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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Snares of Pride {April 2018 Small Group Material}

The Snares of Pride
by Julia Rogers

She sat across from me with trembling hands struggling to grip her coffee mug. “How did I get here?” she groaned.
My friend had been a rule follower, an outstanding citizen, and churchgoer for all of her life. She had always taken great pride in her upright behavior. But as she sat across from me at my dinner table that day, there was no pride left in her eyes…only brokenness. Despite a life characterized by morally sound behavior, she let her guard down one day. Satan dangled the apple in her face and she convinced herself that one bite wouldn’t hurt. But it did hurt.  Her sin took her farther than she ever wanted to go. It kept her longer than she ever wanted to stay. It was now costing her more than she ever wanted to pay. 
Sadly, my friend’s situation is not uncommon. No matter who you are, we are all in danger of being wooed, outwitted, and overpowered by sin. Yet we often do not feel the danger until it is too late. Sin is like a seductress who lures her unsuspecting prey with flattering assurances. Like a spider, she sets her trap and waits to pounce on those who play in her web. And so often, it is pride that leads the way into this trap.  Pride says, “I’m invincible.” Pride says that it’s okay to let our guard down.  Pride leads us into trusting in ourselves, and not in God.  
God does not desire us to be consumed. He warns us of the dangers of pride and sin’s schemes by recording the fall of others who were tempted as we are. Few examples are more sobering than those of Samson, Solomon, and David. They are tragic tales of strong, wise, and devoted men who were overcome by the power, trickery, and allure of sin. Today, we will take a look at Samson’s life and the pride that led to his destruction.
Samson (Judges 13-16)
The life of Samson was marked by triumph and tragedy. Born to Godly parents and empowered by God, he was set up to be a deliverer Israel desperately needed. Before Samson’s mom even conceived him, she received a visit from an angel. The angel said that Samson would be a Nazirite from the womb. The Nazirite vow is outlined in Numbers 6:1-21. As a Nazirite, Samson was never to cut his hair.  God also gave Samson a supernatural physical strength. 
Samson lived in the land that God had given to the Israelites. But there were still other people who either inhabited the land or attacked the Israelites so God used men (and one woman) called “Judges” to lead and protect the people of Israel during this time before they had a king.  Samson was one of these Judges and he did so for twenty years during the time of the Philistine invasion.  But Samson’s life was characterized by pride, broken vows, and disobedience to God.   

Samson’s story began with a violation of God’s law. He wanted to marry a Philistine woman despite the fact that it was in direct violation of God’s law about intermarriage with pagans. But Samson considered himself above the rules. When his mother and father tried to persuade him to marry a girl from his own people, Samson was too proud to listen to their counsel.

While on his way to obtain his new bride, a lion attacked Samson and he killed it. When Samson later came back by the carcass of the lion, it was filled with a honeycomb, which he ate. This was a clear violation of the second part of the Nazirite vow, which commanded him not to go near a dead body. Samson seemed to know that what he was doing was wrong because when he gave the honey to his parents he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion's carcass (Judges 14:9).

When Samson killed the lion, it was his first recorded test of strength. It gave him confidence to face the Philistines. But his confidence was in himself and not in God and he murdered thirty Philistines out of vengeance in order to pay a debt. Later, Samson swears to “get even with the Philistines” (Judges 15:3) and to “get [his] revenge on [the Philistines]” (Judges 15:7). Both occasions were for personal reasons fueled by pride and vengeance. 

One evening the Philistine armies surrounded Samson while he slept with a prostitute.  He got up in the middle of the night and ripped the huge city gate off its hinges and dumped it forty miles away.  Samson loved to impress people with his strength but he arrogantly violated God’s moral guidelines and became convinced he was someone special in his own power.

