Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday. Muscles of Steel

When I was a teenage boy I was very thin. I hated being so skinny because though I was strong enough to do all of the same work on the farm as my larger friends I felt as though I looked weak. All those years ago in what my children and grandchildren most certainly think were the dark ages, (and I suppose they are right in that our faces were not lit by blue screens) in our home without a TV, we had only printed material to entertain us. Some of you might remember the days when books and magazines were the things we all picked up to pass the time. Comic books were a favorite of mine, I especially liked the ‘Archie’ comics as well as ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Superman’. I suppose the latter of these appealed to me because of the strength that Superman possessed. On the inside back cover of those comic books were ads for many products making false claims that would only appeal to young naïve boys with too little life experience to recognize them as the scams they most certainly were. Those ads were for everything from X-ray vision glasses, magic cards and boxes that purported to throw your voice 100 feet! They offered access to amazing things such as real live seahorses…all you needed to do was add water to the package. I never sent for any of those things because I always sensed that though the ads were enticing, I worked too hard for my money to risk them not being completely true. However, the Ad I always found my eyes wandering to was the one advertising “Muscles of steel” featuring an image of a very young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Those ads promised I would be able to “Crush my enemies, and kick sand in their faces”. Included in the ad was a ‘before and after’ photo of some young teenager who used to look like me, but after taking Joe Weider’s muscle building course, the results were a bulked up, muscle bound young man. I am not sure why I never sent away for it, I guess somehow I knew if it was that easy every skinny kid like me would have done it already.

Those ads would almost immediately take my mind to the story of Samson in the Old Testament. I had heard the story countless times in Sunday school and had even chosen to read it when my mom said I should read the Bible more. I found it entertaining and she seemed pleased when she would look in the living room and find me with my Bible open on my lap after she had suggested that I do so. In any case, those ads and the story of Samson would entertain me for a time with my daydreams, another thing we distracted ourselves with before the days of electronic devices, the internet and social media.

The obvious reason I was so engrossed with the story of Samson was how strong He was. I imagined he must have looked just like the picture of Arnold in the ad for those ‘Muscles of steel’. The thing I couldn’t for the life of me figure out was why He told Delilah the secret to his strength. I always thought about how if He would have just kept his mouth shut, the story could have turned out differently. I decided that since I knew that much and He didn’t seem to that muscle bound guys must not be that smart. I decided a great physique and super strength could only take you just so far.

Now that I am older and wish I could be a little skinnier than I am these days, (funny how those things change) I have come to realize a few things about that Bible story. It can be found in the book of Judges chapters 13 through16. Samson did have great strength…and it was attributed to his uncut hair, but the hair was not the source of his strength, The Lord was. Samson was a Nazirite to God. That meant that he was dedicated to God. In his case Samson was to be a Nazirite his entire life, from the time he was in his mother’s womb. The Bible tells us that when his hair was cut by the Philistines, the power of the Lord left him. The story tells us how Samson was tempted by Delilah to tell her the secret of his great strength. When he did that, and trouble came upon him he was easily defeated. Eventually the Bible tells us that He was able to overcome those who did this to him, but only after they had gouged his eyes out and held him captive as a slave for some time.

Did you know you have secret strength too? All Christ followers have amazing super strength at their disposal. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. So what is the Joy of the Lord? This passage in Nehemiah is referring to the time when the Israelite people had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city and eventually rebuild the temple. Shortly after their return Ezra the scribe read to them from the scriptures and as he did this, their hearts turned back toward desiring a correct relationship with God. As a result of that relationship the Joy of the Lord was upon them. The same is true for us. Out of our relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ we experience the Joy of the Lord, and as the Bible tells us, that Joy is our strength.

Why that Joy over others? I get a great deal of joy from other sources. My children and grandchildren bring me joy. I get joy from my marriage with my beautiful bride Lynn. I am joyful when I do things I enjoy, or go places I enjoy like the mountains. The trouble with these sources of joy is that they are temporary. They all have the potential for not being there when I need them. However, my relationship with God, your relationship with God in Christ Jesus is eternal. Romans 8:38 & 39 in the New Living Translation tells us: And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Joy of the Lord is only accessed through our relationship with Jesus.

So, whatever you or I may have to go through, whatever the flavor of the day is in terms of the difficulties this world throws at us, the source of great strength we have is the Joy of the Lord. It is what we possess that signifies we are dedicated to God. For Samson it was his uncut hair, for us it is our unstoppable Joy, both symbols of the strength we get from our relationship with God. Whatever you do…don’t allow it to be cut off!

So now, flexing those faith muscles of steel you have and living in the power that comes from your source of great strength, …the Joy of the Lord…Go be Awesome!