“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1-5).”
“Sometimes a man can want somethin’ so bad, he’s so full of want, he plain forgets what it is he wants.”-Willie Stark in the film “All the President’s Men”
In the movie “All the King’s Men”, Willie Stark wants to be governor of Louisiana. In the beginning, his motives are good.
Stark wants to help the little man. He wants to end the corruption and the excesses of companies and government.
However, after he is elected, Stark begins to change. His morals collapse.
Stark commits frequent adultery. He also seeks to destroy men who oppose him.
The fatal corrupt act for Stark is when he builds a hospital, and convinces the reclusive son of a former heroic governor, a doctor, to direct it. When the doctor learns that the governor actually built the hospital as a front for personal graft, and is also having an affair with his sister, he acts.
The doctor shoots the governor in the state legislature after the latter wins an impeachment vote. Willie Stark is dead.
The Bible has its own Willie Starks. One of them is Samson.
In the Old Testament, Samson is called by God to be a judge in Israel. He is also meant to fulfill the vows of a Nazirite Jew, one who is seperated to God in holiness (Judges 13:2-5).
Samson begins well. He is described as being a person who is stirred by the Spirit of God (Judges 13:24,25).
After that, it is all downhill for the young Samson. First, he weds a Philistine woman, putting him in the middle of that idol worshipping culture, one opposed in every way to his own (Judges 14:1-3).
Then, Samson begins to have anger management problems. After some friends and his wife trick him, he loses it and kills 30 Philistines to get the resources to pay off the bet. After that, he returns home to his parents in a rage (Judges 14:19-20).
Samson’s not only lacks the ability to control his anger, but he also seems to be something of a sex addict. In one episode, he visits a Philistine prostitute, and almost loses his life when the enemies he has made surround him (Judges 16:1-3).
Samson’s sexual problems finally lead to his demise. He falls for a woman named Delilah, who tricks him into revealing the source of his strength, which is his hair, representative of his standing as a dedicated Nazirite and one in pursuit of holiness (Judges 16:4-17).
Delilah arranges for Samson to get a very expensive haircut and delivers him into the hands of the Philistines. His enemies gouge his eyes out and put him to work as a slave (Judge3s 16:18-21).
Samson’s hair begins to grow back, however. In one final act of superhuman strength, Samson literally brings down the house on a large number of Philistines, and dies with them (Judges 16:22-30).
Samson began his backsliding long before he lost all his hair. The haircut is only God exhibiting the end to his patience with a man He had high hopes for.
God was the source of Samson’s strength. When Samson gave up on God, God also gave up on him, but not without a fight!
Like many men in dire straits, Samson seems to have done a spiritual turnaround at the end. He gets his hair back, and with it the power of God’s Spirit.
Unfortunately, Samson’s reversal was too late for him to have any more ongoing impact in this life. His leadership and life, which held such promise, is cut short (Judges 16:31).
Judges notes twice the length of Samson’s role as a judge. It is as if the author is letting out a sigh or two, thinking of what might have been.
Stories like those of Willie Stark and Samson disc0urage me. They remind me of my own wasted potential.
In one school I taught in, there were standards for the student’s we called the “p’s”. They included things like “progess” and “performance”.
We used to say in that school, only half-jokingly, that one of the “p’s” on the list was NOT “potential”.
How do you grade someone on possibility? Can you assign a person a mark for work that is not actual?
David G. Evans, in his book “Dare to Be a Man” describes a beloved aunt as one in her youth who was beautiful, inside and out. Pastor Evans writes that his Aunt Maggies was “enormously talented, gifted with multiple abilities, energetic, intelligent, and full of life”.
His Aunt Maggie died. Pastor Evans describes her at the time of her death:
“… she had not reached her potential, her talents and gifts were largely untapped, and she was economically unfulfilled. Her countenance was that of a person who had lived knowing there was much more she could have achieved.”
Pastor Evans used the occasion of his aunt’s funeral to impart vision to the extended family. He told them that the life choices they would make, especially in relation to staying connected to friends and family, were critical.
What do you do when you look at the lives of people like the fictional Willie Stark and the all too real Samson and get discouraged? Do you say “Woe is me”, throw your hands up and quit?
That is my temptation. However, the apostle Paul tells us not to do that.
In describing the people of God in the Old Testament, Paul tells us to instead learn from their mistakes. While they didn’t rely on God’s deliverance from sin and temptation, we are called to (I Corinthians 10:1-13).
I may be old (or at least “older”,) but I am not stupid. I do want to live for God the rest of my days.
The key to that it seems to me is to please God, and to have a romance with Jesus. I think the old Frank Sinatra hit expresses what I mean:
♪ You make me feel so young ♪
♪ You make me feel like spring has sprung ♪
♪ And every time I see you grin ♪
♪ Oh, I’m such a happy individual ♪
♪ The moment that you speak ♪
♪ I want to go and play hide-and-seek ♪
♪ I want to go and bounce the moon ♪
♪ Just like a big toy balloon ♪
♪ Darling, you and I are just like a couple of tots ♪
♪ Running across a meadow ♪
♪ Picking up lots of forget-me-nots ♪
♪ And even when I’m old and gray ♪
♪ I’m going to feel the way I do today ♪
♪ Because you make me feel so young ♪
Unlike Willie Stark and Samson, to finish well for Christ I have to recall why I came to Him in the first place. I need to remember my roots!
I need to go out today and pick some forget-me-nots with Jesus.