Updated: Jul 13, 2022
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. A young punk from the wrong side of everything, slow in speech and rich with personality. He’s getting older and watching his options thin out. Taking that meeting would prove to be the beginning of a testing of his entire belief system, was he worthy? Was he talented enough? Would this show the world that he was a champion or a loser? He balanced his weary legs as they caught droplets of blood coming from his face, what was meant to be a quick one and done, would not only change the course of his life but would also alter the ego of his opponent. In a final moment of the fight, Rocky stares down Apollo Creed through swollen eyes, sweat and endurance as if to say, no matter what happens it’s too late; he already discovered what he was made of and nothing could stop that or take that away from him. YES! This is the story of Rocky Balboa (or shall we say, the FIRST story). This is the screenwriting and acting debut for one Sylvester Stallone. See, in 1976 when this movie came out (as hard as it is to imagine) the public at large had not seen the likes of a raw and gritty underdog story where the main character (Rocky) was a man of low self esteem, low self worth, low courage, low talent, low status, low income, low on friends, and so low on the totem pole that the only reason he is given a shot is purely because his name sounded epic from a PR stand point. This is the guy who would be the hero? Needless to say, yes, this was the guy and also, yes, the public couldn’t get enough of this type of hero. So much so that we are STILL anticipating the latest in the everlasting Rocky series. Truly, however, it isn’t so much that he is the winner in the end that captivates us, is it? The small yet most important part of this character is his ability to turn taking a punch in the face into an art form. Not only in the ring, but in life itself. At one point or another all of the people in Rocky’s life started out rejecting him and yet his ability to take those punches and win them over is poetic.
Paul the Apostle was a real low life at the start of our introduction to who he was for the first half of his life. He was a scholarly know it all who took great pleasure out of keeping the laws and making sure that everyone else did just as he did. In fact, he wasn’t Paul at all in those days he was Saul of Tarsus. We are introduced to Saul at the murder of Stephen who is being stoned to death for rebuking the Jewish leaders. In Acts 7:57 we are first introduced to Saul as the witnesses of the stoning of Stephen laid their coats “at the feet of a young man named Saul.” Picking up in Acts 8:1 we begin with one line, “And Saul approved of their killing him.” Talk about an introduction! If this Saul isn’t the bad guy, we don’t know what a bad guy is. In fact, the rest of Acts 8 doesn’t exactly make us warm and fuzzy when we think about Paul then Saul. He goes on to destroy the church, busting down doors to drag men and women out of their homes and imprison them. He was brutal, hateful, rigid and violent. But one cannot escape the love of God at work, even when one is punching that love in the face. See, the more we read this chapter we see that it is less about Paul (the barbarian) as it is about the men and women whom he jailed and sometimes killed, as he witnessed first hand their tenacity for the TRUTH and their refusal to back down. Stephen had just been murdered and the church was being hunted. We read about Paul a lot, because he would go on to become a powerful voice both audible and through his writings. He was a confident man to begin with having had all of the luxuries of his upbringing and his years spent studying and gaining knowledge that many people just did not have in those days. Yes, Paul was humbled by his own personal encounter with God but in whatever situation he found himself in after this moment of transformation, he also had the memories of those that were tenaciously proclaiming the love of Jesus to the death (some at his own hands). We have to wonder if these people were indeed the examples of unwavering faith that would help to shape his own steady faith based knowledge of who God is and his position in the Kingdom.
Daniel 3:16-18 (NKJ)
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Of course, the matter at hand that these guys refer to is imminent death. And of course, as we know this story from childhood, God not only saves them from the fires of that furnace, but Jesus Himself joins the party in complete solidarity for the indomitable faith and loyalty and confidence and fortitude of these three incredible young men.
Daniel 3:25 (NKJ)
“Look!” He answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.””
We think it’s fair to say that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego took a big hit as they were threatened and then confronted and then marched to their death sentences. Like one Rocky Balboa, these guys found something out about themselves along that short journey into the furnace that ended the fight right then and there; they won and proved (to themselves also) that not one single person or agenda could stop the ‘know so’ faith that had BROUGHT THEM TO THIS MOMENT. Wait. Did we just say that their FAITH landed them on death row? Yes. Yes we did.
Philippians 4:19 (NASB)
"And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
But wait just another minute. Why would we have needs if all things belong to us?
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 (NLV)
"Do not fool yourself. If anyone thinks he knows a lot about the things of this world, he had better become a fool. Then he may become wise. The wisdom of this world is foolish to God. The holy writings say, "He is the One who gets them in a trap when they use their own wisdom." They also say, "The Lord knows how the wise man thinks. His thinking is worth nothing." As a Christian, do not be proud of men and what they can do. All things belong to you. Paul and Apollos and Peter belong to you. The world and life and death belong to you. Things now and things to come belong to you. You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God."
So is the Bible telling the TRUTH? Or are we reading this the wrong way? Could it possibly be that God leads us into the need for His supply? Could it be that as we are led by God to step out in faith and trust Him with ALL THINGS, that it's less about that which we are in faith for as it is most about increasing our capacity to carry His supply for not only our own 'needs' but for those we come across along the way as well?
See, Paul was spot on when he spoke so beautifully in both Philippians and 1 Corinthians when he clued us into this dynamic TRUTH of what we have as heirs of the most high God, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus. As followers of Jesus we have both the demand AND the supply. Think of it as we think of our old pal, Rocky B with the help of Philippians 1:28, "in no way alarmed by your opponents- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God." Proving along the way that every punch that Rocky took and kept fighting through, would become the fuel that he would need to get back up and endure to the end; thus breaking the will of his opponent. And the spoiler is that he wins.
Look, we humans tend to hold our lives up to the standards that we are told are the ways things are done, are the benchmarks of success or are the usual ways in which we should be tracking along with. But these things being told to us, are not God's ways. In fact they oppose God's ways in exchange for human beings' best laid plans. Still not convinced? Take a look around at 2020, the year that upended the lives of people on the planet earth. How have all the best laid plans helped out thus far? How many Christians do we know who are just as scared, concerned, unsure, unprepared and less confident that God is still in control as they watch a shaky world keep guessing their way out of the mess? Incase we haven't gotten our copy of the memo yet, NOW IS THE TIME FOR UNSUAL PEOPLE TO RISE UP WITH CONFIDENCE IN THE GOD WHOM WE SERVE. Freedom is found only in the TRUTH.
In closing, in the great Psalm 23 "the Lord is my Shepherd..." right on the heels of "He leads me to green pastures and still waters;" we find ourselves in the midst of the valley of the scary shadow of death. How did we get here? Did we take a wrong turn, or did God lead us in the midst of a fallen world, into and out of things that would actually inspire faith to rise up and trust Him to prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies? Do we really have all that we need to stand our ground and rise up into the dominion and authority that has been given to us by God? In all that has happened and especially in all that is still to come, keep this at the forefront: God led us here because He is summoning the supply that He has already equipped us with. Will there be blunt force trauma? Perhaps. Will there be blood? Most assuredly. But here's the thing, the blood is not ours, but that which has been provided to us by Jesus. The specter of the martyrs (and their lack of fear of death itself) that Saul (before Paul) left in his wake, was so indelibly seared into his conscience that they inspired him to become a man without fear, living unabashed for Jesus. See, Rocky didn't win his fight because he was an amazing boxer. Just ask Spider Ricco! He won, because he knew something that no one else (including himself) knew, he could take a hit.