If you haven’t already heard, bicycling superstar Lance Armstrong made shockwaves last month by admitting to “doping” during his long and celebrated athletic career. He’s back in the news this week with the possibility of facing criminal charges for the scandal. Commentators far and wide have analyzed Lance and his confession. As I’ve read the news about his downfall, I’ve done some analyzing myself. If I had ten minutes with Lance Armstrong, this is what I’d say.
We’ve never met. I did rock one of your yellow Livestrong bracelets for a month or two at one point (mostly just because I like yellow), but I must admit I’m not a sports enthusiast, don’t own a bicycle, and can’t tell you how many miles are in the Tour de France.
I guess that makes me a strange candidate to have something to say about your life. I’m sure it seems everyone wants a piece of you these days. Maybe you would prefer if soccer moms in Missouri stayed out of your mess.
But I’ve been thinking of you often, and I want to tell you three important things:
You are loved.
You can be forgiven.
Redemption is possible.
You are loved. Sin has a way of making us feel particularly unlovable. When there’s no denying we’ve messed up, we all feel disappointed in ourselves, ashamed of what we’ve done, and doubtful about our worth. I’ve never had a confession session with Oprah, but I’ve made plenty of big mistakes. I know what it’s like to wear those mistakes like a label and feel like it’s the only thing people see when they look at me. But fortunately, I also know what God’s Word says about my value is true, even when I’ve blown it.
This can be true for you, Lance. Clearly, you are an achiever. I know you’ve felt the glory that comes with the kind of love that is earned by performing well. But God’s love doesn’t hinge on a race or a gold medal. In fact, God knew you would take trophies you didn’t deserve by hiding things you shouldn’t have done. And still God loves you and offers the incredible gift of forgiveness and redemption.
You can be forgiven. I don’t know why you ’fessed up in front of millions. My guess is the weight of what you’d done started to crush you. Nothing you said to yourself eased your angst. You wanted someone to tell you it was okay and you were forgiven. Been there. Done that.
The public may not forgive you. Your teammates may never let this go. The people you love most may never look you in the eyes and tell you they accept your apology. But Lance Armstrong, you can be forgiven.
First John 1:9 makes this promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I don’t have access to the laundry list of things you’ve done that separate you from a holy God. Frankly, I’ve got the stench of my own rotten heart to deal with. But I know this. If you turn to God and confess your sin, you will be forgiven. God’s Word promises you can be clean.
I suppose there is a catch. You must repent. Repentance isn’t exactly the same as a tell-all TV special. Repentance is between you and God (no studio audience necessary). It means that you own up to your junk and the gulf it has caused between you and Him. The doping, yes, but also all the other stuff that violates God’s perfect standards.
Repentance also requires you to turn in the opposite direction. You’re a runner, you’ll be able to picture this. It’s like you’re running hard in one direction—toward your sin, your pride, and your plan for me-centric living—and then you stop, turn on your heel, and run just as hard in the opposite direction. I’m not saying repentance is easy. It is not. But I am saying that the finish line for repentance is God-given forgiveness. At the end of all of this, that is the only finish line worth crossing.
Redemption is possible. Forgiveness and redemption are like two sides of the same coin. We want to know our dirt has been washed away, and we want to know we can be restored to the positions we held before our fall.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God’s promise to those who love Him is that He can work all things for our good. That is especially true of the things the world looks at and says, “No good can come of this.” I don’t know if you’ll ever race again. I can’t say what will happen to your bank account, your trophy case, or your public standing. But I do know this: God wants to use every piece of your life. Redemption is His specialty. God can restore more than you ever thought possible through Christ. In fact, He can give you a brand-new identity (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Lance, your story has been a vivid reminder to me lately that God is the only safe place to put my hope. Heroes will fall. Trophies will tarnish. Public opinion will change in an instant, but God loves me. He is willing to forgive me, even when my mistakes are public and painful. He is always working to redeem everything in my life for my good and His glory.
I hope you know the same is true for you. No medal you could win or lose could make Him love you more. He’s the only One offering the kind of forgiveness that will lift the crushing weight on your life. He is able untangle the mess you are in and work it for your good. I hope you will grab onto those truths and hold on for dear life. It really is the only way to live truly strong.