“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” ~ Muhammad Ali
When he was in all of his glory, Muhammad Ali was called “The Greatest”. In many ways, he was. He seemed to be unable to be defeated. He often said of himself, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see” to describe his lightning fast movement in the ring. Yes, in many ways he was the greatest. But, he didn’t begin as the greatest.
Like any other great sports personality — or any other great person in any field of life — he began with the ol’ blood, sweat, and tears. He had to work and work hard. He conditioned every day working tirelessly on his movements and his flexibility as well as his quick and powerful jabs. It was not fun. Most people would hardly ever claim that kind of training is fun. However, he knew that it was necessary if he was ever going to be a champion.
His persistence paid off and his record proved that. Ali had a career record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts before his retirement from boxing in 1981 at the age of 39. His message to any who would want to follow him? “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. Sound familiar? That is the clarion call of the faith. As Christians, we are called to pour ourselves completely into living the faith, following the Lord. We may not like it. It might be painful. However, if we persist, we will be able to live like champions — for eternity.
Our conditioning is different from that of a fighter or a baseball player or a hockey player. The spirit of our conditioning is just the same, though. We have to do things over and over again in order to be perfected. That means persistence. We have to persist in our prayer lives, spending time with God at least each day until we can make our lives a continuous prayer.
We have to be willing to take risks as well. Ali practiced all sorts of tricks and feints in order to be victorious against his opponents. We are in an even greater fight as our opponent is spiritual. That opponent wants to win our souls and we need to be fighting-ready and even have a trick or two up our sleeves so that we can defeat his temptations.
Prayer, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, reading scripture, and other methods are all a part of our conditioning. If we grow slack, we will become weak spiritually and give our opponent the upper hand. Take that upper hand away from him. Give your opponent an upper cut instead.
Suffer now and live eternally as a champion.
FAITH ACTION: If your faith life has been growing slack, redouble your efforts to live the faith today.