A self-serving lifestyle dulls the spiritual senses
By Kevin Freeman
Read Judges 16:15-21
Key: A self-serving lifestyle dulls the spiritual senses
Courage in the Lives of the Judges
The human brain is susceptible to a variety of illusions and at least one can be seen through hot dogs. Perhaps you think the illusion is simply that your brain considers those mysterious meat encasements to be real food, but neuroscientist Frederik Lindstedt developed another curious illusion using standard frankfurters. Lindstedt opened a pack of refrigerated dogs and microwaved half of them until they were warm. Then he placed the warmed dogs side by side with the chilled dogs in an alternating pattern. When he placed his hand on top of them, the result was a very unpleasant burning sensation!1 Actual burns set off both the warm and cool receptors at the burn site and this experiment mimicked the sensation.
The human heart – our spiritual brain – is also susceptible to illusions, arguably more so than the brain. Samson is a good example of this reality. During the time of the judges, the spiritual condition of the Israelites continued to deteriorate. Even amid oppression from outside peoples, God’s people no longer cried out for relief. They had begun to consider their oppression to be part of normal life. Then God raised up the “mighty” Samson to bring deliverance, but Samson himself was more of an illusion. Deliverance used to mean spiritual renewal from a leader following God’s plan. At that point in Israel’s history, it was a hollowed husk of its former understanding, led by a loose cannon whose deliverance came in the form of revenge-filled rampages.
They were all duped, but none more than Samson. Knowing God had given him strength, he nevertheless failed to acknowledge God. After Delilah’s pressure, Samson finally shared the secret of his strength, the last unbroken part of his Nazirite vow to God. As this flawed deliverer rose to fight the Philistine thugs, he exposed not only his bald head; he showed his heart, too. In what one pastor described as the saddest verse in all the Bible, Samson “did not know that the Lord had left him.” Therein lies the warning for us.
Like Samson, many Christians rely on their former convictions and commitments they used to have, the final vapors of a spiritual tank filled long ago. Acting as though God’s power and presence guide their decisions, they have yet to realize with horror that they have drifted far from His will. This spiritual illusion combines a spiritual fervor long cooled with the occasional warm moment for God. Although these believers feel white-hot for God, it is all an illusion. They are much like the lukewarm believers at Laodicea who God warned in Revelation 3.
Too many believers are going out, like Samson, blind to their plight. In Samson’s case, he only saw this sad fact when, ironically, his eyes were destroyed. His story serves to warn us, so that we can come to terms with reality before it is too late. In Samson’s case, he appears to have never truly come around spiritually. His final request for strength was to avenge his two eyes – his physical sight rather than any spiritual vision. We can do better.
What causes us to fall into this spiritual illusion? Often it is comfort and success. Our senses are dulled as we become complacent and emphasize the pleasures of this life over the joys of the next. The well-off Laodiceans thought they lacked nothing, when God saw them as poor, naked, wretched, and pitiful. They had to shift their investment strategy from earth to heaven and truly focus on God. We can do the same.
- When was the last time you felt the close presence of God? Describe it.
- What is your spiritual heat level right now?
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- What pleasures or endeavors in this world make you most vulnerable to the spiritual illusion that you are closer to God than you actually are?
- What one time shift you can make this week to give up an earthly pursuit and replace that time with a spiritual pursuit?
Putting It Into Practice
Memorize Colossians 3:1-3.
- Ask a trusted friend or your spouse to describe his or her impression of your spiritual health to you.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal any spiritual illusions that you have believed.
- Final Takeaway: Rely on the strength God gives you today, not yesterday.
- Why do you think Samson was unaware that God had left him?
- Describe a time of great spiritual growth and energy in your life.
- What do you think causes Christians to drift away from these spiritually hot periods?
- How can believers help each other stay focused more on their heavenly journey than their earthly goals?
- What earthly pursuit is God revealing to be a potential source of spiritual distraction for you? How can you pursue heavenly endeavors above this one over the next week?
1 Treacy, S. (2011, December 12). “How the ‘Thermal Grill’ Illusion Tricks the Mind.” Retrieved July 21, 2020, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/12/how-thermal-grill-illusion-tricks-mind