Keeping your promises — four ways to avoid breaking vows to God

Ecclesiastes 5, Numbers 6

Many children raised in church know the story of Samson, a long-haired muscle-bound hero that cleaved a gash in the entire nation of Philistines in the book of Judges. His nearly supernatural abilities look absurd, especially in contrast when his hair is cut off during the Delilah scene and his strength suddenly vanishes.

Samson isn’t the only one with sensational, superpower hair.

But few people know why Samson’s hair is long in the first place — besides the possibility that his hair contains magical superpowers and he wanted to keep them despite his rising monthly shampoo and conditioner bill.  Samson is born into a special vow called the vow of the Nazirite.

While Samson’s vow is somewhat involuntary, he maintains his commitment to abstain from wine, keep his hair intact, and avoid touching dead people (although he certainly produces several corpses himself). It is not his hair that makes it all happen, but his commitment to preserving his vow to God.

Of course, he didn’t keep it up forever, as we all know.  A few things happened in the infamous Delilah encounter:
1) He gave into his sensations.
2) He makes a mental commitment to disobey God.
3) He makes a physical movement toward disobedience.

This is exactly the same progression we make toward our own broken vows unto God. We succumb to our environment, begin rationalizing or justifying the behavior, and then commit to the act. Regarding the act itself, you fill in the blank — it’s really all the same.

We all make promises to quit it, but flounder under the pressure. How do we avoid breaking vows with God?

1) Don’t make a vowGod wants transparency and honesty, not hollow words.  This doesn’t mean you’re done avoiding your sinful behavior — but to make a promise and break it over and over again only produces a huge, endless guilt cycle.  And guilt doesn’t really do much other than make you feel guilty.

2) Get some accountabilityIt’s hard to start because it means you have to humble yourself and tell your friends about your secret sin. But it’s refreshing, and it’ll keep you in check. The knowledge that someone else knows keeps you convicted and keeps your flesh at bay.

3) Get in tune with the Word. Going with your gut is the cool thing to do, but your heart is wholly unreliable. God has specific expectations for His kids.  We should look to do what is right and keep up with holiness.  But walking the perfection tightrope is absolutely impossible, so it’s important to finally…

4) Recognize God’s grace.  If we’ve made a commitment to Jesus Christ, we’re not subject to condemnation anymore.  Conviction remains, but the guilt of past transgressions is gone.  Once we see God’s endless grace for what it is, the deep chasm that separates us from His joy and our devotion to Him will vanish.

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