Martial Arts Metaphor for Serving Christ

We're supposed to live holy in every way, every second of the day. Paul compares this goal to how athletes approach a race. They prepare for the race, practice self-discipline, put in lots of effort for the race, and do these consistently. Jesus also teaches we're expected to use what we're given to glorify God. He says we'll be held accountable for that. He says here that God decides who to give more responsibility to partly based on what they do with what He's already given them. We will see Him manifest in and around us the more we focus on Him, develop godly character, and serve Him.

Brazillian Jiu Jutsu is a sport like that with belts (or ranks) given based on amount of time spent with instructors dedicated to the craft, number of techniques learned, how well they use what they learn, and results they get out in the world (i.e. competition). At a Royce Gracie seminar (at Chilcutt's), I saw a trememndous difference in both abilities and results across different belts. Most had white belts (lowest) with blue next up. One, young man with a white belt looked highly committed, performed like a higher rank, and even patiently taught white belts he wrestled with how to do better. Sure enough, all the good work he put in with his training and free time as a white belt earned him a blue belt that very night from two men that mattered a lot to him: his father, a black belt and owner of the place; Royce Gracie, a UFC Hall of Famer.

It didn't just happen. He was invited and trained by the grace of his father. By itself, that wouldn't achieve their goals. He would have to make every second, every move, of his work in the gym count. He'd be tested by friends and foes many times on the way to the big test. Far from over, each test was a step forward in a continuous, lifelong process toward mastery of his art. His motivation to keep putting the work in wasn't just personal benefits and long-term rewards. There might indeed be many. He had also learned this craft from his father whose image his own works would reflect, proudly or poorly. How he performed would also reflect the lineage of the Gracies who invented the art, claimed it got better results than others, and promoted it worldwide. The gifts they gave him, both talent and opportunities, came with much responsibility. That he believed in their value, was grateful for their help, and had been properly equipped for their goals would be proven by the hard work he put in and the results it got. Their investment paid off again that night.

Our Father is our God in heaven who created all things. Our purpose, which we originally failed, is to bear His image on earth in all that we say or do. Our hearts and works are to properly reflect His name. He graciously invited us back into His kingdom via the blood of Jesus Christ, equipped us for such godliness via the Holy Spirit, gave us knowledge via His Word, gave us spiritual gifts to get an edge over the fierce competition, gave training partners via the church, and set a goal to reach others here on earth. After our initial training, He told us to put work in daily using what He gave us to fulfill our purpose. We'll also be tested regularly. When we're tested, he makes sure the tests are fair, helps us prepare, helps us during the tests, and richly rewards those who pass. Like increasing ranks, the more work we put into serving Him and tests we endure, the more He sanctifies us.

Unlike human lineages and legacies, we join a divine one that He predestined us for. Scripture says God's plan for restoring, transforming, and using us began before the instant of Creation when our Lord Jesus set everything in motion. If aligned to His Will, the Holy Spirit enables all in that lineage practicing the craft of holy living to execute that plan. He promises the results will transform their lives individually. Then, they will collectively as a group impact the entire world in ways human effort alone can't achieve. Our Father in return richly rewards us with so much more than a belt for doing so. The rewards last forever, too. How much more should we be motivated to please our Father and Creator with our lives' work than these athletes please their fathers and founders with theirs!? If we ever start losing motivation, let us remember who we serve, His great works, what He did for us, that He's with us every step of the way, and the hope he set out for our future.


We must be willing to surrender all to Jesus. Some athletes reading this might think they have to give up their pursuits entirely. As they increase dedication to Jesus, most will spend less time in such worldly activities. There's more good news, though. If it's not sinful, any enjoyable things in this world are gifts He's given us to make our lives more enjoyable. Sports, entertainment, hanging out, creative endeavors... if it's clean fun, enjoy whichever you like in your spare time!

We can also bear His image as we participate, share His Gospel with participants, and do more godly activities (esp the Word and prayer) with those who are believers. How gracious is He to let us work and have fun at the same time! :) I'd say we decide specifics by, "Does how we spend our free time mostly glorify God and bringing others closer to Him?" If yes, He's probably pleased. If not, pray for His help as you work to glorify Him more in your life.

Of course, the more free time you put into loving Him and others, the more He'll work in and through you. I encourage you to dedicate your lives to God as much as you can. Remember the lesson in the world that the work you can put in consistently lets you keep your gains. It's most important that you spend consistent time in His Word, alone with Him in prayer, and loving and serving others. A consistent walk with God will grow you spiritually more than occasional, big efforts.

(Read the Gospel, learn to share it, read other essays, or back to home.)