POWER STRANGER SERMON SERIES
With Troy Aikman
JUNE 8, 1997
He had a great family. He excelled in athletics as a young guy. He was born, bred and educated to be a political statesman. Plus, he was handsome, articulate and had a great sense of humor. People who knew him said that he was going places. He was a total package, but the man I am talking about had one major flaw. He was not a team player. This man always wanted to read his press clippings, to do his thing, and to fight his revenge-fueled battles. This autonomous attitude cost him dearly.
The person I am describing is the quintessential individualist. His name is Samson. We are going to talk about Samson. He was not a team player. As I was thinking about Samson and the fact that he didn’t care so much for the team, I wondered whom we could bring in to talk with us, who would be the antithesis of Samson, who would be a model team player and a team leader? One name came to my mind, Troy. So let’s welcome the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Troy Aikman.
- Well, Troy I have got to ask you, does Brut really work like in the commercial?
TROY. Unfortunately, not quite as well.
- Troy I know that you are loved and respected by so many of us here. There are many Cowboy fans in this audience. Talk to us about this season coming up.
TROY. I think we are going to have a good year. I really do. It is well documented what we went through last year as a football team but a lot of those issues have been addressed. I think we will move forward, be competitive and play well. Even in the years when we have won Super Bowls, we have had crises. Last year we had more than most. But this year we will have crises again. The teams that handle their crises are the teams that will have success. It becomes a question as to how well we handle situations when they arise. Hopefully, we have learned something from last year and we will do well.
- Troy, I know that your time is very limited as far as your off time goes. What do you do, though, when you have some free time?
TROY. I fell in love with the game of golf a few years ago. I get out and play as often as I can. Professional football players do not have as much time off as most people would believe. We are involved with football for eight months out of the year. We get one month off with nothing scheduled. Then we get right back into our off-season conditioning and training. Then I do a lot of different charity events and meet other contractual obligations. I stay busy pretty much year round. But I love golf and I love the ocean, so I usually try to combine the two. I take trips and get away from Dallas a bit.
ED. Well, today we are talking about Samson, who was the strongest man physically to have ever lived. Tell me. You look like you are in pretty good shape yourself. Of course, nothing like me! In fact, Troy, people who have seen me around the weight room say that I must be on steroids because I am so huge. Anyway, how much can you bench press?
TROY. I bench press 350 lbs. But compared to the guys we have on our squad, obviously, that is not a whole lot.
- Who is the strongest player on the squad?
TROY. Chad Hennings is the strongest guy we have. Chad is not here today, is he? Everybody always equates strength with bench press. He benches just under 600 lbs. And unlike you, it is all natural.
- Yeah, that is the difference between Chad and I. He is natural and I am not. Also, Troy, as we are talking I want to ask you a question about intimidation. Have you ever felt during your career a little intimidated by a team or an individual player?
TROY. No particular player. There are a lot of people that I respect and a lot of teams I respect. Probably early in my career with the Cowboys, I think that the Philadelphia Eagles intimidated us. We struggled against them. They are an outstanding football team, very aggressive. I think in ’89 and ’90 and possibly ’91, they were a team that we were intimidated by. Once we beat them we realized that we could compete with them and then the intimidation was over with.
- How about your own career. I know that you have come in contact with people who were more concerned about themselves than the team. Without mentioning any names, how does that effect your job on Sunday?
TROY. Well, I think that most everyone here has played some type of team sport growing up, weather it has been in junior high, high school or college. All of us have been around those persons who have been more concerned about their own personal agenda as opposed to what is best for the team. I have played with those types of players. It obviously takes away from the team and what the team is trying to do when you have got individuals who put themselves above the team.
I thought that Jimmy Johnson did a nice job when he was a coach for us. He stressed to all of us that when a team has success, individuals will have success. There is enough success for everybody. And that is really true. Back in ’90, Gene Lockhardt led the league in tackles and didn’t make the Pro Bowl. When our team began having more success, we began winning Super Bowls. During those seasons we had more players elected to the Pro Bowl than any other team in football. A lot of the players, including myself, who people said could not play the game, suddenly because the team was doing well, became much better players. You learn very early that the team’s success is the most important thing.
- Troy, what do you guys say to each other on the playing field? Is there some trash talking going on?
