I want us to look at the life of Samson tonight for our illustration of what I believe to be a serious problem right here in the city of Charlotte. I think most of us have been beginning to follow the newspaper stories in one of our papers about the teenage problem in Charlotte, about some of the amazing things that are going on, which we did not realize are happening in this city. We read about it in New York. We hear about it in Chicago and Philadelphia, but I think we were rather shocked to realize that it is happening right here in this city.
I want to direct my remarks tonight, if I might, to this problem. I want you to turn to the 16th chapter of Judges, beginning at the 20th verse. I want to ask that during the message there be no walking around, no moving of any kind, for one person moving in an audience like this can disturb many people. I ask that you give absolute attention, because there are many of you here tonight who need Christ.
You need an encounter with the living God. You need an experience with Christ to let Him change your life and make you a new person, to forgive your sins, solve your problems, lift your burdens, and give you a new direction for your entire life.
Now, here is Delilah talking to Samson: "And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house" [Judges 16:20,21].
Here we have a picture of Samson. Samson was one of the greatest men of his time. I have chosen tonight to call him "God's delinquent" because that is what he was. He was a young man who had every advantage, but he was a teenage delinquent. We want to see how he got that way, and what he could have done to have saved himself.
Our newspapers today are filled with stories of teenage violence and crime. Last year twenty-two thousand under twenty-one were arrested in the city of New York. Thirty thousand others came to the attention of the police. Other thousands committed the same thing, but got away with it. Forty-one percent of all the arrests for crime in New York City last year were those under twenty-one years of age. By 1965, it is predicted that one boy in five will have a police record by the time he is twenty years of age. Now, many people are trying to analyze and understand the causes of this outbreak of teenage violence and crime in the United States. But, in my opinion, as I have read a number of books on the subject, I am convinced that we are dealing with symptoms rather than causes.
Certainly insecurity, bad environment, too much leisure, not enough parental control, lewd pictures, suggestive and risque cartoons, and so forth all make their contribution to teenage delinquency. But these are dealing only with symptoms, and tonight I want us to look at the Bible in the life of Samson and see the cause back of all the causes. What is causing delinquency? Why is it happening?
Now, I know that only five percent of the young people are getting in trouble with the authorities. I know that the vast majority of our young people never get in trouble with the authorities. Some of the older people look back and say, "We were better in our generation." If they are any worse than they were in my generation then they are really bad, because all teenagers go through a period when they have to let off a little steam.
I wonder sometimes why we don't print and write the good things that our young people are doing, because thousands of them are following Christ. Millions of them are in the church doing good things, but that never makes the headlines. That never makes the news. Every time a teenager goes wrong, it makes the front page of the paper. And other teenagers say, "Well, that must be smart. That must be the thing to do. That must be what the majority are doing." The majority are not doing that. I believe the majority of young people in America are basically moral, decent, and want to do right; but it is the five percent that causes the trouble.
I want you really to see Samson. He was born at a crisis period in the history of Israel. His country at that time was oppressed by the Philistines. The Bible tells the truth about its heroes. It holds nothing back. God gave Samson the greatest opportunity of any man in the Old Testament, next to Moses. He had more potential strength, and the best environment of almost anybody in the entire Bible, but he miserably failed. The cause and the root of Samson's trouble was not a broken home; it was not a bad environment. It was something else. We want to see what that something else was tonight.
I believe that something else is the root cause of our problems among young people in America tonight. The newspapers have indicated, in New York City at least, that teenage violence takes place in underprivileged areas. There are whole areas in New York City--we found out when we were there--that are held in terror, absolute terror. But the police chief of Los Angeles says it is the over-privileged child who is causing so much trouble in Los Angeles. He is being given so much in the way of material things that he is going haywire looking for new satisfactions. So it is not limited to the underprivileged. It's the over-privileged as well.
Certainly, if any man in the Old Testament could be said to be over-privileged, it was Samson. He had everything that a young man could want to make him happy, to give his life fulfillment. I want you to notice several things about Samson.
First of all, he was handsome. The girls turned around and looked at him, and that became one of his problems--girl trouble. Everywhere he went, a crowd gathered around him, and hooted and hollered and whistled at him. That is happening today in America. The boys no longer stand on the street corner and whistle at the girls. Rather, it is the girls who are whistling at the boys.
