Points to Ponder: Defining our Heroes

Points to Ponder
Defining our Heroes
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

Several years ago I was in a bookstore and picked up Lance Armstrong's then recently released book, It's Not about the Bike. I sat down and read the first three chapters, captivated by his story; being raised by a single mom, finding his love for cycling and his ability to win races, winning his struggle against cancer, and then taking on the Tour de France. I was especially inspired by how he would take on the grueling hill climbs in the Tour with tenacity. He described how cancer had taught him how to use pain rather than be hindered by it.
His later divorce from his wife, whom he described in the book with such love, shocked and disappointed me. She had been with him in the fight against his cancer. Subsequent articles and interviews seemed to describe how the lifestyle of a pro cyclist was the reason for the demise of their marriage. The long months of training, the random drug tests at any time of any day, which often interrupted family time, the long separations for events; these took their toll. Who can really know the details? But I began to think that maybe it was all about the bike after all.
Over the years, Armstrong vehemently denied charges that he was "doping." All seven Tour de France victories were accomplished without performance-enhancing drugs, he claimed. The French seemed to be out to get him, and many of us believed it.
But now, it has been proven true. Armstrong isn't even fighting it anymore. I guess, once you're a multi-millionaire, who cares anymore what people say.
So then, maybe it really was Not About the Bike. But what was it all about? The mother of his children is no longer his wife; he's since moved on to other women and more children. The big, world-renown racing events are over for him at this point. Plus, the seven Tour de France wins were all lies.
"All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under he sun: that one thing happens to all." (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3a)
That one thing is death. No amount of money or power can buy anyone out of that.
"Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead." (3b)
There is a truth we seldom reflect upon: your name lives on even after your body has died. When you breathe your last, your name goes on a death certificate. Then it comes off of everything else. Only your name continues to be yours, and, over time, carries into future generations a summary of your character.
George Washington died over two hundred years ago; yet his name stands for character and integrity. On the other hand, you don't have to be a historian to know the name Benedict Arnold stands for traitor. I don't know any parents who name their baby boys Judas nowadays either.
It's interesting to consider the irony of having the news about Lance Armstrong's cheating on the same day a Pakistani girl's name is being heard around the world: Malala Yousufzai. At age 14, she dared to risk her life by speaking out against the Taliban. She dared to go to school, to fight for her right to an education (the Taliban opposes the education of girls). The cowards were so threatened by the little girl's boldness that they hunted her down and shot her and two of her friends on the way to school.
At this writing she may die. If she recovers, she may be permanently disabled and institutionalized. She risked her body and her life for what is right. Even if she dies, she beat the Taliban by the strength of her character.
To have her name and Lance Armstrong's reported in the same paper on the same day is worth pondering. If there was ever a question as to whether character counts, a Pakistani girl answered it. And it doesn't matter whether Rimsha Masih even knew how to ride a bike.
It is a fascinating thing to observe what people will give their lives to and how, in the end, the true measure of success is often not what one may have first thought.

Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring. Listen to Rev. Whitmore on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs at 10:45 a.m. & p.m. & Wed at 10:45 a.m. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.