What Would Jesus Say To…
January 20, 2013
Lance Armstrong – the cancer-surviving cyclist who fought back to win seven Tour de France victories and take the sports world by storm. It’s one of the most well-known stories of our time. It’s a story that was never true. And in the end, it’s a story that has more to do with us than we may realize.
In this message, Ed Young looks at how Lance Armstrong’s story relates to our lives. And as he unpacks what Jesus would say to this cycling champion, we also discover that the very same words apply to us, no matter what race we are trying to win.
How could a nobody become a somebody, then a nobody again? How can someone start with such tragedy, move to triumph, then tragedy again? How can someone who was such a mythological character actually live a myth? How could Lance Armstrong live his life on the foundation of falsehood? A cancer survivor, winner of seven Tour de France races, started the amazing foundation, Livestrong. How could Lance Armstrong lie? How could he do it? How could he do it?
I think to answer these questions we need to ask why. Now, most of us are here at this campus and all of our different environments to hear what would Jesus say to Lance Armstrong? That’s the burning question. What would the Lord say to Lance? If he had a one-on-one interview with him, what would come out of his mouth? We’re gonna talk about that. But before so, I thought, because I’ve done so much research, I just want to give you some reasons regarding why. I’m a why-guy. I just want to kind of present the why. Why would Lance do what he did? I mean, why? Why?
Perhaps, as I’ve done all of this study, perhaps Lance was riding away from his pain. Maybe he was riding away from the pain in his past. Maybe he was trying to compensate from the daddy deficit he has in his life. He said, “A boo is a lot louder than a cheer.” Lance also commented, “Your past forms you, whether you like it or not.” And he told Oprah, “My mother and I don’t even talk about the past.” Lance was two years of age when his father abandoned him. His father just rode away into the sunset, so to speak. Lance has had nothing to do with that situation whatsoever. Could it be that Lance was pedaling, was riding… could it be that Lance was trying to hear the words he never heard as a kid: You matter. Maybe he was trying to hear those masculine words: I love you. I accept you. I approve of you. Perhaps he was trying to compensate for that pain caused by his father leaving in the past. Because even two years of age is old enough for that to play out.
Maybe it’s compromise. Maybe that’s a reason why Lance lied. Compromise. “I didn’t invent the culture but I didn’t try to stop the culture. I mean, if everybody cheats is anybody cheating? The whole cycling game is a game of doping, that’s just how you do it. It’s as reflexive as putting air in the tires, water in the bottles, it’s just what we do.” And Lance said that. Maybe it was that ‘everybody’s doing it’ type vibe. Compromising.
Or maybe there’s another reason. Maybe it was just Lance’s competitive nature. You talk about a fierce competitor! He said, “Before my diagnosis I was a competitor but not a fierce competitor. Then I said I will do anything I need to survive, then I brought that ruthless win-at-all-costs attitude into cycling.” I’ll take EPO. I’ll take testosterone. I’ll do transfusions if it gets me ahead. I’ll do anything to win. Anything.
Perhaps, though, it was control. Perhaps that’s the reason why he lied. Perhaps that’s the reason he went to such lengths to build this platform that was absolutely pathetic when you saw it crash around him.
“Yeah, yeah. I was a bully. I was a bully in the sense that I tried to control the narrative. Say, ‘That’s a lie and they’re liars.’” Lance also said, “Only twice have I been out of control in my life. Only twice have I been in a situation where I couldn’t really control the nature of it: when I had cancer…” and then he said, “… Oprah, in this interview right now. I’m gonna control my life,” Lance said. And then he said boldly, “If there’s a God… if there’s a God I would have both of my testicles.” Really? So, Lance, you’re God. You determine your destiny. You pave your own path. You’re omnipotent.
Those are some reasons why, in all of my study, why I think Lance Armstrong lied. That’s why I think he lied.
