Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, delivered his latest sermon in the "What Would Jesus Say To…" series over the weekend and offered that Christ would tell disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong to stop running away from the truth, to stop lying and turn to God.
According to Pastor Young, Jesus would turn to Armstrong in a one-on-one conversation and say: "Lance, fall on your knees before me. Stop your paddling. Stop your performing. Stop trying to hear those words you didn't 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."
Armstrong, who overcome cancer and won seven Tour de France titles, which made him one of the most successful athletes in the world, confessed to Oprah Winfrey last week in a much anticipated interview that he had been using illegal performance enhancing drugs his entire career.
The cyclist effectively admitted that he had falsely accused people of lying when they suggested that he had been doping, and that he had been taking the exact substances the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused of him using. After finally losing the legal battle against the ADA last year, Armstrong was stripped of all his Tour de France titles, he was banned from the sport for life, and has lost millions in sponsorship deals.
Pastor Young talked at length about Armstrong's fall from grace, and reminded his 20,000 strong congregation that the testicular cancer survivor has still done a great deal of good in his life – including founding the Livestrong foundation, which has raised almost half a billion dollars in cancer research. Young added, however, that people cannot compare before God how much good they do in order to compensate for the sins in their life. "You just can't play that game with God," he said.
"How can someone who was such a mythological character actually live a myth? How can Lance Armstrong live his life on the foundation of falsehood?" Young asked. The Fellowship pastor said, however, that people can ask themselves the same question.
"We loathe lying, but we don't mind lying when we have to. We don't like being lied to, 'but I'll lie when I have to,'" the pastor said. "We're just natural born liars. We know how to do it."
Armstrong has had to overcome various challenges in his life besides cancer, Young added. He acknowledged that Armstrong's father left him when he was only two years of age, and suggested that the sports star has been cycling ever since in hopes of one day hearing the words he never got to hear from his father when he was young: "You matter, I love you."
Armstrong has spoken on his religious beliefs before, and said that he does not belong to a specific faith, but has made it his life mission to live in an honest and moral manner.
"I asked myself what I believed," Armstrong revealed of his thoughts as he faced cancer surgery in 1996. "I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized."
Pastor Young brought up an instance where Armstrong directly questioned God, when he had said: "If there was a God, I would still have both of my testicles."
According to the preacher, that comment was an example of how the cyclist was trying to control everything in his life. Not only that, but when he continuously lied about not using the illegal drugs he was accused of using, Armstrong began creating an "illusion" and attacked those who disturbed his fabricated reality, Young said.
"'If someone is not in my reality – they are crazy, they're ridiculous, they're nuts, they're idiots' – are they?" the Texas pastor asked.
As to Jesus addressing Armstrong, Young suggested that Christ would also say: "Lance, when you ride away from the truth, you crash right into it. There is going to be a colossal wreck between the truth and the lies. When you wreck, look at me."
The Fellowship Church pastor argued that God did not cause Armstrong's cancer, and that bad things happen to both good and bad people. He insisted that the cyclist is only a "prayer away" from accepting Jesus as the truth, and noted that Armstrong's first wife, Kristin Richard, who he was married to between 1997 and 2003, was a devoted Christian. Young said that Armstrong needs to stop cycling away from the past and the pain in his life, and seek to be adopted into God's family with God as the Father – and the only way to do that is through Jesus, the preacher affirmed.
Young concluded his sermon by reminding the congregation that at the end of the Winfrey – Armstrong interview, the hostess quoted a part of Scripture – "the truth will set you free." Young highlighted, however, that that is only partially true, and that Jesus said in John 8:32: "You will know the truth, and it will set you free."
Pastor Young explained: "The way is Jesus. Jesus is the truth."
Pastor Young, who has talked to The Christian Post about his sermon series, has already focused on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and reality show star Kim Kardashian in his past sermons, and has two more parts in the celebrity series lined up that can be watched online on the Fellowship Church website.