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Jan 17, 2013

Four Things Christians Can Learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong admitted to cheating as he won his seven Tour de France titles after battling back from a fight with testicular cancer. Armstrong was "stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October 2012, after allegations that he benefited from years of systematic doping, using banned substances and receiving illicit blood transfusions."

The rise and fall of Lance Armstrong should serve as a reminder for us all as to how easy it is for us to allow sin to destroy all that we have. We are all, but by the grace of God, Lance-- and we should look at the reality in the light of our own fallenness. The patterns evident in this story are not new and it is worth remembering the biblical truths that undergird. As a matter of fact, scripture points to the fall of great people and calls us to learn humbly in such moments-- not rejoicing in their downfall, but learning to guard out own hearts.

As such, I offer four biblical considerations we might ponder after one of the greatest cheating scandals in sports history.

1. Internal desires are the root of our external sins.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, writes in the book bearing his name, "Each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires" (1:14, HCSB). The desire to succeed, to win, to be the best can manifest itself in many ways. While the desire to excel is not wrong, if it becomes the focus of our lives it can lead to external behaviors that do not honor God.

2. To fulfill our selfish desires, we often look for shortcuts.

Armstrong is not the first athlete to use performance enhancing drugs. Americans have watched congressional hearings and read expose after expose on the use of banned substances. Armstrong is definitely not the first cyclist to be banned for blood doping. From all accounts, cycling has a long history of illegal activity and blood doping. For many the shortcut to the top is often too enticing to pass up. When a desire to excel becomes all consuming, shortcutting the rules or laws becomes the norm.

Secret sin can become its own satisfaction.

The Bible says, "Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten secretly is tasty!" There are times when the desired goal actually takes second place to thrill of keeping the secret. When this happens the secrecy becomes a self-perpetuating activity. Externally the goal of winning or being the best is still evident, but the internal driver is affected by the stolen water and secret bread.

3. The threat of being uncovered often causes us to dig a deeper hole.

In the Old Testament King David provides us with one of the well known historical examples of a person with a secret who went to extreme measures to try and keep a secret. After impregnating the wife of a man off in battle, David manufactured a complex scenario he hoped would cover over his own involvement with the woman, Bathsheba. He even went so far as to arrange her husband's death to keep his actions secret.

Armstrong and others keeping secrets from the public have lashed out at accusers, attempting to vilify or ruin them. This while keeping the lid on their own lies. That's what we often do.

4. Exposure is inevitable-- now or in eternity.

In the case of King David it was a prophet, Nathan, who appeared in the throne room one day to expose the king's secret. In Armstrong's case it is former teammates, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and other public and private detractors. But perhaps no more harsh words than these: "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling," said Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union.

It's been said that what we cover, God will uncover. Our sins will-- and do-- find us out. Armstrong finds himself in the middle of this. Everything he has denied has been found true. The same will be said of our sins. Whether in this life or in judgement, God will expose us all.

But for those in Christ there is good news. For what we uncover, God will cover.

As you watch the Lance Armstrong debacle unfold, consider your own life, the danger of sin, and the forgiveness that comes through Christ. Remember what some long lost preacher once said, "Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay."

Thanks to Jonathan Howe and Marty Duren for helping put this together.

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Posted:January 17, 2013 at 12:00 am

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