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The first time I put on my boxing gloves and hit a heavy bag, it was love at first punch. There is something about hitting a 100-pound bag at full force that felt very energizing and therapeutic. Rough day at work? No problem, I’ll just hit the bag. Feeling down? Not to worry, a few rounds, and I’ll feel like I can conquer the world again. The health and weight loss benefits spoke for themselves. The sense of victory didn’t compare to any workout I’d experienced. I was hooked. I filled my free time by punching, kicking, and jump-roping the hours away.
What I never imagined in my boxing days was that the practices, training, and dedication would pave the way for future battles. It didn’t pave the way for me to become a professional fighter, but to be a spiritual warrior, willing and ready to take on any battle that came my way. A trainer once told me that to be a fighter, you needed to have an appetite to hurt people, that it was an unnatural force that allowed you to fight blood, sweat, and tears. Well, I wasn’t cut out for that kind of fighting. However, I later learned that I had an appetite to take down any spiritual force that got in my way of victory in Jesus. Here are five unlikely lessons I learned in boxing that helped me get up and fight every spiritual battle.
Showup and Train Up
The first time I went to a boxing gym…it was my first time. I had never tried the sport before. But a friend suggested it, so I found a gym that trained fighters, and I went. I didn’t know what to expect or have prior training to qualify me to be a boxer, but I showed up anyway. That first session wasn’t fun. In fact, it was hard. I felt utterly bruised and broken after my workout. But I showed up anyway. Then I showed up again…and again. My goal at that point wasn’t to lose weight, get in shape, or be a fighter. My only goal was to show up and do what my trainer told me to do.
Spiritual discipline: Sometimes, in our spiritual walk, calling, or purpose, we get tripped up in not knowing the expectations or feel unqualified to even try. And when you do show up, you might feel bruised after! So show up and train anyway. Take a class, join a bible study, or go to a conference; the more you show up, the more you will feel equipped to walk out what God is calling you to.
Can’t Isn’t a Word
In the first few months of training, when the exercises got hard, or I felt there were one too many reps of punches, crunches, or situps, out of frustration, I’d say, “I can’t.” Every time I said it, my trainer would bark back, “Can’t isn’t a word!” The slogan “Can’t isn’t in our vocabulary” in big bold letters on the back all stared me down as I whined and complained. See, I had trained myself to say I can’t do hard things and my body wouldn’t fall into line. But these trainers were not only teaching me how to move, pivot, punch, and kick; they were retraining my brain to tell my body what I can do and to eliminate ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary. As a result, years later, whenever I am doing something challenging and think “I can’t,” my mind automatically says, “Yes, I can.”
Spiritual discipline: Renew your thoughts. In a spiritual battle, your mind might be inclined to think of what it can’t do, but you can begin telling yourself what you can do. Rather than thinking of your limits or past failures, start declaring God’s truth over your life. Write down daily affirmations of who God says you are and the things you can do. So, when you write down your daily affirmations, it creates space for God to heal old thoughts and gives space for new thoughts to take root.
Let’s be honest, not all of us like that word: obedience. Upon hearing it, we immediately clam up or have a sudden urge to do something rebellious. Just me? Probably not. But let’s realize it, we are all obedient to many things. We are obedient to our work, boss, schedule, natural needs, and children's demands. We can’t escape being obedient. I obeyed my trainer, my diet, and schedule while boxing. . I did not have to be compliant, but I would only be hindering myself if I wasn't. So if my trainer called for me to do 200 squats or ten minutes on the heavy bag, I did it. I actually found this relieving and helpful; no longer did I stumble around the gym trying to figure out what to do. I had someone to instruct me, and all I needed to do was follow.
Spiritual discipline: Follow and obey. The Lord gives us instruction in His word, through time with Him, and through the body of Christ. There is wisdom waiting for us to guide us. We don’t need to stumble around trying to figure out how to pray, walk with God, or walk in our calling. All we need to do is be obedient when the Lord instructs us and trust He will lead us the right way. If you struggle with obedience, I encourage you to confess that to the Lord and ask for His help to see obedience as a good thing, not a hurtful thing.
Trust Your Trainer
On that first day, my trainer didn’t train me as if it was my first day. He taught me as a fighter. That was his motto,“I train fighters.” I didn’t know how to throw a punch, take a boxing stance, or breathe through punching, but he did. He had trained as a fighter for twenty years. What was new to me was ingrained in him. So when he taught me something new or asked me to do something that felt foreign, I had to trust that he was the expert and knew what he was doing. Every time he asked me to do something scary, he said,“Don’t worry, I got you.” He reassured me that if I fell or took a hit, he would be there to coach me through it.
Spiritual discipline: Trust your teacher, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will walk with you, teach you to pray, fight spiritual battles, and read the Bible. He will coach you. Trusting Him to teach you will help you fight in His strength, not your own. If you need extra help, you can hire a coach to help you overcome challenges and fight to your victory.
In boxing, I trained most days for two to three hours at a time. It was intense. I was intense. I could not train like that every day, so I took two rest days per week. This allowed my body to rest and recover. There were even days at the gym when my trainer noticed I was still fatigued, so he would assign a light or fun workout rather than a maximum workout. He understood that if I pushed my body too hard, my body would fight back by shutting down.
Spiritual discipline: Train hard, rest well. Do the work it takes to become the spiritual warrior and woman of God that He has created you to be. But rest, have fun and take time to enjoy the journey. Rest can look like going to a concert, sitting at a park, hanging out with friends, traveling, or doing nothing at home. Whatever rest resembles for you, rest well at least one day per week.
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