yourself into.

Say well Greg I have made the worst decisions and then worst decisions on top of that. Ok. Right. So own it. Admit it. Ask God to help. Cry out to God.

Just like Lisa's mom did. Cry out to God. And the Lord will hear you. And the Lord will answer your prayer and God will change your story.

Let me go back to one point and then I will close. We read that Samson did not know the Lord had left him. He did not know the Lord had left him. See in the Old Testament, in the Old Covenant, when God would speak to a person it was different than how it is in the New Covenant and our relationship with God. In the Old Testament the Spirit of God might come upon a person. God might speak to a person.

But in this case the Lord left Samson. But the good news is when you are a Christian Jesus says, I will never ever leave you or forsake you. God will never leave you. Ever. God will never leave you no matter what you have done.

But listen to this. You can leave him. God won't leave you but you can leave him. I sometimes joke to my wife, if you ever leave me I am going with you. So you know it is kind of hard to leave someone if they go with you.

Right? So God won't abandon you but you can abandon God. And maybe you have done that. You know you have raised in the church or you made a commitment to Christ and you have gotten involved in some messed up thing. In an affair or you are involved in drugs. You come back to stuff you never thought you would go back to again. You are dealing with addiction issues and substance abuse issues or other things.

Who knows. There are so many crazy things we can get ourselves into. And you are thinking, I don't know how to get out of this. You need to call out to the Lord. I love what Jesus says to the church of Ephesus. He says, you have left your first love. You see they had left him.

God didn't leave them but they left him. He says, you have left your first love but remember from where you have fallen repent and do the first works quickly. So the three R's of getting right with God. Remember. Repent. Repeat.

Number one. Remember. Remember. It was better before. Your life was better before when you were walking closely with Jesus. Remember that as a point of reference.

Number two. Repent. That means hang a U-turn. Admit your sin. Don't blame others for it.

Stop rationalizing it. Admit it. Repent. God says if you repent you will be cleansed.

And then thirdly repeat. Go back and do the things you used to do. Remember when you used to start each day reading the Bible. Remember when you used to have a prayer life.

Remember when you were actively involved in the church. Do that again. But here is the thing.

You can come back to him today. And some of you may need to do that. But there are some here that have never put their faith in Jesus.

And maybe you are reaping the consequences of bad decisions right now. Maybe that is why you are at church. And actually I am really glad you are here. And you are welcome here.

And we want to help you. Maybe you don't have a crisis in your life but you have just become very aware of the fact that you are a sinner separated from God. And you need your sin forgiven because you want to go to heaven when you die. Jesus who died on the cross and rose again from the dead stands at the door of your life and he knocks and says if you will hear his voice and open the door he will come in.

I would like to give you an opportunity to believe in Jesus. Let's all bow our heads for prayer. Father I pray for any that are here with us.

Any that are listening or watching wherever they are. Speak to their hearts now and help them to see their need for you. And help them to come to you we would pray. Amen. Pastor Greg Laurie with an important word of prayer today here on A New Beginning. And if you would like to make a change in your relationship with the Lord Pastor Greg will help you do that in just a moment.

So stay with us. And if you weren't able to hear every word of today's message you can hear it again online just go to harvest.org. Look for the title Wasted Potential of a World Changer. Or listen by way of our Harvest mobile app. And for a CD copy just call us at 1-800-821-3300.

We can take your call 24-7 at 1-800-821-3300. And then we want to mention a resource we're highlighting right now The Jesus Storybook Bible A Christmas Collection by author Sally Lloyd-Jones. Pastor Greg's wife Kathy is with us today. Kathy you're a mother and a grandmother. And you know years ago you read stories to your two boys.

And more recently you've read stories to your five grandkids. So when a certain resource gets the Kathy Laurie Seal of Approval it's worth mentioning and you want to highlight such a book today don't you? Oh don't get me started on Sally Lloyd-Jones and her books. I discovered Sally's Jesus Storybook Bible.

Golly so many years ago it has become a favorite in our home. It has ministered to my heart so many times. And I think that if I could say this she is my favorite children's author.

