"Son, You Never Quit"

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"Son, You Never Quit"

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Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist, won his third consecutive Tour de France on July 29, 2001. The American news media triumphantly announced that he had won this grueling 2,000-plus mile race doing especially well in the difficult mountainous terrain.

Although I am not an ardent sports fan, the news of Lance Armstrong's victory was very satisfying to me, personally, because of all that he has gone through during his brief three decades of life.

According to his autobiography, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, Lance grew up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. His mother, a petite woman, was 17 years old when he was born. She was not married at the time. Life was very difficult for them. She struggled to provide for him.

She did, however, impart pearls of wisdom to him. One was, "Make every obstacle an opportunity." Another was, "Son, you never quit." That latter statement stayed with him as he strove to excel athletically.

He tried a number of sports before finding his niche with bicycle racing. His whole life eventually began to revolve around racing. In no time he was into big league, serious racing. He was tempted to quit, but he remembered what his mom had said, and many times stayed the course.

Then everything looked hopeless...

When he turned 25, he got terrible headaches, started coughing up blood and noticed an enlarged testicle. He went to doctors who diagnosed him with testicular cancer, which was spreading very rapidly. Then he discovered that, because of a job change, he had no health insurance. He read and researched everything he could get his hands on about testicular cancer and explored all treatment options. Then his doctors found cancer on his brain and in his abdomen. Everything looked hopeless.

He decided on a plan of treatment and immediately started it. Brain surgery was done and it was successful. A friend arranged for medical coverage. He had a heavy dose of chemotherapy which was devastating--full of pain, vomiting and misery. At times he couldn't talk or eat or even watch TV, but he fought on.

After his last chemotherapy treatment, he talked to children who were cancer patients, telling them, "You have to fight!" He started a charitable foundation. Then he went back home, tried to put his life back together and waited for one year to pass to see if the cancer returned. Blood was drawn each week and analyzed.

At the end of the year there was good news. The cancer hadn't returned. Although it was extremely hard, he set about to return to professional bicycle racing, and beyond all odds he succeeded. His amazing wins in cycling's most prestigious race, the Tour de France, have given him a place in history. Now he is married with a young son (Luke David) and at the time of writing he is expecting twin girls. (His children were conceived through in vitro fertilization from semen stored prior to the cancer treatment.)

Inspiring insights

After all is said and done, what did Lance Armstrong learn from this? Although he is not a church-going, religious-type person, he has some insights that are positively inspired.

He states, "So if there is a purpose to the suffering that is cancer, I think it must be this: it's meant to improve us" (page 273). Does this sound familiar? It's similar to Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×
, "God causes all things to work together for good" (NASB).

He also said, "My illness was humbling... it forced me to survey my life.... I found that I had a lot of growing to do...the old me did die and I was given a second life.... When I was sick, I saw more beauty and triumph and truth in a single day than I ever did in a bike race" (page 4).

Christian parallels

In a number of ways Lance Armstrong's life parallels the journey of many Christians and of the Church of God itself. Things were going along with the usual trials and many triumphs. Then, bang! Everything seemed to be falling apart. One major disaster followed another. At such times, the cancer of doubt and disbelief spreads rapidly. When facing crisis, some, like Lance, dig in and do a ton of (scriptural) research, and offer up a whole lot of prayer too. Some use the crisis to draw closer to God.

After a crisis it seems Christians and the Body (the Church) must slowly recover. I have been encouraged to see that people who have faced great trials are enduring, that there is still a light shining to the world, that the gospel of God's glorious Kingdom is being preached. The admonition of Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×
to endure to the end is being heeded or, as Lance Armstrong's mother said, "Son, you never quit."

Let's encourage one another to continue our spiritual race so that we, like Lance Armstrong, will cross the finish line victorious.