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A spiritual lesson from the Octagon
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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23
A few days ago I was watching one of my favorite events on television, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).  I was anxiously awaiting the main event, a rematch between the former featherweight champion from Sacramento, Uriah Faber, against the present champion Mike Brown.

I love watching this sport because when real mixed martial art techniques are implemented, not just brawling (which can be fun too) it simply amazes me.  The fighter’s flexibility, high endurance, ability to adapt to change with each move and the intense training they endure for months prior to stepping into the octagon cage is unbelievable.  

The fighters that have made it to this level are not your average street fighters.  These are guys who have given all of themselves to this particular sport.  Men (and a few women) who have done whatever it takes to be at the top of their game. Who put themselves through a daily rigorous training that the average person would never do simply because they’re fighters.

Along with enjoying the impressive style, technique and quality of many of the fighters, believe it or not, I often grasp spiritual lessons as I watch caged opponents battle it out.

A great example is the pre-fight to the Faber and Brown event between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and James Krause.  Now if I was a sports writer I might tell you that Cowboy Cerrone is the complete package.  He’s a well-rounded fighter known for his strong striking ability.  I might even tell you that Cerrone hammered Krause both on the mat and on his feet before knocking him down and submitting him with a rear-naked choke all before the first round ended.  However, since I’m not a sports writer but a faith writer, I’ll tell you about the moment I caught a spiritual lesson from the Cowboy.
Cerrone had Krause on all fours early on and had the perfect opportunity (and right according to MMA rules) to batter his opponent with a powerful knee from this position.  Doing so, Cerrone surely could have ended the fight even sooner than he did.  However, there is a catch to this position.  If the aggressor throws a knee, he risks the chance of striking his opponent in the back of the head which is against the rules.   Should a fighter strike the back of his opponents head, he could lose a point which could cost later cost him the match.

I’ve seen a number of fights where the aggressor, in the heat of the moment, feeling an adrenalin dump, appears unable to stop his momentum and ends up using his knees in a frenzied attack against his opponent, consequently catching him in the back of the head. Naturally the referee stops the fight long enough to take a point away from the aggressor.  In Cerrone’s case when he had his opponent down, he did something that I found to be a valuable reminder for Christians.  Cerrone exercised self-control.  

Even with his adrenalin pumping and the fire to win burning in him, Cerrone used self control to make the wiser choice.   He stepped back from his opponent and allowed him to stand to his feet, avoiding any possible penalties.   It was really amazing to watch because I know if it had been me, I would have forgotten all about self-control and kneed my opponent when he was down and possibly the ref too.

There is only one way that I believe Cerrone was able to exercise such self-control in that heated situation and that has to be because he’s made exercising self-control part of his regular training.  

Practicing self-control on a regular basis is what Christians need to do as well.  If we want to speak more kindly, cuss less, avoid those harsh and angry words that cut deep then we must exercise self-control over our mouth.  If we desire to lose that extra ten pounds, save that hundred dollars, keep our minds clear from negative things then we must exercise self control over our body, finances and thoughts.

For many, exercising self-control seems like an impossible feat but in Galatians 5:22-23 we learn that the spirit of self-control is something God has planted inside the heart of believers.  If we water that seed on a daily basis in little ways it will grow.  If “The Cowboy” could exercise self control to be the better fighter, then we can do the same in order to be better Christians.