TROY: There is a little bit going on. Yes, there is a lot of talking going on. It is a very violent game. It is a vicious sport where physical brutality is what allows somebody to have success. As I have said, we are not known as the most intellectual group as it is, so the vocabulary we chose to use is less than ideal.
- Believe it or not folks, we will find out in a couple of minutes that Samson might have been one of the forerunners of trash talking because he got into that too.
One of the things that we are going to bring out today is the whole subject of revenge. It is something that I deal with, that you do. Every person whose heart is beating is going to have thoughts of retaliation and getting back at a person. Have you ever seen that so dominate a player’s life and performance that it totally messed the team up?
TROY. Yeah. I have got a couple of different examples. For myself, I have had defensive linemen who have said things after they sacked me, or have taken me down after I have released the ball. I have gotten really upset. It has taken me out of my game plan way of thinking on the field, which obviously isn’t good. There is a particular lineman on our squad who got a little beat up in one particular game and actually injured. A guy really got the better of him. We went back and played that team later in the year and he was so caught up in trying to prove to this guy that he was better then what he had shown in the previous game that it hurt his performance.
Then as a team, in ’94 we went out to play San Francisco. We knew it was going to be a big game. We got beat by a close margin. We went back later that year in a championship game to play them again and we were all so geared up to try and revenge the loss that we had had, that we were down 21 to 0 before anybody got in their seat. (I didn’t mean that to be so funny!) Obviously, it works to your disadvantage.
- Well, Troy, I know that you have a busy day in store. I want to tell you again that we really appreciate who you are and what you stand for. It is wonderful to have a guy like yourself, a quarterback like yourself here in Dallas. We pray for you and wish you the best.
I want to ask you a question? Do you ever want to get someone back in revenge? I think that we all know the answer. It is a resounding yes. What do you do when you have an opportunity to get back at your ex-spouse? Or maybe your child has lashed out at you and you want to even the score. Or maybe a business associate has really cheated you out of some serious money. Or maybe, in a dating relationship someone has kind of left you and you have the chance to show them a thing or two. What do you do? Do you pay them back or do you pull back?
Samson, the he-man with the she-weakness was a guy who was riddled with revenge. He was not a team player. Over the few short moments that remain, he is going to show us some things concerning how to solve the riddle of revenge. As we look at his life and see where he messed up, I think that we can take some cues from his failures and apply them to our own lives.
Let me tell you a little bit about Samson. He was the strongest man who ever walked on the planet. Samson married a girl from Timnah. God told him not to marry her. His parents told him to stay away from her, yet he married her. After the wedding, the reception got a little bit rowdy. Samson threw out a bet that backfired and he found out that his bride and his so-called Philistine friends were the culprits. This put Samson on tilt. He got angry. Read with me, if you would, Judges 15:1. “But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it came about that Samson visited his wife with a young goat….” Samson was already upset by the bet that backfired. He had killed some people because he was upset. Now he decides to make up with his bride. The marriage had not yet been consummated and he wanted to do the honeymoon thing. He brought her a very romantic gift, a young goat. Remember, men, this was 3,000 years ago. Do not go home and try to make up with your wife using a young goat. You might want to buy some flowers or perhaps candy. Here is what he said, “….’I will go in to my wife in her room.’” But, and this is going to be scary here, her father did not let him enter. You see, unbeknownst to Samson, because the marriage had not been consummated, his father-in-law gave his new bride in marriage to his best man. You see, Samson’s life makes the front cover of the National Inquirer boring. Well, when Samson found out about this, he again went on tilt and his life turned to terror. He began to get filled with rage and revenge and retaliation.
A couple of evenings ago, my family and I pulled up to the house in my truck and got out. It was dark. We heard repeated shrieks coming from the woods. The children looked at me and asked if the noise was from coyotes. Then I saw the cats chasing something in the woods. I am a risk taking kind of guy and I had my Doc. Martin sandals on, so I jumped into the woods and began to chase the object of their hunt. The cats would grab it, I would grab it from them, and it would struggle out of my hands. I didn’t even know what it was. I tried to apprehend this thing for about five minutes when finally my quickness prevailed. I grabbed this furry creature up away from the clawing cats. It was a six-week-old rabbit. We nursed it, brought it back to health and returned it into the wild kingdom.
I had a tough time catching this little furry creature. Not only was Samson strong, he was also quick. When he got upset at this wedding situation, the Bible says in Verse 4, “Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail, and put one torch in the middle between two tails.” I am sure the animal rights activists were going crazy here. If you are taking notes, this is the first example of taillights in the Bible.
