by Samuel Brooks
With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing what seems to be our world to a stand still and creating chaos, I wrote this devotional to hopefully bring some motivation and encouragement. Given my martial arts background, I will be using it to help illustrate my point.
One of my favorite movie quotes – particularly the bolded section – is by Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa when he says “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” It’s this same type of attitude that I developed when I would compete. Even though I’ve taken some serious blows, it didn’t stop me. It wasn’t time to quit until the 2 minutes was up or someone scored 5 points first. The same is also true when you move up in rank. Many folks believe that receiving their black belt was the end of the race when in reality it’s only the beginning. There was even one particular guy that I can remember that received his black belt and then stayed to watch a class to get an idea of what it was like. He ended up quitting that same night because it looked “too difficult”. When you move up in rank from white to red belt, you’re learning the basics (e.g. proper stance and technique, commands, uniform presentation, etc), team building, stretching, you leave with bruises, blood and soreness that can cause the beginner to quit after a few days, increasing your stamina, and improving your character. To give you an idea, my weekly routine included weight training 3 days/week, swimming and treading in a cold pool (no water heater on) or running 1-1.5 miles twice a week, and martial arts training 3-4 days/week. I also lived on mostly a high protein, high carb diet. Now once you earn a black belt, you take on leadership roles and begin to take on other responsibilities, strengthening your team building skills, and you work on improving old techniques along with learning new ones. You continue this process – and then some – as you move up through each black belt level.
The same can be said when applying this to Christianity. As you move up in rank from white to red belt, you’re new to the faith and then you decide to get baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost once you’ve repented (Acts 2:38), you’re praying at church and before each meal, fasting, reading your Bible on a basic level, you decide to get involved with the praise team and/or volunteer around the church, and experience some trials along the way but are still dedicated. When you reach the first level of black belt, you’re organizing Bible studies, you’re studying the context of Scripture in further detail, you become a youth leader or a pastor, you’re praying for several minutes at home and praying with people; and as you work your way up to the 9th black belt level, you’ve experienced more difficult trials yet are staying dedicated and continuously working on sanctification. However, that’s not the end of the race; the end is when God says you’re done and takes you home. Just like the martial arts, Christianity is a life long endeavor! Even the Apostle Paul says “I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT).
Romans 8:28 NLT says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” There’s a reason why many businesses are closed, movie theaters aren’t open, Wall Street took a nose dive, schools and churches relying on alternative means of teaching, and sporting events and concerts are shutdown. Jesus even says in Matthew 6:24-34 “how no one can serve two masters – both God and the world, and to not worry about anything but to trust God for everything.” So, are you taking this time to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ and reach out to others or are you deciding to be lazy and give up because you’ve taken a hit? Are you putting God above your other “priorities”? It’s time to make a choice (Matt. 7:13-14) and I hope that it’s to keep fighting the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). The Apostle Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT to “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.” He goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 4:16b-18 NLT that “Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”