It was early in the fight. This pugilistic affair was billed as the fight of the century. It pitted one of the greatest Hispanic fighters of all times, Roberto Duran, against one of the greatest American boxers of my lifetime, Sugar Ray Leonard.
The bell had rung. Vicious blows had been exchanged. The fighters had returned to their comers. And during this brief break in the battle, one of the fighters began giving in to the enemy.
When the bell rang for the next round to begin, Roberto Duran began a boxer's waltz around the ring with Leonard. Then, for no apparent reason, Duran dropped his gloves, started walking toward his corner, and said, "no mas, no mas!" (Spanish for: "no more, no more!")
The referee was stunned. Leonard looked bewildered for what seemed an almost painfully long time, and then jubilant after realizing that the victory would be awarded to him. The fight was over because Duran's enemy had gotten the best of him.
You may think that Leonard was the enemy who conquered Duran. He was not. You see, Leonard was only the opponent. The enemy lurked in the shadows of Duran's heart. . . a little voice that barraged him with the words "give up, quit, it's not worth it, you can't win, you aren't good enough!" Doubt turned into defeat...as it always does!
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel wrote a song called "The Boxer." One line in the song is still with me today. . . "in the clearing stands a boxer, a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him out, or cut him 'til he cried out, in his anger and his shame, 'I am leaving, I am leaving,' but the fighter still remained."
When I think about perseverance, I think of this song. How the enemy is never in the opposing comer, but in the darkest crevasses of our hearts. . . a nagging, raspy voice that begs us to give up, give in, quit.
As Christians we are commissioned by God to do battle with the forces of Satan. Yet, Paul reminds us that the enemy is not flesh and blood, but the ruler of darkness.
Too often, we examine others to find this dark prince, and forget to examine ourselves. We would like to think our opponent is a nameless, faceless specter that we call "the world." Yet, sometimes the opponent has a friendlier face.
But I warn you to keep an eye out for the deadliest opponent. He is the dark voice lurking in our hearts that says, "stop doing good...don't worry about righteousness...give up...quit...it's not worth it...you can't win...you aren't good enough."
Don't allow doubt to fester into defeat.
Please remember that just as Paul shared that we are to battle Satan's forces, he also encourages us by sharing that we are not alone in the skirmish. We have God on our side. Jesus paid it all. And because of this, even Average Joes can be winners!