Why do you lie? Why do I lie? Let me say it again. Why do you lie? Why do I lie? Isn’t it true that a lot of us are pedaling away from the pain in our past? Isn’t it true a lot of us are pedaling and we’re on performance enhancing drugs. Maybe not testosterone or EPO but we’re trying to build our lives full of popularity and possessions and pleasure, and maybe, just maybe, we’re pedaling so fast you can’t even see our knees. They’re just going on and on and on and on. And maybe we’re trying to hear those words: You matter. I love you. I applaud your behavior. Yet, it causes us, like Lance, to build our lives on the foundation of falsehood. Are you pedaling away from the pain in your past?
Some of us just say, “You know, everybody else is doing it.” We lie because of compromise. Everybody else is having sex before marriage. Everybody else is doping on the athletic team. Everybody else pads expense accounts. Everybody else lies when their back is against the wall. Everybody else looks on someone else’s paper. Everybody else does it. It’s just what we do and in America and our world today, lying is a national pastime. It’s almost as reflexive as breathing. We just lie. We loathe lying but we don’t mind lying when we have to. We don’t like to be lied TO but I’ll lie when I have to. It’s just the way it is. Why do I lie? I want to make myself look better. That’s why I lie, and so do you.
I was thinking, because I’m a natural-born liar, I was thinking the other day, where did I learn how to lie? Have you ever thought about that? Where did you learn how to lie? My parents never put me on a lying team. “Hey Ed! If you keep lying you might get a scholarship in lying! We’ll put you on the AAU Lying Team!” No, I just knew how to do it. Anybody here take any lessons in lying? We just know how to lie, it’s just who we are.
Have you ever thought about the fact that we’re in the predicament that we’re in, humanity, we’re in the hole that we’re in because of the telling and the believing of a lie. Go all the way back to the soils of the Garden. It all started with what? A lie. We’re just natural-born liars. I just know how to do it. So maybe I lie, maybe you lie, to compensate for pain. Maybe just to compromise, it’s just how I roll to get ahead.
Maybe it’s this competitive thing. A lot of guys are like, “Man, I’m competitive! I’ll win at all costs! I want to get to the front of the line in life and if I have to I’ll just lie! I mean, doesn’t everybody do it? You have to! I mean, everybody’s doing it and plus, it helps me and I can win!
Lance Armstrong spent his life riding away from pain, distancing himself from that daddy deficit. From the first masculine figure he comprehended. And it’s ironic he spent his whole racing career trying to distance himself from other men on bikes and yet the cancer attacked him in his masculinity, where masculinity resides. It’s interesting. So fascinating.
Still, others of us lie. I know I lie and so do you, just to control. I’ll just control my life. I’m just a man. I can control it. I can control it. Maybe I’ve been out of control in a couple of places but I know how to control. So I will control, I will determine my future by the lies that I tell. I exaggerate, I leave out key elements of the truth, I do all of these things because I will control my destiny. And a lot of people say, “Well, Lance did all this good. Think about the Livestrong Foundation.” Granted, the Livestrong Foundation gave away half a billion dollars… amazing! I applaud Lance. Livestrong! But Lance was living wrong. He was living wrong.
“Yeah, but, come on Ed. Testosterone doesn’t hurt you. EPO, doping…” You know what? It probably doesn’t. It probably doesn’t hurt. The issue is lying and cheating! It’s not testosterone, EPO, blah-blah-blah-blah. It’s falsifying! It’s living a lie! That’s the issue here. And in our humanity we want to say, “Well, the good he did outweighed the bad.”
And I like to try to play those games with God in my life, too.
“Look, God! Look what I’m doing here! I’m doing messages and leading churches and talking in conferences, and blah-blah…” but you can’t play that game with God. Obviously we’re all sinners. Obviously we’re all natural-born liars, but performing will not get us to where we need to go.
Why do we lie?
Lance has spent a lot of time on a bicycle but also, I would argue, on a liecycle. A liecycle, a lie-cycle. The two pedals on the lye-cycle. You’ve got an illusion and you’ve got confusion. Illusion… confusion. You tell one lie, another and another and another and another and another and another, and you’re lying so much your knees are going up and down so fast, you can hardly see your legs or mine. Fall on your knees before God.
