Man, this has been a full week for people here at First Covenant (and around the Peoria area). Lots going on, lots of emotional issues to work through, and yet, lots to look forward to.
First off, this Friday was our church’s open roundtable discussion on the increased reports of violence in our society. I truly did want to allow people’s interactions to be as open-ended and freestyle in form as possible -- which means that the discussion went all sorts of places that I hadn’t planned on it going (and only the tiniest little bit into some of the areas that I had planned on it going). So while I had expected us to talk a chunk about guns, gun control, conceal-and-carry laws, etc., the people in attendance quickly concluded (quite accurately, in my opinion) that the problem isn’t really at its core a gun problem, but rather a human problem... exacerbated by guns. If we want the violence to stop, it’s not enough just to control the guns or even mollify the people of our nation -- we need to change the hearts of our people. And that starts with you and me, reaching past and out of our own comfort zones to change ourselves and all those around us for Christ.
Ironically, that’s what we’ve all been called to do anyway...
On Sunday, we hosted our annual Small Group Ministry Fair after the service, highlighting the various groups in our church family. In my mind, that’s where a lot of the deep discipleship can happen -- praying with and for one another, digging into the Word together, and investing our lives into one another in long-term, meaningful ways. If you aren’t part of a small group, let me encourage you to check them out and see if one might be good for you -- and if not, please let me know if there’s a kind of group that you would be interested in, and we can consider developing one.
This week here in Peoria (and across the country, really), Caterpillar has begun its most recent series of layoffs to drastically reduce its workforce -- this time centering on middle-aged engineers and middle-managers who have been with the company long enough to have troubles finding a new position, but not long enough to really retire. With more than 10,000 layoffs planned, this has been and will continue to be a bloody week for so many families -- so please keep them in prayer as they work through all that goes along with suddenly being out of a job that they’d invested their lives in.
In our message this week, we finished up our two-part look at the life and ministry of Samson. Yes, I do consider it a ministry -- not because he had the right heart at all, nor because he really seemed to have a healthy relationship with anyone else in the story at all (including God), but rather because what he ended up doing is precisely what God had empowered him to be doing all along.
We tend to look at the whole Delilah incident and what came after as tragic -- and it certainly had more than its fair share of tragedy -- but really, it may have ultimately been the best thing that ever happened to Samson. See, Samson kept investing himself in himself -- in doing what made him feel good, or get what he wanted, etc... none of which ever made him ultimately feel good, get what he wanted, etc. Those sorts of selfish, shallow pursuits rarely net anything but fleeting, shallow gains in life. But all along, God was empowering him to bring the fight to the Philistines and bring about the deliverance of his people. So all of the “feats of strength” that Samson did over the years -- all of those self-absorbed spectacles that he’d thrown himself into out of spite or lust or greed or caprice -- were all ultimately intended to bring him to that one moment, in that one temple, standing beside those pillars, with all of those particular people in attendance to humiliate him. It was only at that moment of brokenness and physical weakness that Samson truly found God -- and thus, found the strength to trust in God rather than in his own muscles, gaining the ability to finally see clearly only after his eyes were gone.
Yes, Samson lost everything he’d wanted in his life after abandoning everything meaningful in his life, breaking that last bit of his Naziritic Vow by having his head shaved -- but then, I’d argue that conclusions like that are common to real-life stories like this. We rarely get to end up satisfied in life when we lose sight of everything in life that God has sculpted us to be satisfied with. But even though Samson lost all of the trappings of what he’d thought would make him happy, he found a deeper fulfillment in his life when he finally found God -- even though he’d been accidentally serving God all along.
So what is God trying to show you in your life? What incidentals are you looking for life satisfaction in, and what are you missing out on? At the end of the day -- at the end of your life -- what conclusion do you honestly think will leave you feeling “satisfied”...?