Being a Prize Fighter for the Glory of Christ
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.” – 1 Corinthians 9:26
The apostle Paul described the Christian life by using various athletic metaphors. He compares the Christian life to a race (1 Corinthians 9:24), a wrestling match (Ephesians 6:12) and even gladiator games (I Corinthians 4:9). But one of Paul’s most intriguing comparisons to the Christian life is his reference to the sport of boxing. In our passage above, Paul writes to the church at Corinth and warns them to not swing and beat the air in their service to God. It was Olympic verbiage that the average Corinthian citizen would understand; for Corinth was home to a series of athletic contests known as the Isthmian Games.
Specifically, Paul urges the church to not box the air. To put it into today’s terms, he is saying that Christians are not called to be “shadow boxers.” Shadow boxing refers to punching at something imaginary in front of you. You are not to simply cast shadows in the arena of life, but rather punch and fight your adversary the devil with impact. The reason why God has not called His children to be shadow boxers is because the devil is not imaginary. Instead, he is active and living, and on a mission to personally destroy you (1 Peter 5:8). So it is vital that you strike your enemy with force. You might not be a professional boxer, but if you are a believer, then the Bible makes it clear that you are to be a boxer in the ring of life. This means you are called to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) and finish the course (2 Timothy 4:7). You are called to put on your boxing gloves and box in ring of life for the glory of God. So what are some life truths that we can glean from this great metaphor?
To begin with, when you get knocked down by the devil, you need to immediately get back up. Notice I said “when” and not “if.” You can be rest assured that as long as you are this side of eternity, the devil will use you as his personal punching bag. This means that there will be times when you get knocked down. He knows exactly what type of blows to hurl your way. He knows your weak spots. He knows the type of left hook to swing your way in order to beat you up as much as possible. He is driven with determination to knock you out with his sucker punch.
I am sure that we have all seen the movie scenes where a boxer hits the mat and never gets back up. The referee will count to ten, giving the wounded boxer the opportunity to get up, but to no avail. Unfortunately, many times we allow that to be our story. We allow the devil to knock us out with the blows of this world. Yet in those vulnerable moments of attack, we must get back up in the strength of our Lord. There is a difference between getting “knocked down” and getting “knocked out.”
Also, there are no time-outs to rest while in the boxing ring of life. In a boxing match, each boxer will periodically go to his corner of the ring for a moment of rest. Yet that is not the case in the boxing ring of life. There is not a moment in fighting the good fight of faith that you can passively sit back with a cool towel around your neck and take a breather. For in the moment you drop your guard, the enemy will pulverize you.
Furthermore, you must remember that you are boxing for an audience of only one. We all have seen the Las Vegas sports arenas packed with eager fans in anticipation for a good boxing match. But unlike our sports crazed culture today, you are not boxing to entertain the crowd in some feverish attempt to people please. You are boxing to only please God. The old adage is true; if you please God, it does not matter who you displease; if you displease God, it does not matter who you please.
Finally, you need to be standing at the final bell. Paul makes it clear that only those who stay in the ring and stay the course in fighting the good fight qualify for the imperishable wreath of eternal life (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Timothy 6:12). I pray that will be your testimony when it is all said and done! Determine today that you are going to be a prize fighter for the glory of Christ.
– Pastor Eric