A Jawbone of a Donkey

So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. -Judges 15:13-15

I’ve been thinking about this story this week and how it might apply to our lives today. Samson’s story is a very interesting but curious story. On the one hand, his life from birth to death is filled with God’s power and heroic feats. He was set apart and raised up by God for his generation in a special way. Yet on the other hand, his life is full of compromise, promiscuity, unchecked anger and tragedy. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but he is held up as a “hero” and example of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, which is a chapter I like to call “God’s Hall of Faith.”

That reality alone teaches us a lot that ties in with the focus of this article. It shows us that Samson wasn’t used by God because of his perfect morality. He wasn’t used by God because he used the most perfect weapon to defeat the Philistines in the passage above. It wasn’t even because his motives were perfectly pure, because he often acted out of his own agenda and anger to accomplish God’s purposes.

Over and over again the secret to Samson’s strength, accomplishments and feats is found in the phrase the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him.

To accomplish great things in the kingdom of God, it requires the power of the Spirit of God at work in your life. The good news is, this dynamic is open to all God’s people as they pray and act on faith. God can use anyone who will allow him to use them. He will use whatever “tools” you have or can find, no matter how “primitive” or imperfect they may seem. He will use even you, no matter how imperfect you may be! (that is not a good reason to justify compromise in your life, which is another lesson from Samson’s life. He faced a lot of sorrow, tragedy and consequences because of his sin).

But I think this is important because sometimes we think things have to perfect for God to use it or us. We may even think God is hindered in using us because we are imperfect.

Personally, I know I struggle with this all the time. If I am preaching, I want it perfect (though it never is). If I am writing, I beat myself up constantly because my grammar is not only not perfect, it’s rather poor! If I am working to raise funding for the mission organization I lead, I want the perfectly written appeal (even though it always falls short). I am constantly looking for the “perfect” tool, strategy, sermon, article, connection etc, but always coming up short.

The story of Samson shatters all of that. It reminds us God is God and he uses imperfect people, works in unconventional ways and can use anything we “pick up” to serve him. Even a jawbone of a donkey will work against a better equipped army of 1,000!

Just this week, I watched God use someone with something that was nowhere near good quality or modern form to raise funds for a project. I also remember one time being on a missions trip and one of the new believers was sharing his testimony but was all over the place in his talk. One of the older guys leaned over to me while he was speaking and whispered “you should give him some pointers.” 

However, after the speaker was done, and the opportunity was given for those who heard to respond, the Spirit of God moved in a powerful way and many came to Christ that night! We laughed together, when this older gentlemen leaned back over to me and whispered, “never mind.”

When I look back on sermons I’ve preached, articles I’ve written, e-mails I’ve sent, or “tools” I have used, I can say with 100% confidence it wasn’t because they (or I) were so great or perfect…it was because God is good! 

I’m not exaggerating either. I was just talking with my mentor about this and I’ve talked with many others who have been used by God in special ways and most have a common experience: the sermons or e-mails or strategies they thought were so great, usually fell flat, but the ones they thought were not great, often were used the most! I can remember many sermons were I wished the floor would literally swallow me alive while inwardly swearing I would never preach again…only to find out later God used those very sermons (somehow!) in some of the most remarkable ways.

So here’s the application to our lives today. What do you have, what can you use, what can you find laying around, that you can pick up to use to serve the Lord? It’s not about the instrument or even you as the person. It’s about having faith in God and allowing His Spirit to empower and work through you for His purposes.

When the Spirit of God comes upon you, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you can or cannot do. It doesn’t matter if there is a more experienced and equipped “Giant” mocking you, and all you have is a sling and some stones. It doesn’t matter if you bound by ropes and a whole army with advanced weapons is coming against you and all you have is the jawbone of a donkey. Use it…because God will use you!

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord , “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.” -Exodus 4:1-5

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”… Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. -John 6:9,11

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