In the first Rocky movie, the unproven amateur Rocky Balboa finds himself in a highly publicized boxing match with the flamboyant, well-accomplished heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. This is such a David vs. Goliath mismatch of skill, the commentators don’t anticipate the fight lasting longer than three rounds.
Even before the fight, as the fighters enter the ring, their demeanors are quite different from one another. Rocky’s walk from the locker room lacks any fanfare as he seems to quietly assess the challenge ahead. In stark contrast, Apollo’s entrance is as bold as a Broadway show, as he enters dressed as George Washington to the tune of Yankee Doodle. The two athletes couldn’t approach the fight more differently.
As the fight begins, it becomes clear Apollo has underestimated his opponent. Much to the surprise of everyone in the arena, the unassuming Rocky not only takes every punch Apollo dishes out in the first round, but knocks the champion off his feet with a surprising uppercut punch. Apollo staggers to his feet, but the stunned, not-sure-what-just-hit-me look on his face says it all.
After this shocking first round, as each fighter receives advice from their respective corners, Apollo’s trainer says something very telling, as he exclaims, “He doesn’t know it’s a show! He thinks it’s a fight!” Apollo was caught off guard because he refused to embrace the reality that he was in a fight. Rocky, on the other hand, was fighting well because of his perspective – he expected to take some hits and throw some, too. How easily can we apply this to our own Christian life?
In the Bible, Peter warns, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) Does that sound like the Christian life is a show or a fight? Peter is suggesting watchfulness and readiness not just for a season, but as a way of life. Additionally, in 1 Timothy 6:12, the apostle Paul agrees following Christ is a struggle, encouraging us to, “Fight the good fight of faith.” There’s no statement in Scripture like, “Dance the good dance,” or “Life’s a show, make it a good one.”
If we step into life believing like Apollo that we’re just here to entertain or be entertained, what happens? Just as Apollo ended up on the canvas, so will we. When our attitude is care-free and playful and our guard is lowered because we don’t respect our opponent, the enemy will devour us with temptations we never see coming. So often, sins like lust, bitterness, and pride rise up within us when we aren’t aware. By the time we wake up, we’re on the canvas paying the consequences with the referee halfway through the count.
If we come at the Christian walk from the other corner’s perspective, Rocky’s corner, where we know it’s a fight and punches are going to fly, our chances for success are much greater. In fact, if we come to each day with our hands up, firm in our faith, ready for opposition from the enemy, we’ll probably take some giants down like Rocky did.