Running the Race: Lessons from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the Christian Life

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:24–27

The issue we must face in discussing the Christian life is not whether it is a marathon or a sprint but that it is a race that is meant to be run as if you actually want to win. In other words, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of the Isthmus Games as the picture of the Christian life.

To be clear, Paul is not speaking of how one becomes a Christian (we are told elsewhere that we are saved by grace alone through faith – Eph 2:8-10), but how to live your life as a Christian. We are meant to live with a passion and focus and discipline. If there is an easy application here it must be that the Christian life is not casually lived nor is it accidentally experienced.

What does this have to do with Brazilian Jujitsu? I think it serves the same purpose of analogy for the Christian life. It is a metaphor that reminds me every time I step on the mat of what it looks like to be focused. Every training is an object example of how I need to live out my faith. Laziness will get me nowhere in BJJ and it will get me nowhere in experiencing the Resurrection life promised to me IN Christ (Phil. 3:1-15). To experience the joy of BJJ I must sacrifice and give of myself in a disciplined manner, showing up regularly ready to train, and keeping up with it when it is hard and seems less rewarding. The Christian life is no different, to experience the joy of my salvation I must choose daily to deny myself pick up my cross and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24-26). This will cost me something and I will not always be full of joy in every moment but I must keep on loving the unlovable, keep on reading the Bible, keep on praying, knowing that this is the abundant life promised to me by Christ (John 10:10-11). No one who trains in BJJ thinks for a moment that the joy of the sport can be experienced without sacrifice, without discipline, without cost. No one should think the Christian life can truly be lived without sacrifice, without discipline, without cost (Luke 14:28).

At the end of the day Brazilian Jiujitsu is only a sport yet make no mistake it is a sport that epitomizes the journey of our faith. If you are a Christian, every time you step on the mat remind yourself of what this training implies about your faith and then discipline yourself to experience the richness of the real Christian life.

  • Written by Matt Smith

About Matt Smith

A Little About Me… I am the Founder and Senior Pastor of Barabbas Road Church in San Diego, CA. I am married to the love of my life and we have three beautiful girls with another one on the way. I am currently a blue belt training at Gracie Humaita in San Diego, under Professor Regis Lebre. Schooling: B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Athletic Coaching from UC Santa Barbara M.R.S from Southern California Seminary (SCS) M.A. in Biblical Studies from SCS Master of Divinity from SCS Currently pursuing a Masters of Theology from SCS.

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