Verse 5 says, “When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines…” If you wonder what was the big deal, well the Philistines were an agricultural people and Samson was burning up their crops. “…thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.” Just for a second, put yourself in the sandals of a homemaker. Can’t you see the little Philistine filly homemaker doing her dishes and suddenly when she looks out the window she sees 300 foxes, tails on fire, burning up all of her crops. It was a sight.
Then in verse 7 Samson says, “Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit.” I have said that before, haven’t you? “I’ll get this person back, and then I will quit, God.” Revenge is a treadmill and when you get on it you will go faster and faster and faster. Samson’s life was an action, a reaction, and a chain-reaction. He couldn’t stop. He kept going faster and faster and the incline started increasing. He began to become tread militant on this tread mill and it drove him and caused him to miss what God had in store for him.
I am going to read some words that are very pathetic about the nation of Israel, the team that he was supposed to quarterback, the team that he was supposed to lead and that in turn was to be supporting him. Samson went into hiding and the Israelites knew the Philistines had gathered together an army to capture him. Verse 10. “And the men of Judah said, ‘Why have you come up against us?…” Isn’t that sad? The Philistines dominated the children of Israel and the children of Israel were so committed to compromise that they asked their enemy why there should be a problem with their nation as a whole. They felt they showed respect toward the Philistines and they certainly didn’t want to rock the boat.
We can become like that in our lives, can’t we? I am talking to those of us who know Christ. We can become so committed to compromise that we allow sin and rebellion into our lives and claim it is no big deal. Even though it may control us, we say it is no big deal, that we don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t believe that God can handle the situation so we stay in the status quo position. “…’We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us.’” There is the treadmill again, retaliation and revenge. The Philistines were into it now.
You know what the children of Israel did? They got together an army. Verse 11. “Then 3,000 men of Judah went down…and said to Samson, ‘Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?’….” You see, God had promised them that they would have victory as they wiped out the Philistines. God had given them a great leader in Samson. God had given them all this stuff but they were committed to compromise. “….’What then is this that you have done to us?’ And he said to them, ‘As they did to me, so I have done to them.’” This is the only time the Israelites got together an army during the reign and rule of Samson, and it was for the sole purpose of capturing him.
They found Samson. They tied him up and were trying to deliver him to the Philistines even though they knew that the Philistines would probably kill him. But read with me verse 14. “…And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands.” Then he began to look for some kind of object he could use to do battle with the Philistines. He couldn’t find anything like a spear, a knife or a sword because the Philistines had a corner on the iron market. So Samson found the jawbone of a jackass. The Bible says it was a fresh jawbone. If it hadn’t been fresh, it would have been brittle. And Samson chased the Philistines down and he killed 1,000 of them in revenge and retaliation.
As I read this, I wondered what the Israelites were doing. They had the army. They had the leader, Samson, out front. He was taking care of business. What did they do? They cheered him on but did nothing. They were committed to compromise. Samson should have rallied the troops. He should have been a team player. He should have kept them together.
But what do you think he did after this victory. Do you think that he immediately thanked God for giving him the strength and ability to do what he had just done? Don’t hold your breath. Samson began to do some serious trash talking. Samson said, “With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with a jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men.” Verse 16. If we could read this in the original Hebrew, there is a rhyme to it. Samson took on the role of a rapper. He kind of said this. “With the jawbone of an ass, I have piled them up in mass.” He strutted in front of the Philistines and his own countrymen and he spiked the ball in front of them and started doing trash talk. So, the Cowboys didn’t invent this. This happened a long time ago. It is right here for you in scripture. Then Samson prayed a prayer. I call this the prideful prayer. Look at verse 18. “Then he became very thirsty….” Let me paraphrase. I need some Gatorade, God. I have done it. I am the man of the hour, too sweet to be sour, the tower of revengeful power. God, that’s me. And the Lord answered his prayer.
I think that Samson kind of stood up there and said, “I’ve been down, to that Philistine town, at that shack outside of Gaza….” The Bible says in Judges 16:1 that Samson went to Gaza. What is he doing in Gaza? Gaza is a Philistine city. He is well-known, a leader, a celebrity, on the front cover of every magazine. And here is Samson strutting around the streets of Gaza. “Yeah, I’m bad.” He had confidence in his own ability. “Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.”
