J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Samson as More than Hero or Cautionary Tale

A Once and Future SamsonIf Samson were alive today, he would have a million Twitter followers, tweet things like “great #honey last night what a blast lol”, and the world would love him.  That is, the world would love him until he made every mistake under the sun and TMZ started covering him.

With those things in mind, one must wonder what relevancy does Samson still hold?

Is he a picture of what believers can be when they trust from the Lord and turn from their idols?

Is he a picture of what will happen if men pursue their lusts and thus an antitype of say, Joseph?
Is he a foreshadowing of Christ?

Unfortunately, many practical devotional writings pull Samson out of context and teach purely an exemplary exegesis that treats Samson as a model that can be followed or avoided.  For example, Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God devotional uses Samson’s life as a pattern to be followed when we have lost spiritual power.  Relating to Samson, he says, “Those around you who have relied upon your strength are discovering that you are not as helpful as you once were.”  To remedy this, he encourages, “If you walk with God in this manner, you will grow in spiritual strength (like Samson) and be used mightily by Him.”

Another example is Steven Lawson’s Men Who Win.  He talks of the great victories that God has brought, “Samson slew the Philistines.  David fought Goliath,” but warns, “Our battles are just as real.  The Canaanites outnumber us.  The Goliaths are waiting for us to grow weary and falter.  The Delilahs are lying.”

Truly, whenever we see a biblical character succumbing to sin, the believer should be on guard lest he fall.  Whenever we see a biblical character achieve victory, we should rejoice that God is gracious.  But these kinds of examples miss the point of Samson, nearly completely.

The takeaway is that God moves, enlivens, empowers, and delivers despite the sinfulness of His people.

With these thoughts in mind, please check out “A Once and Future Samson” available as both a Kindle Single and PDF download.  It is a simple, concise, and hopeful look at God’s work among even the worst of us.

July 24, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, ruth, training men | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sample Chapter from “Joy in Trials”

When the absolute best happens, what kind of thoughts go through your head and heart?

When you get a promotion…
When you sell your house…
When you solve a problem at work…
When your child gets good grades…
When you achieve your time running in a 5k…
When you find $20 in old pair of pants…
When you wake up from a good night’s sleep…
When you fall in love…
When you get pregnant…

What goes through your head and heart?  You really only have a few options.

Impersonal randomness caused these things.
Other people caused these things.
You caused these things.
Or God caused these things.

When the absolute worst happens, what kind of thoughts go through your head and heart then?

When you get sick…
When you lose a loved one…
When you lose a job…
When you bounce a check…
When you can’t achieve your run time in a 5k…
When you couldn’t get a good night’s sleep if you had to…
When you can’t solve a problem at work…

What goes through your head and heart?  You really only have a few options.

Impersonal randomness caused these things.
Other people caused these things.
You caused these things.
Or God caused these things.

Typically, if you have faith in God, when things go well, you want to thank Him.  We say, “Thank you God for giving me this raise,” or “Thank you God for letting that officer not give me a ticket.”  But when things go poorly, well that’s a different story.

We might yell at God, “Why did you cause this to happen?”
We might yell, “Why didn’t you stop this?”
Maybe we blame ourselves for making a mistake.
Maybe we blame someone else or some impersonal force in the universe.

The million dollar question though is, “Can you rise up and call God blessed and thank Him for every and any circumstance in your life whether good or bad?”

These and other thoughts are pursued in “Joy in Trials”.  These meditations from the Book of Ruth are intended to strengthen our love and faith in God…no matter what.

You can find “Joy in Trials” digitally at Amazon and in paperback at Lulu.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional, ruth | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction from “Joy in Trials”

The Book of Ruth is a fascinating read.  It covers so much of the life experience.

Marriage?  Check
Death?  Check
Children?  Check
Loss?  Check
Faith?  Check
Loss of Faith?  Check

You get the idea.  This story about a wandering family wandering back home with almost nothing and finding a new life is one of the most beautiful pictures of redemption in all of the Bible, and not because everything works out.

Just because people get married and have a new home and family does not mean that everything works out.  This is a book about pain and suffering that finds its way to joy because it gives the reader the luxury and joy of watching God work over the long course of time.

Ruth lets the reader observe God’s hand at work in almost every circumstance of life.  You get to patiently wait to see God move without you having to get your hand dirty.  And because of that, this can be one of the more faith-inspiring books in the whole Bible.  But just like Ruth, you have to be patient and wait to see it all come together.

For me as an author, revisiting old sermon notes about Ruth was a joy and comfort because I did it during a six month period where I lost both parents and decided upon a job change.  I needed to be reminded of God’s big work on my behalf, but even more so, I needed to be reminded that God does all of these things for His glory and in His timing.

That truth brings joy in trials both as a reality and as a book.

Thanks for giving this a shot.  I never take the reader for granted.

If you would like to purchase or recommend “Joy in Trials”, it is available digitally at Amazon and on paperback at Lulu.

November 13, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional, ruth | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction for The Gospel Protects Us

In the past six months, I have lost both of my wonderful parents.  My Father (affectionately known as Sam) passed after a lengthy stay in the hospital where his lungs just finally quit working.  My mother passed suddenly as a result of a horrendous car crash.  I loved them both dearly, and perhaps no child has ever been loved as well I was by them.