Secondly, Samson was strong. He was probably the most finely-developed man, physically, of any man that ever lived, except Christ. One day he was walking down the road and a lion came out, and he grabbed this lion with his bare hands and ripped him apart [see Judges 14:5,6]. Now, that takes a pretty good man to meet up with a lion, and grab him by the mane, and rip him apart. Why, even Tarzan had trouble doing that!
Then on another occasion he took the jawbone of a donkey and went out and killed one thousand in a battle. One thousand soldiers with spears, and swords, and armament. He took the jawbone of an ass and killed them. [See Judges 15:14-17.] Now, Audie Murphy couldn't do that!
Samson was a man, a giant, a strong giant of a man, with muscles that rippled and rolled. He was a Floyd Patterson, Sugar Robinson, and a Paul Anderson all rolled into one. The Bible says he had long, beautiful, black hair. Maybe that is where Elvis got his idea of the long sideburns. He was a teenager with all the enthusiasm, and potentials, and possibilities, and the fire of youth. He had all the energy of a young man--strong, handsome, young, vigorous.
He also had godly parents. His parents had reared him to know God from the day he was born. God had announced his birth. God said, "I want this boy to be reared for me," and he had taken the Nazarite vow. [See Judges 13:2-5.] That meant that no razor could come near his hair. He could not take any alcoholic beverages. He could not come near a dead body. That was the Nazarite vow. It was a vow of sanctification, and separation, and consecration unto God. And Samson, from the day he was born, was taught the Bible, taught the Scriptures, taught about God.
The Bible says that God had a plan for his life. His mother and his father prayed over him as a little baby in their arms. He had been a miracle of life and a bundle of innocence. He had been reared the way he should have been reared. So, if he went wrong, you cannot blame his parents. [See Judges 13:6-24.]
Here then we have more than a parental problem. We have been talking about parental delinquency. I know parents who have reared their children to know Christ and to know God. They have taken them to Sunday school and church. Yet they have turned out to be devils. What is wrong? Well, here is what is wrong. When a boy or girl reaches the age of accountability--which is usually between seven and twelve years of age--they have a will of their own. They make their own choices. And all of these things from their parents and their environment can influence them, and help them, and it gives them a tremendous advantage. But, when all is said and done, they must make their own choices.
That is the reason why it is so important for you young people to come forward and give your lives to Christ, because you must make your own choice. Your parents can encourage you; they can influence you. But when you reach a certain age, in one sense--morally--you are on your own. God holds you responsible. He no longer holds the parents responsible.
Now, Samson had some problems. First, Samson had a romantic problem. He fell in love with too many women. It is a fact that today sixty percent of the American young people go steady. I do not know whether that is good or bad. I am not going to argue that tonight. I have got my own ideas. Samson not only liked to go out on a date, but he wanted to go too far on the date. All this tremendous energy, this creative energy that we have called sex, Samson misused. Samson had a lot of puppy love affairs, and his problem was the problem of sex. I cannot warn you enough that in the day in which we are living, young people, live clean.
You say, "Well, Billy, I cannot. I have tried. I have already gone too far. I have gone too far to turn back. I just cannot give up some of the things I have been doing. I have been engaging in heavy petting. And when you get in the habit, it is hard to turn back." Well, I want to tell you tonight, Jesus Christ can give you the strength to turn back. He can give you the strength to say no. He can give you the strength and the power to live a clean, wholesome life for God.
If you give your life to Him, I guarantee you, He will give you supernatural power to resist temptation, to live clean. Give this energy you have got, this surplus of energy, give it to God. Give it to Christ. Use it for His glory, and He will take you to the cross if you do. When you win the sex battle, you have won the battle of life. Lose the battle, and you will lose all the rest of your life. However, you should win it when you are a teenager. Why not win it now?
Oh, you may be looked upon as a sore thumb, out of place, a misfit. All the rest of the gang at the high school are doing it, and you will be out of place. You will be called a prude. You will be called old-fashioned. Let them call you any name they want. I'll guarantee you, when the accounts are in, they will all look at you and say, "I wish I had been like you." Some day you will say, "Thank God, I lived for God and gave myself to Him."
