Boxing is a pretty violent sport. But like any sport, there is equipment, a regulating authority, and rules that keep the game as fair and safe as it can be given the object of the game: to hit without getting hit. Of course in most boxing matches, both sides take a pretty good beating. Each round is brutal, but there are small breaks in between rounds where the opponents go to their corners and receive tending from their coaches. This week as I contemplated the nature of spiritual warfare, I saw 5 lessons we can learn from boxing.
The Game and the Rules
Boxers fight in 2 to 3-minute rounds with 4-12 rounds per fight. (It depends on whether the fight is amateur or professional). The match takes place in a square ring on a raised platform. Thick ropes surround the four padded posts creating a ring that keeps opponents from falling off the platform. A soft, nonslip floor and stairs to enter the ring complete the setup.
During the match, there are specific kinds of hits that are forbidden and certain areas of the body that are off limits. Three judges watch carefully, scoring the match. Opponents fight until the rounds are over or somebody receives a knock-out punch that immediately halts the game. But when the referee signals a break, the opponents must step back. They must refrain from throwing punches until given the signal to begin again. Then they both move to their own corners to take a break, moisten their mouths, and receive advice and encouragement from coaches and support staff.
Spiritual Warfare is Like Boxing
The ring is the Christian life. It’s contained, padded, and closely watched by three judges: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is where Christians fight the powers and principalities of Ephesians 6:12. The attacks come in the form of temptation to sin, physical and mental torment, and deception into all unrighteousness. But not only is God the judge, He is also the regulating authority, the referee, the owner of the gym, and our coach.
He trains us during our prayer and Bible reading time and then brings it to our remembrance during the match. When the bell rings for a break, He ministers to us. He bandages our wounds, gives us fresh Living Water, and encourages us to continue the fight. All we have to do is hear His voice, follow His advice, and keep getting back up when we get knocked down. Oh, and we have to stay in the ring until the end of the fight.
#1 Lesson: Keep Your Gloves Up
Ephesians 4:27: ”Neither give place to the devil.”
The main thing that hit me when I started to think through this analogy (pun intended) was the basic resting stance of a boxer. The gloves are always up. This protects vulnerable areas, and the boxer is always ready to block the opponent’s punch. In fact, it would be foolish and dangerous to enter the ring without a defensive strategy. Boxers who get too cocky or feel intimidated by their opponent’s trash talk can leave themselves open to a deadly assault.
There are so many Bible verses admonishing us not to let our guards down. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Ephesians 5:15 and Proverbs 4:23 tell us to walk carefully and protect our hearts. Psalm 39:1 reminds us to guard our ways lest we sin with our mouths. And Psalm 119:133 tells us that sin allows iniquity to have dominion (or rule) over us.
In fact, sin is the quickest way to open ourselves to the attack of the enemy. Jesus Himself connected sin to physical attacks in John 5:14 and John 8:11. We must be vigilant, watching for Satan’s attacks, especially in places where he has hit us before.
Lesson #2: Know When to Duck and Swerve
1 Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Bobbing and weaving is another defensive technique. It’s about refusing to present an easy target. Instead, you remove your body from the areas that your opponent is most likely to punch. Staying out of range is an excellent strategy, both for not getting hit and for frustrating your opponent who won’t be able to land a solid attack.
So many times in the Christian life, the devil can trip us up because we put ourselves in position to be attacked. The Bible tells us that this should not be. Ephesians 5:11 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” 1 John 5:21 says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
When we know that certain places, people, or things cause us to violate our conscience or act in ways that are not pleasing to God, it’s our job to remove ourselves from those things and stay out of the enemy’s reach as much as we can. In fact, Romans 13:14 says for us not even to make provision for the flesh. We shouldn’t even think about the things that we know might tend to take us away from a Christ-centered life.
Lesson #3: Land Punches of Your Own
James 4:7: “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
While a good defense is important, boxers are in the ring for one reason: to punch. There are hits like a jab, the hook, the upper cut, and the parry. (A parry is a countermove which punches away an opponent’s attack and seeks to get the opponent off balance).
We must never forget that while the battle is tough sometimes, we are by no means defenseless. Our weapons are the Word of God and prayer (Ephesians 6:17-18). We parry the enemy’s blows of deception with truth. We uppercut his attempts at oppression with the name of Jesus. Our prayers for healing and deliverance do great damage to his schemes. In fact, sometimes when our prayer life becomes too strong and we are living in victory, the enemy will use a defensive move of his own on us. It’s called “clinching.” He will grab us and hold us to create a pause in our momentum. But that won’t last long because the referee always separates opponents who must take a step backward before throwing the next punch.
Most importantly, God never leaves us alone. 1 John 4:4 tells us that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. Jesus has already overcome Satan who is a defeated foe. When we submit to what God says about who we are and who God is, the devil has no choice but to flee. In fact, when it comes to being outmatched, Luke 10:19 tells us that it is the enemy who is weak. He has no chance against the authority we have been given in God. “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
Lesson #4 Keep Getting Back Up
James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
One way to win a boxing match is to score the most points. Another way is with a knockout punch. That’s when an opponent deals a blow that causes a boxer to go down. Whether from exhaustion, pain, disorientation, or unconsciousness, the downed boxer cannot or will not get up and refuses to fight anymore. He/she is given a certain amount of time (often a count of ten) to get up before the match is called. If not, the game is immediately won by the standing opponent.
No matter how good our defensive game or how strong our own upper cut, the truth is that the enemy will land a few hits of his own. When that happens, we have two choices. We can stay down, or we can get back up to fight another day. 1 Timothy 6:12 tells us to keep fighting. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Hebrews 10:36 tells us to stay in the game to win the prize. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
We can’t stop fighting (1 Peter 5:9). We can’t get tired (Galatians 6:9), and we can’t stop asking God to forgive us when we sin. In fact, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We simply cannot give up.
Lesson #5: Never Leave the Ring
John 6:67-68: “Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”
Disqualification in boxing can happen for repeated violation of the rules. It can also happen if a boxer quits and leaves the ring.
Leaving the ring can’t be an option. We can’t leave for a little bit to take a break, or that’s backsliding. (And there is no guarantee we will find our way back into the ring.) We can’t leave permanently, or that’s apostasy. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” And Matthew 24:13 says, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.”
God Will Give You Rest
Boxing isn’t for the faint of heart, and neither is spiritual warfare. But God knows who we are and what we can handle. He has promised that in between rounds He will give us rest, tend to our wounds, and encourage us. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” In fact, when it comes right down to it, the fix is in. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Regulating Authority, Referee, and all three Judges agree. If we just keep fighting, and with the help of our Coach, we will be declared the winners in the end.
If you like analogies, try It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It compares aspects of the Christian life to a dishwasher. Or, try Fixing Spiritual Problems and Plumbing: An Analogy When I had a slab leak last year, God taught me a great lesson about the solution to spiritual problems. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.