Samson – Protrait of a life Derailed (Judges 13-16)

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The opening questions in the sermon concern character. Successful leadership long-term requires character. In “Derailed”, the author, Tim Irwin cites leader’s “dark sides” as the cause for failure long-term, not a lack of intelligence or charisma. The text of Judges 13-16 reveal a leader (Samson) whose life illustrated the sad side of the character-in-leadership principle. Samson ultimately reflected the moral and spiritual life of Israel at the time – Pastor Rich said of Judges 13 that it’s a “story of decline and derailment”. Samson’s parents had committed him as a Nazarite, but he did not live life one “set apart”. Pastor Rich says there were 6 warning signs along the way of decline and potential derailment. First was the sign of “deafness” 14:1-3; next was the sign of “disobedience” 14:5-10; next is ignoring the warning sign of “a loss of self-control” 15-1-8; there is escalating “lust” 14:7, 16:1; there is the pattern of “renaming sin” 15:9-12; finally there is the warning sign of “hubris” 16:4-7,11,13, 17. One shield we can use to fight against derailment is to pray for a healthy fear of the Lord. When we are at bottom and we look up and turn to him, he comes to us in grace and in forgiveness, allowing us to renew our relationship with him and to recover a sense of purpose for the rest of our lives.

In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.


These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

•Can you share something from the message that stood out to you? Can you identify with Samson, or not? Please share briefly.

•If you feel comfortable to share, have you ever had something hidden come into the light? Was it discovered of did you reveal it yourself? What was life like afterward? Please share briefly.

•Can you share an experience where you were tempted to compromise your integrity on something really “big”? What did you do and what happened afterward? Please share briefly.


Study Summary:

James’ epistle might have been an anecdote for Samson. We, at least, can take heed of James’ exhortations with an aim to grow in Christ and “not lack anything”. Part of the anecdote is the regular application of the power of the Gospel to sanctify us. Additionally, when the gospel is coupled with our own humility, the effects can take root and bear much fruit in our lives. We need develop patterns of behavior that allow us to hear God (and others) speak – silence, methods to handle and release our anger, follow-through, and perseverance. All these safe guard our lives and keep us from being deceived.

Read James 1:19:25 (***consider deleting the scripture text to reduce printing pages)

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Context – James, the brother of Jesus, wrote this letter to a diverse church (the 12 tribes), rich and poor in fellowship together experiencing various trials throughout the Roman World. Additionally, he was addressing significant problems he believed stemmed from issues of anger, lack of control over tongue and speech, and the charge to live out our faith not just in words but in actions. Sprinkled throughout the letter is much wisdom in Christian living from a seasoned believer who walked with Jesus. James opens by contrasting two types of church people – the double-minded person (v. 8) who follows after their evil desires leading to death (vv. 14-15), and the one who perseveres (vv.3-4) and becomes a “kind of first fruit” (v.18), “complete” not lacking anything in wisdom and maturity (v.5). The rest of the letter continues these contrasts.

•V. 19-20 What 3 things does James exhort us to do? For what reason? Break apart the three: “quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger” – comment on each of the 3 exhortations individually. What does it mean to control our reactions to others and why is it so hard? Why does James address our speech over other actions? What other verses apply to our speech (Jam 3:8-9, Col 4:6, Prov 13:3, 15:1, Matt 12:36)? Can you share a situation where you were not slow to listen and spoke “too quickly” – what happened?

•V. 21 What is “the Word”? How does it need to be received? On a scale from 1 to 10, how stubborn would you rate Americans? How prideful? What about meek? Or submissive? The soft soil in which the gospel of grace needs to take root is fertilized with our humility. Describe a spiritually humble person – Is humility something you’re born with, or something acted upon? What are you like when you’re not humble, or submissive? Do you feel near to God during those times?

•V. 21 What is the fruit of the work of the Gospel? This is the context for James exhortations. Additionally, it’s clear that the work of the gospel is not a one-time event – spiritual regeneration is an on-going challenge. We need to “persevere” to clean out the filth in our hearts. So experiences of trials in life and in relationships can stir up, and reveal, evil within us – Have you seen this reality play itself out in your life? Please share briefly.

•Back to vv. 19-20 – consider your walk with God. How can you practice the first principle with the Holy Spirit “quick to listen and slow to speak”? How have you found success in listening to God’s voice? In what ways do you shut our God’s voice, or prevent Him from speaking?

•Do you practice solitude? What works and doesn’t work for you. Please share.

•“Slow to anger” – how does anger affect he work of the gospel within us? Have you ever been under the weight of anger – experience a “long-term” season of anger and frustration? What was it like? How did it affect your relationships? How did it affect your relationship with God?

•What does it mean to give our anger to God? What needs to be exchanged in us? Has there been a time a where you did not receive “justice”, but through surrendering to God you became free from anger? Please explain

•V. 22. Read Luke 11:28. How can there be deception in us, even though we encounter truth? How did Samson display this quality (or lack thereof)? What happens when we continually ignore the piercing call of obedience to God?

•V. 23,24 Part of becoming mature, and not lack any wisdom, it involves a severe honesty by which we perceive ourselves. How can we gain perspective and deeper self-awareness? Would you say your relationships with other believers are honest and transparent? Contrast two categories of relationship – one that is honest and transparent and another that is superficial? Read Prov 13:20. What can we learn from this proverb?

•V. 25 What is the perfect law that gives freedom? How long or how many times should we observe it? Describe what in means for you to ”look intently”?


Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.

Break the habit of lying

•There were 6 fantastic applications from the message on Samson, and one or more of them may have struck a cord with you. Consider how God might want you to address what’s lacking and tackle areas of blindness within.

•We can foster and impact the process of spiritual regeneration – we can do so through humility and a healthy and honest perspective of ourselves. Unlock whatever is holding you back, and pray with another about being free.

•God may be speaking to you about your entire orientation – defensive rather than humble, angry rather than forgiving, “quick to speak rather than quick to listen”…if you feel challenged by the passage, pray that the power of the gospel take deep root in you. Also consider deliberate steps to change your attitudes.