Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26 (NKJV)
As I look at this passage there seem to be two ideas in the illustration of shadowboxing. The first is on wasting time doing things that don’t matter. If you’ve ever shadowboxed you know that you expend a great deal of energy without accomplishing anything. It’s like running on the treadmill. You burn a lot of calories but you never get anywhere. A second idea in shadowboxing is the idea of playing but not doing. Shadowboxing is really safe. You get to swing as hard as you want and look tough but ultimately there is no danger in getting hit. It’s pretending to box without the danger of real boxing.
I think both of these ideas are pretty accurate when it comes to being devoted to Jesus and faithfully serving Him. A part of what it means for us to live a purposeful life is that we determine what Jesus wants us to do and then do whatever it takes to make this happen.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)
In Hebrews 11 we are told about the heroes of the faith. Then in chapter 12 we are told that since we have all of these witnesses to the life of faith we must determine to keep on keeping on. We are encouraged never to quit until we have accomplished the task that is laid before us. To do this we must get rid of anything in our lives that hinders our forward progress.
One of my favorite Disney movies is called Treasure Planet. It is based off of the book Treasure Island. In the movie Long John Silver is a cyborg. He is part human and part machine. The boy asks him how he became a cyborg, Long John Silver replies, “When you chase a dream you have to give up some things.”
That seems to be the point that the author of Hebrews is making. If we set our minds to serve the Jesus, we mark out that straight path before us and we refuse to get sidetracked, then we are going to have to give up some things. As I was thinking about this I realized that we are going to give up some things no matter what.
If I choose to follow Jesus and never quit and not get sidetracked there are things I will have to give up. The sins we will obviously have to give up. But we will also have to give up the weights. The weights are things that are not inherently sinful, but they sidetrack us from doing what Jesus wants us to do. The sins are the same for everyone. The weights will vary from person to person.
I can choose to keep the weights or the sins in my life. However if I do that I have to give up on doing what Jesus wants me to do. I can’t do both. Either way we are going to have to give up some things. You see it’s not a matter of will we lay something aside. The question is what am I going to lay aside? Am I going to lay aside the things that hinder me from doing the things that Jesus wants me to do or am I going to lay aside doing the things that Jesus wants me to do? I have to lay something aside and I have to choose what that will be.
In John 15:2 Jesus talked about pruning the branches that do bear fruit so that they can bear even more fruit. That is basically the idea here. To live a purposeful life means that we determine what Jesus wants us to do, figure out what it will take for us to do this, and then stick to this path no matter what laying aside anything that hinders us.
Sadly, it is entirely too easy for us as Christians to play at being a follower of Christ. We do what it takes to look the part without actually following through and doing the part. We do this because doing the part means actually doing those things that need to be done. It’s not talking about them. It’s not praying about them. It’s doing them. To live a purposeful life means that our service and devotion to Jesus is made of actions and not words or intentions.