“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-26
After reading this verse, I began reminiscing about my six year stint practicing Tae Kwon Do. I was actually almost a second degree black belt. But don’t let the status deceive you, I was the biggest softy on the mat. I hated sparring and fighting. I just can’t hurt people. It’s not in my nature. So every class when it came time to spar, I would literally prance around my opponent faking motions. Just for the heck of it I would throw random air punches and kicks that barely even came close to hitting my opponent, just to give off the vibe that I sort of knew what I was doing.
In reality, I looked like a complete fool. My opponent knew it. I knew it. The class knew it. Even the parents watching from the side knew it. My “fighting” didn’t slide by anyone, in fact, it made me look ridiculous. Even more so, the point of sparring is to hit your opponent to get points. So not only did I look like a loon, but all my efforts in fake sparring didn’t even contribute toward the purpose of the sport.
This same idea is identical to our spiritual lives as Christ Followers. We will fill up our time with activities and responsibilities. We can be on the go all the time, doing this and that, accomplishing great things, but when we take a break to digest it all we have to determine what it is actually working toward. Sometimes life can consume us with activity, but in reality we are shadowboxers, stirring up dust and making a lot of motions, with the commotion still not contributing to our actual mission.
Our life purpose is to bring glory to God. This is His universe, with His people, with His creation and His will. Therefore our goal should always be about Him. As Jesus told his followers, “go and make disciples of all nations”. (Matthew 28:19) Our lives should ultimately be about bringing people to the living, loving God of the Universe.
When we think of that continual purpose, we must take Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians to heart. He says, ” So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.” (verse 26) Or as the NIV reads, “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”
The dictionary defines a shadowboxer in a few ways. The first is “to evade or avoid direct or decisive action”. Another source explained it as a technique “used mainly to prepare the muscles before the person training engages in stronger physical activity. In shadowboxing, only one person is required to participate; the participant throws punches at no one in particular.” Basically a shadowboxer is all bark and no bite, all pizzazz but no purpose.
Paul is telling us that cannot afford to be shadowboxers, fighting the air, making pointless moves. We must examine every motion and advance to determine whether or not it is contributing to our life objective. Otherwise, we may be putting all this energy into air punches, into random acts that are nonsensical to our purpose.
We need to take the time to contemplate whether or not our daily motions are indeed in line with God’s will for us and will for this world. Every action every day should be purposeful, working toward God’s desire. We should check our attitudes, our choices, our work life, our family life, our ministry…what end goal are you pushing for? Are your motions adding to that goal, or is it all just shadowboxing?
Don’t just settle in being a shadowboxer…fight to live with purpose.