Rely upon the Vine, fix observations and value judgments – this is how we overcome our boxing opponent called hard times. In the boxing ring of life, this means embracing fears, seeking both God’s wisdom and His power to overcome, and in everything, complete surrender to Him. As we face boxer after boxer, we will experience much injury and many temptations not “to fight another round”. However, during these times, we should never give up. Through God we can win every match – if we only have the courage to listen and rely upon our Trainer (Jesus), the only undefeated boxer in the history of mankind.
Life is often like boxing, a brutal activity where we too many times get punched and knocked down by our foe, adversity. In one match, unemployment surprises us as the fist of financial chaos knocks us painfully backwards to the mat. In another bout, memories of sexual abuse torment us as the left hook called fear leaves a gash above the eye. Every battle is the same – try to be strong as we attempt to dodge the one-two combination of fear and the troubles that particular adversity inflicts upon us, to stay alive. Between every round, in every fight, our Heavenly Trainer is in our corner, shouting out advice to us when we need Him the most. He says: “Remember Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11-13, and Romans 8:28”. Why is it, as we tremble at the size of our opponent, do we hear our Trainer’s advice, but are too afraid to listen?
Freedom requires sound decision making which demands proper detections and reactions to change. When we fail to adjust true to the movements of our boxing foe, adversity, consequences occur. For example, after losing a job, appropriate responses to this situation need to be made or further injury, leading to greater financial instability, may occur. As a result, the brain must correctly “attach meaning” to the environmental stimuli that our senses detect and then develop a suitable strategy to the problem at hand. So we can think clearly and hopefully be sounded in knowledge, our value judgments, observations, and emotions must not interfere with our information processing.
Observations are “our perceptions of processed information that our brain has constructed from our experiences”. A value judgment is “an estimate, usually subjective, of the worth, quality, goodness, evil, etc. of something or someone”. When our mind makes a value judgment, it uses our belief system, influenced by our observations, to “label” a situation as either “good or bad”. When the value statement of the evaluated situation goes beyond a certain level of perceived “acceptability or unacceptability”, an emotion is produced automatically. This emotion may then, depending upon the intensity and the type, impact the quality of our living and also our capacity to reason which impacts the decisions we make in life. To properly detect and react to change, observations must not be erroneous in nature.
Our observations, or perceptions, of life events influence our thoughts which impact our decision making process. Painful past experiences and fear together often manipulate what we believe more than anything else. Common negative faulty observations constructed from these two variables include “There is no hope beyond my troubles”, “I cannot do this”, “Nothing good will come out of my life”, “No one will ever love me”, and “God is mad and will never forgive me”. Depending upon the intensity of the value statements of these and other false observations, emotions like fear, sadness, and anger can be emitted, potentially leading to more irrational thinking and more unstable conditions; leading to more pain and fear, which starts the cycle over again.
“All human suffering is an experience based on value judgments of what is good and bad”. What makes the problem worse is that the brain, in its memory, has stored every bad situation that we have experienced in life. Every time in the present we experience similar events to those memories, the brain will recall the situation, the experienced emotions, and the underlying observations and value statements that contributed to the struggle. Just as bad, our mind, as it analyzes all the unknown variables and unsolved mysteries of the future, the brain will again recall the past. In both situations, we will experiences all the troubles and emotions of the past, all because we let our observations and value judgments control us over and over again. As Epictetus once said, “What disturbs people’s minds is not events, but their judgments on events.”
