“No Mas” – Part II

He saved others, why doesn’t He save Himself? Some of those at the foot of the Cross stood in absolute wonder. And why not? They had velvet rope access to the miracles. They saw the blind see, the lame walk and the mute talk. They were eyewitnesses to His power and might. And yet there He was. Hanging on a cross to die.

You’ll forgive the long entry, but I knew before I began today’s follow-up to yesterday’s “No Mas” that I wasn’t going to get it right. Too many lessons to be learned, let alone teach in so few words.fighterleavingring

First, we could easily see this strictly from an athlete’s perspective. The crowd around the ring that night had seen Duran for years. They knew his power, speed and heart. Because of that, what he did was beyond their comprehension. To put it into perspective, imagine Michael Jordan at the free throw line in a tied Game 7 of the NBA Championship. With one second on the clock, he gives the ball to the ref and walks off the court unwilling to take the shot. Impossible? Well, that’s what the crowd witnessed that night when Duran said, “No mas.”

Or, we could also see this from Sugar Ray’s standpoint. He demanded answers. Cheated out of the glory that should come with victory, Sugar Ray took it upon himself to find out what happened. And we all know from yesterday’s entry how that ended. His peace came when he stopped trying to be rewarded for his work. (That thought deserves an entry for the fitness enthusiasts among us.) But of the two boxers that fateful night in 1980, I can relate mostly to Duran — the one who stopped striving. The guy who couldn’t go the distance. The quitter. Yes, that’s me.

Spiritually, I quit fighting my own battle when I was an eighth grader. I knew then what I know now — that no matter how good I tried to be or how hard I worked, I was at best a wretch. A no-good sinner in need of grace. Accepting defeat, accepting my smallness, accepting Jesus as my Savior…and it set me free forever.

Physically, however, I thought I quit fighting the biggest battles a long time ago when I hit my physical, personal prime of strength or ability. But in truth, I quit just a few years ago. It was then that I realized something. Our fittest, strongest, healthiest moment should serve as life’s awesome reminder of just how small and weak we really are. Sure, I press on (as I type in tears), but I quit believing the enemy’s lie that health was somehow earned. Make no mistake, our health is grace dependent.

No mas. No more. We may not step into a ring, but we do have wars raging inside our hearts — battles of our own making we need to quit. You may need to quit comparing yourself to the world. You may need to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You may need to quit social media, get your nose out of your phone and into your Bible or good book. You may need to stop procrastinating about your health, or that job application or that goal. You may need to quit trying to work your way to Heaven.

I warned you I wasn’t going to get this right, but friends, all I know is that when Jesus said it was finished, what looked like defeat was really our Lord going the distance for us. That’s why I quit. My hands are up. Are yours? The raging war is won. The victory is ours for the claiming. Freedom for the taking. Both the Prize and the Fighter are Jesus; Who we win by decision.

–Jimmy Peña