We just completed our first year of K.I.C.K. (Karate In Christ’s Kingdom) for kids from pre-kindgarten to fifth grade at my church.
We had a blast teaching the basics of karate, self-defense and fitness in an environment that was Christ-centered and Scripture-saturated. What a wonderful sight it is to see all those little “warriors” of the Word standing ready to receive instruction, most of the time. We always tell the kids that the martial arts serve as a wonderful metaphor for the Christian life and the spiritual battles we all face daily. One of the keys to fighting these battles is an understanding that we will get knocked down from time to time. But we are never to stay down.
As it has been said, “Fall seven times. Get up eight.”
So how are you doing? Do you get up after you have been knocked down?
Remember that Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13 that he tries to forget what’s behind him and reach forward to what’s ahead.
Here, Paul provides us with the key that unlocks the door of possibility. It is important to remember that this is coming from a man whose life’s mission was to persecute the church of Jesus Christ before he was confronted and changed by our Lord on the road to Damascus. He not only stood idly by while people stoned the first Christian martyr Stephen to death, he held the coats of those who threw the stones (Acts 7:58). If he had dwelled on his persecuting past, he would have had every reason to be paralyzed in the purposeful present.
Instead of acting down and out, Paul made the decision to forget those awful things that were behind him, and instead he chose to reach forward to those things God had prepared ahead of him. He understood the importance of treating the past as a school to learn from. He understood the importance of reviewing the past, but he would never allow himself to relive it or reside in it.
By God’s grace, Paul rose out of the ashes of defeat and began to live a life that was pleasing to God and profitable for God’s people. Can the same be said about you? Or is there something in your past that is keeping you down and out?
If Peter lived in the past he would have stayed down and out. Remember when he denied the Lord three times as Jesus predicted?
In Matthew 26:34 we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.'”
However, a few weeks later, Peter preached his first sermon on the day of Pentecost, and Scripture says, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about 3,000 souls” (Acts 2:41).
To be sure, Peter was down, but he was not out. He was able to forget what was behind because he knew he served a God who could forgive what was behind.
As my friend and pastor Tullian Tchividjian says continually, “We are great sinners, but we serve a great God who is faithful to forgive when we fall on our face before Him and cry out for forgiveness.”
Currently, Tullian is preaching through Jonah, another one of those great examples of a biblical figure who was down but not out. When God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the Ninevites, he went the other way. He ran in the opposite direction. Do you know why? He was afraid of success. He knew just how gracious His God was, and the last thing he wanted was for God to pour out His grace on the enemies of Israel, the hated Nineveh. Yet, God was gracious to Jonah in spite of his self absorption and self righteousness.
He rescued him from the storm (although He sent that same storm out of love for His prophet). He retrieved him from the sea monster, and He redeemed him from his sin.
But God did not leave him there. He also recommissioned him for service.
Like Peter and Paul, Jonah was down but not out, because God, in His infinite mercy and grace, would not let him stay down. And He will not let you stay down either. He will do whatever is necessary to get you back up on your feet and on your mission in this world.
To paraphrase my brother Tullian, God will even send a storm to set us free from selfish ambition, self protection or a sinful past out of a heart filled with love, not anger. Now, if that doesn’t light your fire of faithfulness in your service to Him, nothing will!
So, what storms are you facing today that might just have you down and out?
Testing in your singleness?
Troubles at the office?
Trepidation due to finances?
Trials in your marriage?
Tears in your parenting?
Don’t let the past imprison you; let it propel you into your promised future. You serve a God who is faithful to forgive your past – all of it. You can be sure the devil does not want you to “forget those things which are behind,” because they keep you down and out. He wants you not only to remember it, but to relive it over and over and over again. Don’t you do it! You are a child of the Most High God, a kid of the King, and you have been ordained to live a life of greatness for the glory of God and the good of others.
Down and out? Not you. Not now. Not ever! Never forget that Amen!
Rev. Tommy Boland is the minister of the men’s and sports ministries at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and he teaches adult Sunday school. For more information including Bible study resource materials, please send an e-mail to [email protected] or [email protected]