Samson's strength was given to him so that he might deliver his people from bondage. He could have been a mighty emancipator, a liberator.
Samson also had a parental problem. A teenager said the other day, "Parents are such a problem." Yes, many parents are biologically able to have children, but are not emotionally and spiritually qualified to raise a family. May God pity the child of such parents. But, to many teenagers, good parents are a problem, too. You want to go your own way and live your own life without any interference or advice from your parents. You have thrown off the yoke of your parents. The Bible says, "Honour thy father and thy mother" [Exodus 20:12]. The Bible says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" [Ephesians 6:1]. Notice, it says "in the Lord." Their precepts must be of God and according to His will. Only then, are parents worthy of being of age.
I have found that children are great mimics. They follow the examples of their parents rather than lectures by their parents. You set the example. If dad talks about constructive activity and then he sits in front of a television set all evening drinking beer, his actions speak louder than his words. And the children note what he does, but they forget his lecture. The Bible warns, "Train . . . a child in the way he should go" [Proverbs 22:6]. We are to set the example. And there are thousands of parents in Charlotte who are failing their children, not because they do not provide them a good home--because they do. They provide them food, they provide them clothes, they provide them all of these things. But they are not living the life in front of them.
Then, thirdly, Samson had a problem of too much leisure. Youthful energy plus too much spare time equals trouble. The tragedy of this century of so-called progress is that we fail to provide an outlet for the strength that is stored up in thousands of our idle young people. Why, one week he gave a seven-day party, a party that lasted for seven days! That is a pretty long time for a party to last. [See Judges 14:12-17.]
Then, fourthly, Samson's biggest problem was deeper than that. His problem was one of sin, ruling principle of sin with which all of us are infected. The Bible says all is sin that comes short of the glory of God [see Romans 3:23]. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. The Bible indicates that we have all sinned, and that was his problem.
Now, by sin I don't mean immorality. That was only one of his sins. Samson committed about every sin in the book. He broke the first commandment because he did not put God first in his life [see Exodus 20:3]. He broke the fourth commandment because he did not honor his parents [see Exodus 20:12]. He broke the sixth commandment because he killed [see Exodus 20:13].
Every person in this audience today has sinned. We have a ruling principle that we have inherited from our parents and our great-grandparents, right back to Adam, which is called sin--this tendency to commit evil, this tendency to sin. We see it in our children. Even a little baby slaps its mother. Even a little child will tell a lie and deceive. Even a little child can be very cruel. Where does he get it? Where does he learn it? It comes from within. Jesus said, "These . . . things come from within" [Mark 7:23].
Every one of us tonight has the potential to lie, to commit immorality, to steal, to cheat, to rob, to kill. Our tempers can fly off. We can have hatred, jealousy. All of these things come from within. And the Bible teaches that we were born in sin [see Psalm 51:5]. We were born with the disease of sin.
Samson came up in a good environment, with fine parents, religious parents; but Samson was a sinner. You have Christian parents, you have a fine environment, you go to a good school. But down deep in your heart, you are a sinner. Your soul, your spirit, has a disease. It is called sin. And until something is done about sin, you can't do anything. You could become a murderer over night, lose your temper and kill somebody, forget yourself; and in a moment of temptation, steal something. If I had a daughter or a son who did not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, every time they were away from the house I think I would be pacing the floor. Give your life to Christ. That will be the greatest gift you can give your parents. And, you parents, give your life to Christ.
I had a man come to me about a week ago in this town. I did not know him too well, but I knew him. He said, "Billy, you know when you made your decision for Christ, I was there that night and I made the wrong decision. I refused Jesus Christ." He asked, "How old are you?" I said, "I will be forty next month." He said, "I am the same age. Do you know, I would give my right arm, I would give all I possess if I could go back to that moment and make my decision for Christ, and live the kind of life I ought to live. I have wasted twenty-four years since that moment. I have thrown it away. I wish I had it to do over again. I would live for Christ. I would live for God."
Yes, Samson's philosophy was, "Live it up. You are only young once. Eat, drink, be merry, have a good time. Kick up your heels, sow your wild oats." So he sowed to the flesh, and of the flesh he was beginning to reap corruption [see Galatians 6:8]. The Bible says, "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" [James 1:15].