When Samson later met Delilah, he was so blinded by his pride that he couldn’t see that she was his enemy. When she seduced him and begged him to reveal the secret of his strength, he thought he was invincible and eventually told her that his hair was the source of his strength.  She had a man come while Samson slept and cut his hair.
When Samson awoke he did not even know that the strength, nor the presence of the Lord, had left him (Judges 16:20).The Philistines then captured Samson. They gouged out his eyes and made a public spectacle of him. They took him to Gaza and made him grind grain in the prison house.

The Philistines held a celebration. They rejoiced in the capture of Samson (Judges 16:22-25) and they summoned Samson to be publicly displayed. In his final act of judgment against the Philistines, Samson called out to God. He asked for strength one more time to avenge his eyes. He had a servant station him between two pillars of the prison and Samson pushed against the columns, which brought the building down. The Bible says that he slew more Philistines in his death than he did in his life (Judges 16:30).

I think it is very important to point out that although Samson was full of pride and willingly went into situations that led to sin, God used him for His glory. God created Samson to “begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). Even sinful men cannot prevent God’s will.  But how much better it would have been for Samson if he had obeyed God! The will of God would have been accomplished with or without Samson’s obedience, but the many blessings Samson might have seen were never realized.  

What can we learn from Samson’s fall?
Sin Feeds on Pride
We are tempted to think that the more powerful we become, the better we will battle sin. When in truth, if we do not recognize that any power we possess comes from God alone, we will become prideful and rely on our own strength instead of God’s strength.  The strength of sin feeds on our sense of strength in ourselves. This is why we are warned that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). In weakness, we feel our need for God, but when we are strong, we lack that saving sobriety. In Samson’s case, pride led to his downfall.  Unlike Samson, we need to be a people that walk humbly, understanding that our strength comes from God alone. 

A Second Chance
As for my friend that I mentioned at the beginning, I am happy to report that unlike Samson, she realized the error of her ways before it was too late. If you asked her, she would tell you that she is thankful for how God brought her low and stripped her of her pride. She didn’t truly know what it meant for God to be her strength until she was weak enough that he was her only option.  She had lived her whole life with a self-righteous attitude.  Her belief in her own strength was her weakness.  So much so that she thought she was above the rules. Her pride led her to believe that one slip up wasn’t that big of a deal.  Until it was.  
My friend is on the road to healing. She has experienced the forgiveness of God and she feels as if she has been given a second chance at life- a life that she plans to live in humble obedience to God, drawing from His strength instead of her own. When she reads her Bible now, she says that is feels as if she is reading it for the first time- the words have taken on new meaning for her…words like mercy and grace. Before her incident, she didn’t realize just how much she needed both of those things. One of her missions in life now is to warn others not to make the same mistake that she did in not taking God and His word seriously, especially Proverbs 16:18:  Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Draw from His Strength
God has given these examples to us that we might be instructed and warned to not fall into the traps of pride and temptation. Yet we must not only avoid these examples, but also find help from the One who is greater than them. Our sinful weaknesses need not lead us to despair. Instead, they can lead us to hope in the One who is greater than our sin. Jesus bound the strong man to set us free (Matthew 12:29). Jesus overcame the tempter by clinging to the wisdom of the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1–11). Jesus rejected sinful exaltation by drinking the cup of humiliation (Matthew 26:39). 

Jesus was tempted as we are; yet he endured without sin. His life was righteous and His death satisfied His Father’s just requirements. His resurrection gives us liberation, and His intercession grants us help in our weakness—and in Him we find help to resist the snares of pride and temptation. 

Small Group Discussion
1.    Share with the group, as you feel comfortable, an example from your own life that God used to strip you of your pride. Did this experience change the way you saw yourself? Did it change the way you saw God?
  1. When we recognize our need for God’s grace and mercy, what characteristics become evident in us?

3.    How can we diagnose pride in ourselves?

4.    The opposite of pride is humility.  Jesus lived a life of ultimate humility and demonstrated obedience through His sufferings. He knew the power that He had over all things.  Yet, He exhorted His disciples to be sacrificial servants like Him, demonstrating it by washing their feet, being rejected by His own people, and dying for our salvation.  What opportunities do you have to demonstrate humility in your own life?