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Speaking of Rocky Balboa

Regardless of where you stand on the sport of boxing and your views regarding secular entertainment, I wager a guess that most have seen the movie "Rocky" and I also wager a guess that there were certain scenes in that movie that (if even for only a moment) made you want to get up the next morning; put on some old grey sweats; down a half a dozen raw eggs; and run the streets of the city while most lay warm and cozy in their beds.

There is something in most of us that are inspired by stories of men who are so compelled by a passion that they do radical things to overcome the odds and thus achieve victory in the face of adversity. Paul often uses similar language to express a Christian's pilgrimage on earth. Most are familiar with the passage: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." And of course, he also tells Timothy: "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" and reminds him later, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. "

That is why I love reading biographies of the great men of God who went before us. They are the Rocky Balboa's of the church! Listen to this excerpt from a biography of John Welsh of Ayre, and see if it does not delight your soul and motivate you to do the same:

"But the bulk of the people at Ayr were still crude and barbaric, immoral and ignorant. Duelling in the streets was common. The private feuds of competing noblemen frequently led to the loss of many lives. A man could hardly pass through the streets in safety when Welsh first came to the town, so common were the fights and quarrels. Welsh saw it all and his soul was stirred within him: 'What nation [he expostulated] so polluted with all abominations and murders as thou art ? Thy iniquities are more than the sand of the sea, the cry of them is beyond the cry of Sodom.'

Welsh addressed himself to the problem of the street fighting with all the energy of his holy soul. When he heard of such a brawl he would rush into the thick of the fight, clad often in a helmet, and would urge the combatants to sit down to a meal at a table placed in the street! After reconciling the parties he would conclude with prayer and the singing of a Psalm. Gradually this procedure used by Welsh proved successful. Little by little Ayr grew more peaceful.

Every aspect of Welsh's ministerial effort at Ayr was marked by extraordinary zeal for the glory of God, and by careful circumspection. He laboured to suppress Sabbath games, promoted decent sociality, disciplined and warned the unruly, studied intensely, prayed fervently and preached frequently. In addition to the two Sabbath Services he appears to have preached twice each day, from nine to ten in the morning, and from four to five each afternoon- all that as well as catechising and visiting the people!"

And another:

"John Flavel was ejected from the pulpit in 1662 for nonconformity, but he continued to meet secretly with his parishioners in conventicles. On occasion, he would preach for them in the woods, especially on days of fasting and humiliation. Once he even disguised himself as a woman on horseback in order to reach a secret meeting place where he preached and administered baptism. At another time, when pursued by authorities, he plunged his horse into the sea and managed to escape arrest by swimming through a rocky area to reach Slapton Sands.

In 1665, when the Five Mile Act went into effect, Flavel moved to Slapton, which was beyond the five-mile limit of legal disturbance. There he ministered to many people in his congregation. At times, he would preach secretly in the woods to larger numbers of people, sometimes as late as midnight. Once, soldiers rushed in and dispersed the congregation. Several of the fugitives were apprehended and fined, but the remainder brought Flavel to another wooded area where he continued his sermon."

Flavel’s preaching was blessed by the Spirit. Robert Murray M‘Cheyne tells about an American immigrant, Luke Short, who remembered listening to Flavel preach in England when he was fifteen years old. The text was, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” Eighty-five years after hearing Flavel preach on the horror of dying under God’s curse, the Spirit of God effectually converted him at the age of one hundred as he meditated on that sermon!

Flavel’s power as a preacher came out of his depth of spiritual experience. He spent many hours in meditation and self-examination. As Middleton writes, “He [Flavel] attained to a well-grounded assurance, the ravishing comforts of which were many times shed abroad in his soul; this made him a powerful and successful preacher, as one who spoke from his own heart to those of others. He preached what he felt, and what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life and they felt it also”

Men of God: Are you in "strict training"? Are you in shape to "fight the good fight"?

Don't you desire to reach the top of those stairs, not even the least bit winded; feeling strong; with the sweat of time spent in the Word, in prayer, and deep meditation running down your back; with your arms lifted high towards heaven; fists clinched in sweet victory over sin; and the knowledge that you fought the good fight and finished the race?

Get your butts out of bed and get to it! Be God's "Rocky Balboa".

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