“Fear defeats more people than any other thing in the world” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). However, it doesn’t have to destroy me and you. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” There’s hope for the Christian, because Christ – our Trainer, the only undefeated boxer in the history of mankind – lives inside us. To find victory over our boxing opponent, we must constantly do the following three things in unison:
1) Change our mind’s value judgment by embracing the fear
2) Correct our faulty observations through the truth of God’s wisdom
3) Rely upon God’s power to do this and everything else
Change our mind’s value judgment
To think clearly and enjoy life better we must raise our tolerance level of handling fear to a higher degree; or in other words, keep the value statement that stimulates the production of fear at an “acceptable level”. Fear is our body’s internal response to our mind’s observation of danger being present in this world, whether the fear is real or imagined. Fear subsides with the perception that “everything will be okay”. If we embrace our fears; that is, if we “cherish, love, accept, welcome joyfully” fearful situations, the mind will then perceive the situation as positive, causing the mind not to release the “fight or flight” hormones. We will then have greater control over our life circumstances.
How can we view a situation as positive when the threat of pain is so enormous? This requires surrender to the promises of God. Putting more trust in Christ will reduce intensity and pessimism of the value judgment. How can we find inner peace in a world so frightening? Let God carry the brunt of the load of your pressures.
In Philippians 4:6-7, it says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus”. Fervently pray to the Trainer, “God, I am so scared. I don’t know what to do. I cannot do this alone. I need you so much. I am putting this situation out of my hands and into yours as I trust you are going to do what’s best. Amen.” If you do this, you will find His perfect peace in unexpected hours.
Correct faulty observations
Faulty observations create fear when no fear is warranted. Bad information also leads us to undesirable paths. To make sound decisions, we need wisdom beyond what we can imagine. To properly adjust and react to the punches of change, we need information without any flaw. We need God’s perfect wisdom and not our own often erroneous thinking to deliver us through the trial. We need to surrender to God’s wisdom to receive what we need the most.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” If we in boxing ring faithfully listen to the words of our Trainer during times of duress, we will eventually find victory from our giant. It may not be right away, and we may get knocked down a few times, but His guidance will make smooth our path – no matter how rough and jagged the course may be.
Rely upon God’s power to defeat our boxing giant
Defeating our giant requires power that we alone cannot muster. We need the power of the Vine to deliver us through. John 15:5 says, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.” Through Christ, “we can do all things”. (Philippians 4:13). In our imperfect human nature power, we make too many mistakes too often. We need to learn to rely upon the Trainer, who gives His boxer the empowerment to overcome.
In Samuel 17, David defeated his boxing giant because he “fought in the name of the Lord Almighty”. His knock out of his adversity came about from the fact that he realized “it was the Lord’s battle, not David’s” (1 Samuel 17:47). When any average man would shiver at the sight of Goliath, David boldly remained confident. In that boxing ring of life, David responded to the heckling of his naysayers by saying “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you. . .” (1 Samuel 17:46). David won the heavyweight championship because of whom he drew his strength: that is, his Trainer.
We must rely upon the Vine and His word to properly detect and react to the punches of adversity. We must change faulty observations and replace it with the Truth. We also need His power to control our emotions by embracing fear and closing the value judgment lid. We need to believe in and draw strength from the Trainer before it is too late!
“Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23): these are the words of the Trainer who will “never fail or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Believe in Him. One day the Trainer said to His disciples, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20). . . Take that leap of faith before you let your fear block your dream.
“To become a champion, fight another round” (Muhammad Ali). In life, we have many bouts where we feel like giving up. We look at the blood and think hope is gone. It isn’t. “Suffering builds perseverance which builds character which builds hope”. (Romans 5:3-4). Hope from winning smaller bouts will make you ready to win bigger ones. Look at David again. Defeating lowly bears and lions in the ring gave him the experience to many years later defeat the “unbeatable” Goliath with only five stones and a sling. The Trainer molded David into a champion and He will do the same for you if you let Him.
“God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterwards they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). Remember this when you feel defeated in the boxing ring of life. Just think: you will soon receive God’s trophy if you don’t give up!
During every moment we take a breath in that ring, we face a crisis of belief. What memory is our mind going to recall? Is it going to be memories of past experienced victories or those of defeat? “Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death” (Les Brown). If you don’t, fear will destroy your faith. The choice is up to you and me.