God is merciful towards Samson. God loves Samson. God's eye is on Samson all through those tender years in grammar school, those years in high school, the beginning of his waywardness. God is good to you tonight. He has given you a lovely face. He has given you a charming personality. He has given you fine parents. He has given you a fine school to go to. He has given you a good business to get started in. Everything is going fine.
But down in your heart you are away from God. Your heart is cold towards God. There is very little time for prayer. There is very little time for Bible study, very little time for the things of God. You are taken up with yourself, your own interests, your own material things. You don't have time for God. Watch out! God loves you, and God has showered these things upon you. But all of these things should bring you to a point of repentance and faith in Christ.
God is long-suffering, and God is merciful; and God blessed Samson for twenty years. The Bible says God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" [2 Peter 3:9]. Many people think that God has forgotten. And so you go along through your thirties, through your forties, through your fifties; and all these years God is trying to get you to Him. God warns against hardening your heart against Him [see Hebrews 3:8].
One day Samson went too far. [See Judges 16.] Samson had gone too long. It was now too late. Samson fell in love with a woman by the name of Delilah, and Delilah was of the enemy camp. But Samson loved her and lusted for her. Samson was big and strong and powerful, and the enemy could do nothing against him. They were afraid of him, and they were trying to capture him. So they went to Delilah. They said, "Delilah, we will pay you handsomely if you will teach us the secret of Samson's strength so that we can capture him."
So she went to Samson and said, "Samson, you claim to love me. Tell me the secret of your strength." He said, "All right, if you will take seven undried stalks of grass and tie me, I can't break them." So when he was asleep one day, she took seven undried stalks of grass and tied him. And then she shouted, "Samson, the Philistines are on thee!" And Samson got up. His muscles rippled and rolled. He broke the grass; and he said, "Where are they?" He was ready to fight. She said, "Samson, you said that you loved me, and you have lied to me again." She nagged and nagged, and she cried, and then she threatened.
So he said, "All right, I have long hair." He said, "If you will weave my hair into seven locks and tie it with a weaver's beam, I cannot get away." He was getting mighty close. So she did that; and she called, "The Philistines are upon thee!" And he jumped up, and pulled away from the weaver's beam, and said, "Where are they?" She said, "Samson, you've lied again. You said you loved me; you don't." And she wept, and she cried, and she threatened. And, finally, he could not take it any longer, and this time he told her the truth. He said, "The symbol of my strength since the day I was born has been my long hair. No razor, no scissors have ever come to my hair. And if my hair is ever cut, my strength will be gone. My strength is not in my hair. My strength is in God. God gives me my strength, but this is a symbol of God in my life. And if you cut it, my strength is gone."
She knew he had told her the truth. She sent for the Philistines. She put him to sleep. She cut his hair. She said, "Samson, the Philistines are here." He got up. He said, "Where are they?" His muscles were the same. Everything was the same--powerful, strong Samson. The Philistines tackled him. Usually he could just take one finger and kill them all. This time he wist not that God had departed. He found that he was only as strong as any other man. His strength was gone. They captured him. Samson, the mighty; Samson, who had been successful; Samson, who had led his people to victory; Samson, who had once known God; Samson, who had been reared in a Christian home. Samson was now going to pay for the days that he had spent for himself away from God.
The first thing they did was to tie him to a stake. Then they took a red-hot poker and gouged out and burned out his right eye. Then they took the poker and gouged out and burned out his left eye. They laughed, and they spit in his face, and they made sport. Samson was blinded, never to see again.
There are many of you young people here tonight whom Satan has already blinded. The devil has scratched out your spiritual eyes and so you can no longer see, and you are blind. Oh, you have got 20/20 vision; you can see everything here tonight. But your spiritual eyes are gone. Because if your eyes were opened, you would run down here to give your life to Christ. But Satan has blinded you so that you cannot even understand the Bible. You cannot understand God, and some of you have even lost your desire for God. You are blinded; you are deaf. Satan has planned it.
Oh, I beg of you in your blindness tonight to come to Christ and let Him touch your eyes. Open your eyes so that tonight you can know the joy, and the thrill, and the adventure, and the excitement of following Christ.