Soon after my Father’s passing, I began editing this little book about persevering trials from the Epistle of James.  Much of what you will read was gathered in from my sermon notes from my James series that I preached at Sovereign King Church.  So re-reading and understanding these teachings have been a comfort for my soul.  However, the initial push for the book faded within two months of my Father’s funeral.

But recently, I walked through a season of trials like none that I have ever experienced.  Following my Mother’s sudden and shocking car wreck, my car broke down with a flat tire.  I got poison ivy so badly it was on my eyelids.  My children were soon suffering from fevers of over 103 coupled with nausea and vomiting.  And oh yeah, around that time I announced that I was resigning from Sovereign King to move to Spotsylvania, VA to plant a new church.

Trials?  I knew them well.  Enduring them well?  That was yet to be determined.

So I returned to this little document trying to see if I knew anything about suffering when I originally wrote it.  I couldn’t have imagined when preaching that series that I would have to experience such trials, but as I reread these words, I could see that at least God had prepared me well.

But please know that this is not a book purely about trials.  James lays out three things for us at the end of Chapter One.  First, he wants us to thank God when we do endure suffering because we know that His loving, sovereign hand is behind each one.  Secondly, he wants us to then live out Godliness in our relationships (these usually suffer during hard times).  And finally, he wants us to trust God, believe that He is true, and then live out wisdom as we suffer and love one another.

I hope these words are helpful.  Writing them innocently and reading them after much suffering experience has been good for me.

I pray the same for you.

October 2012

You can find “The Gospel Protects Us” for download at

Barnes and Noble

and in paperback at Lulu

October 2, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gospel Protects Us Available on Tuesday October 2nd

I’m excited to announce that the second in “The Gospel…” series, “The Gospel Protects Us” will be available at Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, and Lulu tomorrow, Tuesday October 2nd.  And the best news is that it will only be $.99.

Throughout the week, I will be posting clips and chapters from the book, but for now, let me explain the cover choice.  The following is from the intro of the book.  I hope you enjoy it.

I don’t know if the cover of this little book makes sense at first glance, and the fact that I’m explaining it may very well mean that it doesn’t.  But this picture gives me great joy and explains a great deal about this book.

Inside, you’ll find my musings on the Book of James’ teachings about taking joy in trials, navigating relationships, and seeking the wisdom to handle them both.  In there, I hope to emphasize that the Gospel of Jesus protects us through those things.

The cover image picture comes from an Egg Hunt our church put together for the Garner Police Department.  Pictured are all three of my girls.  You see Meredith in the middle looking out for Landry on the left.  Landry is looking out for our youngest, Emma.  They were protecting each other, and the image reminds me of how God does just that for us.

I hope you enjoy the image and the words that follow it.


October 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment


In the midst of so much recent discussion of trials and God’s intentions, I found myself reading I Peter and musing…

I Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The work of Jesus is about more than a secure home in heaven. It is about that of course, but there are great benefits on this side of Jesus’ work as well. Because Jesus has been crucified for sin and resurrected to new life, we experience a great mercy that causes us to be born again. That mercy is secure. It is not something it future. It is now.

That work is so complete that it is an inheritance for all who have faith in Jesus. This is not an inheritance that fluctuates with the stock market or the whims of an old man. Salvation is an inheritance that is imperishable meaning it cannot die. It is undefiled which means it has been secured through Jesus’ perfection. It cannot fade no matter what we do. Even if we sin or even sin a lot, it cannot fade. How do we know?

Verse 5 says that it is God’s power that guards this salvation through the faith that He has gifted you with. God Himself secures and holds your faith guarded until the end of all things. These realities are intended to give you great hope even if you are going through the most difficult of trials on this earth.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

What God grants His children is a living hope in the midst of difficulty and life. And through God’s bolstering and support, He intends for you (through those trials) to grow in genuineness of faith. Your trials show you the depth of your faith.

So ask yourself, do difficult times ultimately draw you to God and the hope of Heaven? You have a genuine faith. Do difficult times draw you away from God and Heaven is not even an afterthought? Your faith might not be genuine at all or at best, it might be very weak.

Sometimes, we might be tempted to think it would all just be easier if we could have been with Jesus and walked with Him instead of having to rely so much on faith. If you have ever experienced that temptation, read verse 8.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Verse 8 reaffirms why now is better than then. We did not see Jesus back in the day, yet we love Him. We do not see Jesus now, yet we have faith in Him. Despite having not seen Him then or now, He gives us great joy filled with a desire to give Him glory because we know that the outcome of our faith in a secure salvation of our souls with Him in Heaven.

One of the intentions of your present trials (whether it be marital, occupational, parental, educational, or anything else) is to show you the depth of your faith and to cause your heart to long for the more beautiful day when we see Jesus in Heaven. Don’t wish away these trials too quickly. They have a heavenly purpose.

We so flippantly say during difficult times, “Well, God has a purpose and a plan in everything.” Well, yes He does, but God is not the cosmic janitor that cleans up our messes. Our trials and difficulties are God ordained and decreed individual glories intended to strengthen your faith and cause you to love Jesus more.

This article appears at the Raleigh Examiner. Read it there and help me earn a penny.

December 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment