One of the training methods that professional boxers, or “wanna be” professional boxers, employ is “shadow boxing.” They imagine that their shadow is their opponent and they spend a great deal of time sharpening their reflexes by trying to become quicker than their shadow – which of course – is impossible.
Now, while the boxer can train and condition his body to the point where he has six pack abs on top of his six pack abs, can become the best shadow boxer in the land, can buy all the best boxing gear, and can certainly look the part, the truth of the matter is that he will never defeat anybody until he actually climbs into the ring and does battle with his opponent. Shadow boxing may look good but battles are won and lost in the ring.
As individual Christians, churches, families, and as a nation, we have an enemy. His name is satan. And I fear that while satan is busy ripping apart the very fabric of the society in which we live, we have busied ourselves with shadow boxing and looking the part instead of actually climbing into the ring and knocking the daylights out of our enemy!
I am reminded of an episode of Happy Days where a member of a gang was going to “beat-up” Ritchie Cunningham. The whole episode was geared around The Fonz giving Ritchie “tough lessons” so he could scare off this gang member and save his own life.
The Fonz dressed Ritchie like himself, taught him how to swagger when he walked, and taught him how to talk tough. However, at the end of the episode, Ritchie was standing up in a booth at Arnold’s restaurant with the gang member about to attack him. Of course, The Fonz stepped in and saved the day.
With a bewildered look on his face Ritchie told The Fonz, “I don’t understand. I did everything you told me to do. I dressed like you; I walked like you, and I even talked like you. What happened?”
The Fonz thought for a minute and said, “Oh yea, Cunningham. I forgot to tell you. Somewhere along the way you have to actually hit somebody.” To which Ritchie exclaimed, “That’s not a good thing to leave out, Fonzie!”
President Theodore Roosevelt said it this way, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We live in a time of unprecedented evil and vice in America. But we also live in a time of unprecedented opportunity. Divorce rates of 50% are ravaging our society. Addictions of all kinds are rampant. Teenage unwed, unwanted pregnancy is at unprecedented levels. Abortion on demand, the killing of innocent unborn babies inside their mother’s womb, is a blight upon us. Manners and morals are in the gutter. And we call evil good and good evil.
And all the while, en masse, God’s church, the army of born-again believers, has enrolled in programs to condition ourselves and have purchased apparel to help us look the part. But the sad reality is we have refused to climb into the ring and hit the enemy squarely between the eyes with everything we have.
But on the other hand – we have become excellent shadow boxers – and hey, don’t we look good? We’ve got our form and technique down pat! We just ain’t hitting anybody!