M. Scott Peck who wrote one of the first so-called self-help books, The Road Less Traveled, died not too long ago at the age of 69. The key component of this book is self-discipline, an idea he felt was essential to living a full life. He wrote book after book on this idea. And yet, at an interview shortly before his death, he reviews his life very simply, “Gin, cigarettes and women, I am a prophet not a saint!” His wife of 43 years had left him, and bitterness and regrets had become his story. Even though he still had a great deal of money, two of his three sons would not speak to him, and several advancing health issues dominated his days. He hints multiple times that he could speak and write about self-discipline but was unable to practice it.
Sampson is a well known Bible character, called to be a judge and deliverer for Israel. God gave him great strength. He used this strength to challenge the Philistines (an ancient enemy of Israel), even overcoming 1,000 of them in battle, not using a sword but the jawbone of a donkey. He was a hero to Israel. He also could not control his behavior and found his life out of control a little at a time. This led to a night of drinking and revelry with a Philistine prostitute named Delilah. The next morning Philistine soldiers came to arrest him, and as he prepared to face them, discovered his divine strength was gone, a strength that had left him a little at a time. This leads to one of, I think, the saddest verses in the Bible.
As the Philistines prepared to arrest him:
“Samson awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” Judges 16:20
Samson is arrested, blinded and used to grind grain at a mill.
The life that God had blessed so many times before, the life that he had given such great strength to, the life with so much talent, God could no longer bless. This was not God’s doing, this was Samson’s.
The evidence of faith is conviction, courage, and strength. What are the convictions in my life? What do I really believe, value, and love?
When people sometimes think the evidence of faith is a miracle that makes life easier, more often than not the evidence of strength is courage to make the right choices, fight for the right causes, live a life that God can bless and value fellowship with God as the greatest value.
M. Scott Peck, like Samson, was a hero for his generation, writing a self-help book that sold 10 million copies. Like Samson, he had great success, elevated above his peers for his wisdom and talent. But like Samson, he had little self-control and ended up squandering God’s blessings.
The end for M. Scott Peck was sad, but Samson had a different story. While in prison, he found a place to turn back to God, to refocus his life upon his faith, his fellowship with God and what God had called him to do — to lead the nation of Israel. In a heroic moment, he places his hands on two pillars in a Philistine temple to Dagon, praying, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me,” and exerting divine strength, he caused the walls to come crashing down.