Muhammad Ali once said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” And dance he did! He danced his way into double digit boxing championship titles, a gold medal, Fighter of the Year, Boxer of the Year, and the boxing Hall of Fame. That’s not even touching on his numerous honorary and character awards. Considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time, Ali firmly believed the long, grueling hours of demanding and rigorous training, working past the point of comfort and into the realm of suffering, was the secret of his success. In his mind, that’s what made him great.
I’ve always found it interesting that God refers to fighting a lot in the Bible. He challenges us to “fight the good fight,” to take up, “the shield of faith … and the sword of the Spirit,” (1 Timothy 6:12, Ephesians 6:15-17). Even King David said in Psalm 144:1, “I praise you Lord! You are my mighty rock, and you teach me how to fight my battles,” and, “He trains my hands for battle. My arms can bend even the strongest bow,” (2 Samuel 22:35). Clearly God has strength and victory in mind for us.
Where it gets tricky, at least for me, is when I start confusing the way the world prepares for battle, whether it’s in the boxing ring or the board room, with the way God would choose to prepare me. In the world, it’s all about boning up on your skills, making sure you have all your facts memorized, all your ducks in a row, all your creative juices flowing and your confidence ramped up high. All this pressure is placed on you to not only perform, but to perform well.
I’ve seen this attitude carried into the faith arena. “Faith” can quickly become how many scriptures you can quote, how many spiritual books you’ve read, how many sacrifices you’ve made or how many hours you’ve spent serving others. And while these are all good and important things to do, when they alone become the focus, we miss the whole point.
God’s ways are not our ways. He says this so many times throughout the Bible it’s impossible to miss! The secret I’ve learned, the freedom I’ve found, has come from understanding just two simple words: obedient faith. That’s it! God’s ultimate training routine for me = obedient faith. If God calls me to something, I’ve come to see and experience it’s because doing that something is the very best thing for me. And the more I trust and submit, the more I grow. This growth isn’t based on how much I do or how much I know; it’s not based on my ability to discipline myself to obey even. It’s based on God’s crazy awesome, incredibly deep, never ending and always abiding love for me. I absolutely believe with 100% of who I am that God loves me, believes in me (despite myself) and only wants joy and goodness for my life. Since I believe that of Him, I’m able to trust in Him, and my obedience flows naturally from that trust.
It doesn’t mean my life is problem free. I have regular battles I have to fight in my life. There are attacks from friends, and attacks from foes. There are internal battles where I have to wage war against my own negativity and insecurities. Sometimes outside circumstances sneak in and sucker punch me from behind. I’ve definitely been bloodied. Yet every time I turn back to my training and choose to trust in God and obey His leading because I know He loves me, He really does work through everything for my good (Romans 8:28). Every. Single. Time.
What about you? Have you felt knocked around lately, bruised and defeated? Remember—it won’t be your own determination that will get you back up off the mat and into the ring; it will be God’s love wrapping around you, healing you from the inside out, and strengthening you with confidence so you remember you never really have to fight a battle. God fights all of them for you.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT “Any one of you can defeat a thousand enemy soldiers because the Lord God fights for you, just as He promised,” (Joshua 23:10). I encourage you this today—invite God into your battles. Let go of the need to prove yourself, or to think it’s somehow all up to you, and release it back into God’s hands. Then take the time to listen to the ways He may be nudging you to move forward. You will be amazed at the results!
PRAYER Father, thank You for the rich and lavish love You pour over me. Thank You that You give me even more than I need so I can be victorious. I’m so grateful I don’t have to change myself, that my growth stems from Your grace and healing. I invite You into my life to continue to mold me into Your image so I can become more like You. Help me to walk through the doors You open before me today, and to give back to someone You put in my path. I love you, Papa. Amen.
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