I believe Jesus would say, “Lance, fall on your knees before me! Stop your pedaling! Stop your performing! Stop trying to hear those words maybe you didn’t hear that you needed to hear when you were young! Stop compromising! Stop trying to be the God of your life. You’re out of control! Your life is a wreck, your life is a mess because… when I try to control my life… <snap> that quick I’m out of control. Yet I only gain control when I admit my out of control-ness to God. Then he takes control and then I have freedom. It’s ironic. There’s a mystery to it. That’s the faith element. It’s God.
So we ride and ride away. We look at Lance Armstrong and go, “Lance, are you in the real world? You mean you’re living a lie, then you’re suing people and ruining people’s reputation who tell the truth and who pointed the finger at you? How could you do such a thing?” we say. That’s what I thought when I watched the interviews with Oprah.
We say, “People are crazy, man.” Am I the only one who says that? People are crazy. Man, that girl’s crazy. That guy’s crazy. We tend to say that. When we are on the lie-cycle and we’re pedaling, illusion-confusion, illusion-confusion, what happens? We’re not living in reality any more. We form our own reality. Lance’s reality was, “I didn’t feel bad about what I was doing. I was just doing it. I thought it was right, it was fine, it was dandy.” That was his reality because of the lie-cycle, and anyone else who began to encroach upon his reality, Lance’s reality, they were evil. He attacked them. He was in pseudo-reality. He wasn’t in reality. He was on the lie-cycle.
And that’s what happens when we lie and lie and lie. Illusion-confusion. And all of a sudden, if someone is not in my reality they’re crazy. They’re ridiculous. They’re nuts. They’re idiots. Are they? It sounds so sexy to say this, “God is the Father of us all.” That’s false. God is not the Father of us all. Let me say it again. I know it’s politically correct. God is not the Father of us all. He created us. We’re not naturally, though, in God’s family. Naturally, John 8:44, our father is the evil one, the father of lies, Jesus described him. There is no truth in him. It’s just what we do. We’re natural-born liars. So to sit there and say, “Well, I’m just kind of in the family of God and I just kinda gradually move into truth…” That’s false.
Well, having said that, what would Jesus say to Lance Armstrong? Several things. Number 1, he would sit down and say with great compassion, “Hey Lance, when you ride away from the truth you’ll crash right into it.” When I ride away from the truth, when you ride away from the truth, you’ll crash right into it. There’s gonna be a colossal wreck between the truth and the lies, and that is what we’ve seen take place on a world stage. A collision.
I think the second thing Jesus would say to Lance, and you and me, “When you wreck, look to me.” Not if you wreck, not you could wreck, no, no, no. When you wreck. When you wreck, it’s gonna happen, look to me. Lance was in the hospital bed. Many doctors said on his death bed. He had an opportunity, because he was a wreck, to turn to the Lord. He didn’t do it. He had a chance. You think God caused his cancer? No. Do bad things happen to good people? Yes. Do hellacious things happen to righteous people? Yes. Jesus says it rains on the just and the unjust. We live in a fallen and fallible place. God, though, uses and causes all things (good things and bad things) but all things to work together for good. Lance was out of control, cancer had enveloped his body, he had a chance because of this wreck to look to God. He didn’t.
God has placed a Christian in his life, his first wife, Kristin. He sees something different in her, just listen to the words he says now. The second wreck is when the house of cards began to fall. The foundation of falsehood began to crumble. We saw it happen, we saw it take place on Oprah. He’s a wreck. His life is a wreck. What’s he gonna do? What are you gonna do?