Many of you have an idea that Christianity is sort of morbid, something to have a long face about. The idea of God in the Scriptures is that He wants us to rejoice. He wants us to have a good time, but have it in the right way. He wants to give you new dimensions for joy. He wants to give a spring to your step, a joy in your soul, and a thrill in your heart. He wants to put a smile on your face. He wants to give you an adventure that you have never known. Give your life to Christ tonight and follow Him.
Yes, Samson was blinded. And, not only was he blinded, but we find him grinding. They tied him to the mill wheel, and he was grinding meal at the mill all day long. And that is what the devil has done to you. He has you grinding--the same old monotonous life. Life has lost its thrill and its romance. It is getting you nowhere; round and round you go in loneliness and boredom. That is the way the devil pays wages. You go on living the way you are living, and that is the way you are going to end up. You are going to be bitter, remorseful, hard, cold, callous, detested, lonely. Give your life to Christ, and let Him put something in your life that only He can give.
Not only was he grinding, but he was bound. Hundreds of you here tonight are bound. You are bound by the ropes of Satan. You are bound to sinful habits. You are bound to things that are wrong.
I tell you, tonight Jesus Christ can take you out of the grind of life. He can also cut the ropes of sin in your life, and give you a freedom such as you have never known. Because, you see, the Christian is the only free person in the world. A Christian can be in a prison and be free. You, tonight, you men who are in business, you women in the house--many of you are slaves tonight. You are slaves of the devil. You are slaves of lust. You are slaves of money. You are slaves of jealousy. You are slaves of alcohol. You are slaves of a thousand things. You are a slave. And every time the devil cracks the whip, you jump. You cannot do without that glass. You cannot do without that money. You cannot do without those things in your life. You are a slave, and the devil has got you. But, I tell you, Jesus can get you out of prison. He can break the chains.
So we have Samson blinding, grinding, and binding. He is bound. He is grinding, and he is blind--suffering the torments of hell. Even then, God has not forsaken him. Samson began to pray.
Look at Samson. What a picture! What a picture of hundreds of young people twenty years from tonight.
I met a man the other day with whom I went to school. He wasn't in my class; he was in another. Right outside this door he grabbed my hand and staggered up to me. Alcohol was heavy on his breath, and I could see thin marks all over his face, and his hair was already white. He already looked sixty. I said, "How are you? What has happened?" "Oh," he said, "I'm having a great time." I said, "Is that right?" He said, "Yeah." "Well," I said, "that is fine." The Bible says there is pleasure in sin [see Hebrews 11:25]. I said, "What you need is Jesus Christ." He was so drunk, he did not know what he was saying. He said, "Is that so? I wondered what I needed." He said, "I guess that's it."
How terrible to end up that way. Yes, there are many of you on the broad road. The Bible says, "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" [Matthew 7:13]. The majority are on the road tonight--the road of sins, the road of the wrong type of pleasure.
I am going to ask you to turn from that road tonight and give your life to Christ. Because while Samson was in that condition, he began to pray. He said, "O God, forgive me." He said, "O God, I'm sorry." And down in that prison, God heard his prayer. God said, "Samson, I will forgive your sins, but I cannot take the scars away."
God will forgive the sins. Because when Christ died on the cross and shed His blood, He died for our sins. Because of His death, God can forgive us of the past. Yet God cannot remove the scars of sin. The scars will remain. So God forgave him, but he was still blinded. And one day they took him into the temple to make sport of him. That day, however, Samson led his people to the greatest of all victories. God gave him his strength back again. But, in doing so, Samson died. He paid with his life for his sins, even though his soul was eventually saved.
I want to ask you to give your life to Christ. I am going to ask you to let Him forgive your sins, to change you. You have been going in the wrong direction in your life without any purpose, without any destiny, without Christ, without God. The night I came forward to give my life to Christ, I was vice-president of the young people's society in my church. Everybody thought I was all right. They did not know what was going on down inside of me. I had not had a real encounter with Jesus Christ. I had not really met Christ.
Tonight you may not be a bad person. You may be a good person. But you have the potential to be bad until you really come and give your life to Christ. I am going to ask you to come to Him tonight.