I love everything she writes. And I think it's just brilliant how she has created a resource for families at this time. Because I believe that through this whole season of COVID we need to pour into our children. Parents need to take up the incredible privilege and responsibility of informing their kids. It's been difficult through this because a lot of children's ministries through church have been shut down. Now is the opportunity to take hold of that responsibility ourselves, as moms, as grandmothers, grandfathers, that we would take on this.

And can I just say that although Sally is writing with a child in mind, the truths that she is able to articulate are just profound. They are deep, they are rich, and the story of Jesus coming into the world to fix his broken creation is so appropriate right now. Because we look at things all around us and there's such heartbreak and things have been taken and things have been lost that we held onto.

And we're thinking, is there a way forward? But we see that so beautifully played out in the story of redemption that God, this didn't take him by surprise. He knew exactly what we would be facing and he has shown us in his word that if he can take the brokenness of creation and restore it and redeem it through the work of his son Jesus and coming into this world, he can do that for us in our individual lives as well.

That's right. So if you want to bring that comforting message to your family, to your children, we are offering a resource we've never offered before. It's called the Jesus Storybook Bible, a Christmas collection, beautifully written, amazing illustrations, and a little button you can push on various pages to hear the voice of actor David Sashay read to you scriptures. Mary and Joseph had to take a trip to Bethlehem, the town King David was from.

But when they reached the little town, they found every room was full, every bed was taken. It's called the Jesus Storybook Bible, a Christmas collection. This would be quite expensive if you went out into a store and purchased it. But we are offering it to our listeners for your gift of any size. We ask you to send a generous gift because it helps us continue on to bring this radio broadcast. Teach the word of God, proclaim the gospel, and for your gift of any size, we'll rush you your copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible Christmas collection written by our friend Sally Lloyd-Jones.

Yeah, that's right. We have a copy here waiting for you. Get in touch right away so we can get it on its way. And thank you for your generosity in investing so that these daily programs can continue touching lives. You can write us at A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514, or call 1-800-821-3300. We're here to take your call around the clock seven days a week.

Again, dial 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org. And then Pastor Greg, just before we go, would you mind praying with the person listening who wants to make a change today in their relationship with the Lord? I'd be happy to, Dave. You know, as you've been listening to this today, maybe you've heard another voice. By that I mean, yeah, you heard me say a few things, but you heard God's voice speak to you deep in the recesses of your heart. And it suddenly dawned on you, this is what I need, or to state it more accurately, this is who I need. I need Jesus, and I want Jesus, but maybe you don't know how to make that connection.

Let me help you. Pray this after me right now if you want Jesus Christ to come into your life. Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sin, and I need your forgiveness right now. Would you come into my heart and my life as Savior, as God, as friend?

I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for calling me and accepting me and forgiving me. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. I know that was a relatively short prayer. Maybe you felt something as you prayed it. Maybe you felt nothing.

That doesn't really matter. Because God's word says, these things we write to you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. It doesn't say, so you may think you have it, or you may hope you have it if God's in a good mood.

No, that you can know it. And I want you to know, if you pray that prayer in a minute, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come into your life. So congratulations, you're now a Christian. Now continue to follow the Lord. Yeah, and to help you as you do that, we'd like to send you some resource materials we call our New Believers' Growth Packet.

It'll answer many of the questions you might have and get you started in your new relationship with the Lord. So contact us and ask for it. We'll send it free of charge. Again, it's the New Believers' Growth Packet, available when you write a new beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514. Or our phone number is 1-800-821-3300. We're here around the clock, seven days a week, to take your phone call.

That's 1-800-821-3300. Or just go online to harvest.org and click on Know God. Well, next time, Pastor Greg continues his inspiring series called World Changers, and helps us consider the life of King David. It's a message called The Ups and Downs and Ups of a World Changer. That's next time on A New Beginning with Pastor Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins The preceding message from Greg Laurie was made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Sign up for Pastor Greg's free daily email devotions at harvest.org.
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