A couple of weeks ago some good friends of mine saw a tiger shark over 11 feet long chasing some small sardines in 1½ feet of water. They told me that the back of the shark was actually out of the water. He literally beached himself chasing these small baitfish. That is the life of Samson, a great power pursuing small goals. We will discover next week that finally the sardine of sexual pleasure is what beached the Biblical body builder for good.
Look at verse 3. I will paraphrase due to time. The Philistines heard that Samson was outside of Gaza. They waited until the next morning to pounce on him. Samson, though, was smart. Samson got up in the middle of the night, picked up the city gates, put them on his shoulders and took them 38 miles up hill and put them on top of a mountain. Probably that was the most amazing feat of strength ever recorded. Yet, it is one of the most pathetic events ever recorded. Notice here. The Spirit of the Lord is not mentioned. This is the first time we have a feat of strength done by Samson without God’s name being mentioned. He was starting that downward spiral of devastation, wasn’t he?
Next week we will conclude this series on Samson’s life. He does have a pretty good ending, a tragic but good ending. Let’s just tie up some loose ends and talk about this subject called revenge. I need some help regarding revenge and I know you do too. I want to share with you three realities of revenge that we can learn from the life of Samson.
- Revenge is always ego driven. The Bible says twice in the book of Judges, “there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” That, friends, is the story of Samson. He did what was right in his own eyes. And that is what everything comes down to. We either do what is right in our own eyes or we live by the will and the plan and the agenda of God. Whenever I seek revenge, I am on an ego trip. I am thinking about me. I am not thinking about the team, I am thinking about my feelings, myself and my life.
- Revenge always has the boomerang effect. You throw revenge out, and back it comes. There is always a cost, always a price when you throw the boomerang of revenge. It starts that domino effect in your life. It starts that treadmill activity, action, reaction and chain reaction.
- Revenge will detour your life. It will get you chasing small sardines here and there and you will be like that big tiger shark, beached in shallow water. It will detour your marriage. It will detour your dating relationship. It will detour your business, your recreation, your parenting.
But some of you are saying you don’t know my father. You don’t know what my mother did to me. You don’t know my boss, my coach, my teacher, my friend. You don’t know the businessman who messed me around. You know what? You are right. I don’t know. God knows, though. And God has given us one of the most powerful sections of scripture in the Bible. It is found in Romans 12:17-19. Verse 17. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” I know we have many people here who are Christ followers. We have others who are outside the family of God. If you are outside the family of God, if you are investigating Christianity, this is the place for you. We love you and honor you. Come here and check it out. If you are a Christian, though, I want to say something directly to you. The unbelieving world, where you live, where your work, where you play, is watching you. They are watching me. They know when we are hurt. They know when we have opportunities to either pay back or pull back and they want to see if this Christianity stuff is for real. And God wants you to display some supernatural love and pull back. When we display this supernatural love and pull back, it will turn the heads of an unbelieving world and they will say, this guy or this girl is different.
As I read this text I wondered how many times as a parent I have failed on the revenge issue. My children have seen me get hurt by someone and they have seen me lash out and slander them. Parents, this is a huge responsibility on our shoulders. Then in verse 18. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” That means it depends not the person who has hurt you, damaged you, knifed you, but on you. Verse 19. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” What is this text telling us to do? First it is telling us to forgive. We are to forgive the party who has hurt us. We are to forgive the person or group that we want revenge on. If we don’t forgive them, how can we expect God to forgive us? God says that He forgives us and that we in turn must forgive others. You may say that you don’t feel like it. I don’t either. But we are to do it and we are to act it out. It is easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel you way into an action. If we waited to feel feelings of love and forgiveness for the person who has jammed us, we would never do it.
Secondly, leave running room for our teammates. Don’t be an ego driven man like Samson. I must step back and leave some room for my teammates. You know who my teammates are? God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit. They will take care of it. They have the final word. They have read the last page.
Finally, I am to move on. You see the evil one wants us to sink into the quicksand of revenge and stay there and harbor revenge. He knows that doing so will rob us of our potential. We don’t want to end up like Samson. We want to move. Sometimes it means that we will have to leave our shoes in the quicksand. We need to move on and see what God has for us.
Ladies and gentlemen, the choice is up to you. The choice is up to me. We are either jawbreakers or peacemakers. What is it going to be for you?