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Back during the summer I was at a meeting in a large city where I quickly noticed that many of the people rode bicycles. They were not riding bicycles for recreation or exercise but rather to get from one place to another, to work and back home, hundreds of people, riding in lanes in the city that were prepared just for them. In that city they also provided special heavy duty posts with attachments so you could lock your bicycle to it and there it would be safe and secure. One evening as I walked back to my room where I was staying, I saw a really nice looking bicycle locked to one of those posts. I paused to look at it because I could tell it was an expensive bicycle with all the bells and whistles and quality stuff that an experienced bike rider would probably have. Then I went on.
The next morning I was out for an early morning brisk walk and I passed by the same bicycle parked out there on the side of the street. I stopped again, not just to admire the bike this time, but to examine the fact that most of it was gone. While the strong locks provided some protection and kept the thieves from picking it up and taking the whole thing, during the night someone had stripped the bicycle of everything but the frame. I mean they had taken everything: tires, gone; chain, gone; hand brakes, gone; front and back wheels, gone; everything, gone. All that was left behind was the skeleton of a bicycle, everything else had been stripped, robbed, and the bicycle ruined. Though I had no idea whose bicycle it was or who the robbers were that had stripped and ruined it, I just hated for somebody that it happened. I walked on down the street knowing that there was not much I could do, in fact nothing, to replace all the missing parts or fix it. I went on walking.
Soon, I was struck by the fact that that shell of a bike is not unlike many people I have seen, people I have known, people who had it all, gifted, bright, successful, so much to give and such potential to bless, and then tragedy strikes. Things happen in their lives, wrong decisions, temptations, and the thief himself, Satan, comes to do his work. In John 10:10 Jesus describes the work of the devil as he is a thief who comes and robs. He will steal anything from anybody, strip you of innocence, he will ruin your character, your relationships, your health, your family. There are no boundaries that he will not cross in order to take one of God’s children and wreck and ruin them.
One of the celebrated heroes of the Bible is also one of the saddest characters in Scripture. His name is Samson. He was chosen of God, empowered by God, used by God, but then he began to play games with the very gifts that God had given him. His work for the Lord that had become legendary began to be just a cute little thing that he could do as he wanted, he thought. Soon, all that had appeared to be so magnificent was robbed and all of the glamour and glory that he had attained was stripped away and he was ruined, taken captive by the enemies that he had so often overcome. He now was weak, blinded. Grinding at the mill, the Scripture says they made sport of him (Judg. 16:25), his magnificent life and incredible power now a joke. A shell of a man that once had walked so tall and strong for God.
None of us need to be proud or boastful or think that that could never be me, for Satan as a roaring lion goes around seeking who he may devour and he would love nothing more than to have you or me. Thanks be to God that we do have a Savior who does not just meet us one time and remove our sin debt, but He stays with us and fills us with His power and His love and by His grace we can walk with Him and rely on Him and be filled by Him whatever we may be going through. Maybe you feel as though you’ve been stripped and ruined. I would be remiss if I did not point out that God Himself wanted to and waited to use Samson again. In the close of his life, Samson cries out to God and God hears him, restored him to be used in one last glorious moment of life and He can restore you also.
First John is a marvelous book that opens in Chapter 1 telling us that if we have sinned we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ, who stands before the Father on our behalf and becomes our attorney. Caring for us he wants us to be restored and the Bible says that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). You do not have to remain stripped and ruined. You can be restored, blessed and be a blessing once again.