Maybe you’re living a lie. Maybe you’re rolling the dice. Maybe you’re going along with the crowd, maybe you’re cheating and shamming and scamming your way through life. You’re gonna wreck. I don’t wanna be a bearer of bad news but Jesus would say, “Hey, it’s gonna happen. Turn to me.” And many here, your life is in a wreck right now. Many, you’re watching online, you’re watching in the Southeast and the South, you’re watching in Dallas/Fort Worth. Your life is a wreck. Turn to God. Turn to God!
And here’s what God will tell you. This is incredible. He would tell Lance this. You’re gonna hit the wall, right? God would say, “Lance, look to me.” And then he would say, “Lance, I love you.” That’s right! Jesus would sit down and in this one-on-one interview he would say,“Lance, I love you! You matter to me!” Jeremiah 31:3-4, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again. You’ll be rebuilt, O virgin Israel, again. You’ll take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.”
See, God’s love is an action towards us, not a reaction to us. There’s nothing that Lance could do to cause God to love him any more or any less. Christ’s love is constant. And check it out. Because Israel was riding away from the truth. Because of God’s love he said, “I will build you up again. I will rebuild you. And then you’ll take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” So God would say, “Lance, be a truth-seeker and a truth-speaker! Your life is before you! You have decades left, Lance! Think about the race I have for you! Not the Tour de France but the Hebrews 12 race. The race that you’ll win every single time. I love you!” And you know what? God’s saying that to you and to me. God loves us unconditionally.
Another thing God would say, Jesus would say, “Lance, you need to be adopted into the family.” As I said earlier, God is not the father of us all. He wants to be. We must be adopted, the Bible says, and we only know the Father through the Son. Jesus said (John 14:6), “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by and through me. Lance, you accept me! What I did for you on the cross! I died for your lies, for your sins, for your shortcomings! I did that. I lived perfectly, righteously. I died sacrificially and I’m offering you eternal life. You can’t control it! You can’t control the outcome. You mean to tell me you can control when you die? You can control money? You can control things? You’re out of control. But only when you give up control will you really have control, because I will be in control of your life.” That’s what Jesus would say.
Have you been adopted into the family of God? Have you? It’s through the Son. We’re adopted and once we’re adopted we’re in. You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free, Lance. God is a Father to the fatherless. He wants to father you. He wants to father Lance Armstrong. It doesn’t matter about your past, your reputation, what you did, what you didn’t do. God wants to be Lance Armstrong’s father and it only comes through the Son. And he wants to be your father as well. And it comes through adoption. It comes through adoption.
You know, as I was watching the interview with Lance and Oprah, it was so ironic that Oprah ended the interview with tears in her eyes and she quoted PART of a Scripture verse. She said, “Lance, the truth will set you free.” And then Lance responded, with tears in his eyes, “That’s right, Oprah. The truth will set you free.” Then the interview ended. That’s partially true but that’s not the total package. That’s not.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Who is the truth? Jesus. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” So Lance, the way is Jesus.
Friend, the way is Jesus. Student, the way is Jesus. Those who are married, the way is Jesus. The way is Jesus. Jesus is the truth. And once we know him, once we give up control of our lives to him, we stop our pedaling, then we’re liberated and then we’re free. That’s the message.
You know, Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” So what we conceal, God reveals. What we reveal, God conceals. And Lance did a great job. He took the first step, didn’t he? In front of the world to admit his condition. And I applaud him for that. I applaud him for what he’s done for the cause of cancer. I applaud him. Just think, he’s just one prayer away, one prayer away, from knowing what life is all about. And it’s a race, I’m telling ya Lance, worth being a part of. Because we win every time. And I pray that you discover that race and that race is that relationship with Christ.
Lance, we pray for you. Fellowship Church prays for you. We pray that you make this choice. God never overrides your will or mine. He’s not gonna override Lance’s will. He has to make that call and that decision. Because when Lance does this, when you do this, when I’ve done this, a nobody from a somebody to a nobody becomes a somebody for eternity. Tragedy to triumph. From tragedy to eternal triumph happens!
“Lance,” Jesus would say, “relinquish control of your life. Open up the lid of your heart to me and you’ll win the race every single time.”
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]