The truth will set you free – John 8:32
The truth will really set you free – Tyler Hamilton
I recently read the book “The Secret Race” by former professional cyclist and confessing “doper” Tyler Hamilton. This book recounts in fascinating detail the lengths to which the professional cyclists were prepared to go to achieve that little bit of extra power, making the difference between finishing in the bunch or right up front – a contender for the win.
Stories focussing on endurance events inevitably reminds me of the many references in the New Testament comparing life to a race. Given the insights in some of his letters, I would speculate that Paul may have been a notable athlete in his day!
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he says, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
To his protégé, Timothy he writes that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
The author of Hebrews was clearly not far behind when it came to sport, also comparing the Christian life to a race: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
But, you may ask, what do these have to do with the story of Tyler Hamilton, Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and almost any other cyclist of their era?
The one thing that these men had in common with Paul is that they allowed nothing to come in their way on the road to victory – some were more successful than others, but they all had this incredible drive to finish the race as the winner. They trained very hard, they endured paid that one can only really appreciate if you go through it yourself (and very few of us do), they took unheard of risks on the day of the race, pushing for that little bit extra. Up to this point, you would want to hold them out as prime examples of what the Bible teaches. However, when it became evident that despite all the hard work, they could still not reach the top, these athletes all came to a point where they had to make a choice: When offered performance enhancing drugs, they could either accept or not. While every person is different, I believe that the crucial factor in this decision was the desire to win at all costs.
From the outside it is easy to judge these sportsmen. They artificially enhance their chances to win at sport. Some would say that this is disgusting, others that it is not in the “spirit of sport”, and others would have nothing to do with them.
Yet – we all have to make the very same choices. Everyone that is in business is under some sort of pressure to succeed. For some success means to survive, for others it is to save enough for retirement. Some will want to be able to live a life of luxury, but for many it is simply the thrill of doing well – to be good at what they do, to look successful to the outside world. They want to finish the race at the front of the pack. But once you have done everything you can and things just do not seem to move as fast as you were hoping, you start looking around at what other people do … it always starts small: I will only take a little bit of cash out of the business without declaring it …, maybe some stock …, take something small from your employer. But this inevitably grows into something a little bigger. The amounts get larger, the risks go higher and the methods for hiding the wrong choices become more intricate. It started with a little thought, a small choice and ended in something that is completely out of control.
This is not new – right at the start of the story of humankind, God already warned Cain: “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:7)
I think that it is safe to say that everyone in this world has succumbed to the temptation of sin and allowed it to control them, bringing destruction to their lives and to the lives around them, a separation between God and man with a resultant anxiety, distrust, disillusion, and every other dysfunction you can imagine. The good news is that God had a plan – right from the foundation of the world: He sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Herein lies the forgiveness of sin, the freedom from guilt, and the power to live a life of truth – because Jesus Christ is Truth.
If you stumbled across this, agonising over a decision that you know is really one between right and wrong – go right now and ask God to give you the power and the courage to do the right thing. If you feel it is too late for you – know that God has made a plan and is ready to forgive if you come to him in complete trust and repentance. Only the Truth can set you free.
Read more about Tyler Hamilton and the Secret Race on the official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheSecretRaceTweet