December 8 (Advent, Day 11): A Failed Hero

December 8 (Advent, Day 11): A Failed Hero

Picture of Chris Rowekamp

Chris Rowekamp

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets.”
—Hebrews 11:32 NIV

Of the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews, Samson is the most surprising.

Don’t get me wrong: he had great promise and a high calling.

Samson is on the short list of people whose birth was predicted by an angel, and one of only three that the Bible mentions as being Nazarites for life: people set apart for the Lord who could not drink wine, come in contact with a dead body or cut their hair (Samuel and John the Baptist were the others).

But he broke his Nazarite vow.

He allowed his hair to be cut, lost his supernatural strength and was taken captive by the Philistines, the same nation he had been called to confront.

In fact, Samson is often pointed out in sermons as a failure; an example of what not to do.

And yet he is listed in Hebrews 11 as a hero.


Because even in his failure, God continued to use him in his story.

Judges 16:22 (ESV) tells us that in the Philistine prison “the hair of his head began to grow again.” Samson’s hair, a symbol of his vow and of the presence of God inside him, had returned.

A broken and humiliated man, Samson was taken to a gathering of “all the lords of the Philistines” (Judges 16:27) so that they could laugh at him. In that place, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him one last time, and although he died that day, he won a greater victory against the Philistines in that moment than he had during his entire life.

The life of Samson teaches us a lesson we also learn from the Imperfect Nativity: the people that many call failures are the same ones that God loves to include in his story.

That is good news for people like you and me.

Here is a simple prayer to carry with you today:

Breathe in: God of failures,
Breathe out: Use me in your story.

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