Monday, January 21, 2013

Lance Armstrong & the greatest tragedy of all

There are too many tragedies to be told in the sad story that is Lance Armstrong!  The betrayal of fans, sponsors, fellow competitors, his family… The fact he profited financially from his deception… The outright lies he told everyone… The charity he started now being on shaky ground… It doesn't matter which way you look at this story, there is pain, turmoil and tragedy! But perhaps one of the greatest tragedies won’t even rate a mention on the nightly news, Internet coverage or even the Oprah interview.

I think most people don’t realise how performance enhancing drugs actually work.  It is easy to get a picture in your head of some wonder drug, some magic pill that suddenly boosts performance and creates Tour de France champions!  However the reality is that they are not miracle drugs… they can't turn average hacks into champions... they only aid and boost the capacity of an athlete to train so that their eventual performance is enhanced…

So here  is the tragedy; Lance Armstrong still had to train ridiculously hard!  In fact it was widely publicised throughout his career that no one trained as hard as him.  Now in light of his recent confession I think we might be tempted into thinking that this was all a lie, that he wasn't really the super training machine that we came to believe he was.  But the reality is that it is more than likely that he was a super training machine... you don't take a few drugs then nek minnit get on a bike and ride up and down french mountains.  Lance Armstrong probably rode more miles on his bike in one year of training than all the commentators, bloggers and armchair critics have ever ridden in their combined lives.  

And then there is the Tour de France itself... only one, albeit the most famous, of the races in the cycling calendar... over 3000km in 20 stages... up and down mountains that are far bigger than anything we have here in Australia... it is one of the most grueling tests of endurance in the world of sport.  Lance Armstrong finished this race 13 times… 13 times he rode every single mile, through the pain of blisters, injuries and legs burning from the pain of climbing 2880m up the French Alps… It is not as if the drugs he took put a motor on his bike that meant he didn't have to put in the effort to ride those hills.

Now I am certainly not trying to drum up sympathy for Lance Armstrong, but I think we have to acknowledge that there are very few people on this planet who were more dedicated to their training and competing than him.  And hence this is the great tragedy of his life... the tragedy is that it was all for nothing… 

Lance Armstrong has given his whole life to training and competing in cycling races… sacrificed every ounce of energy he had and yet it was all for nothing… he has been disqualified, dethroned and  disgraced because he broke the rules… See no one cares about all his training now... No one gives a stuff about his monumental efforts now… And all his accomplishments have been stripped away... All because he cheated!  His whole life has been wasted, not one ounce of his energy and effort has amounted to anything... Lance Armstrong put ridiculous stress through his body, drained every last drop of energy from it and sacrificed hour upon hour upon hour of his life AND IT WAS ALL FOR NOTHING!

But an even greater tragedy would be for you to suffer a similar fate when it came to your salvation!  See there is a way in which you can attempt to live out your Christianity which will see you put in miles and miles of effort, hours and hours of time but come up completely empty handed in the end. 
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
There are far too many people living out their Christianity through the lens of the Law.  Far too easily faith for us can become a matter of simple obedience to laws like, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”  And we start to rate our level of faith and gain our assurance of salvation from our capacity to keep the laws that we make for ourselves…  When we are doing a good job of obeying our laws we feel happy and sure in our salvation, but if we go through a struggle then doubt, fear and guilt creep in and we do everything we can to beat ourselves back into shape.  There is no more grueling regime of religion than the legalistic one.

But here is the tragedy!  According to Paul in the text above legalistic adherence to human made regulations is destined to perish... Like Lance Armstrong you can give your life to the grueling and relentless pursuit of legalism and it will bleed you dry, take everything that you have and give you nothing but devastation in the end!  For a time you will look wise, look holy, look like you have it all together, look like you are on top of your game, but in the end you will be disqualified, dethroned and disgraced.  

You cannot win your salvation.. You cannot work or train for your salvation... Salvation does not go to the victors but the losers... The salvation offered in the gospel is the free gift of God!  Jesus Christ through His life, death, resurrection and glorification has alone won our salvation and graciously imparts it to all those who repent of their incapacity to please God and put their trust in Him.

Don't waste your life conforming it to legalistic regulations that you are never going to be able to keep and are actually powerless in the battle against sin.  Don't sacrifice hours and hours of your life and every ounce of energy you have on a regime that is only going to disqualify you in the end - that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

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