In UFC 141, Johnny Hendricks knocked out Jon Fitch just 12 seconds into the first round. Fitch had been the favorite to win, but Hendricks surprised everyone (even himself) with such a swift KO. Hendricks’s victory was no accident. It was the direct result of discipline. After the fight, Hendricks said,
I trained for four months for this fight. Three months of actual hard, hard training. I beat myself up through the training camp. Whenever one punch ended it, I was sort of in shock.
Johnny Hendricks’s words remind me of the words of Paul.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The Christian life is a constant battle against the sinful nature; the flesh. We all have sinful impulses that we know run contrary to the way God wants us to live. Some people would complain that it just isn’t fair that God doesn’t want us to have any fun–as if God had arbitrarily set up a moral system that contradicted our natural impulses as a joke!
The truth is, God’s moral system was in place long before humans were ever created. God did not invent morality to frustrate our desires. Moral standards and duties are rooted in the very nature of God. They only seem to contradict human nature because we are conceived in iniquity. We are rebels from the womb. We are the ones who live to frustrate God’s desires, not the other way around.
Even the Apostle Paul had sinful desires. To keep from sinning he disciplined himself like a professional athlete. He wrote that we too need to run the race to win. We need to have God’s goals and purposes in mind. When we fight our flesh, we need our punches to connect. We need to punch for the knockout and give the flesh a black eye!
Paul said, I discipline my body and keep it under control. The English phrase “keep it under control” is a translation of the Greek word hupopiazo. Hupopiazo literally means to beat black and blue. The English Standard Version (the Bible translation I typically use in this blog) includes the note: Greek I pummel my body and make it a slave.
Hupopiazo is a derivative of the Greek word for the part of the face under the eyes. Paul might be paraphrased, “I give my carnal nature a black eye!”
In a day and age when grace is preached as if it meant “anything goes,” we need to discipline ourselves like the Apostle and Johnny Hendricks. We need to be ready to knock out our sinful nature anytime it tries to lead us away from the Lord.
Not only do we need to be morally disciplined, but we need to be intentional about prayer without ceasing, regular fasting, and study of God’s Word. We need to practice these things when we feel like and when we don’t feel like it. While we don’t need to be under any delusion that these things will save us, we need to recognize that we will never bear the fruit of the Spirit unless we cultivate them by walking in the Spirit. We cannot be Christ’s disciples without discipline.
Let’s give our sinful nature a black eye!