No Pain, No Gain

Chris Byrd is a former Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Although he lives in Las Vegas, NV, aka “Sin City,” he doesn’t allow the sinfulness of his city to consume him.

He says, “For me, I put Christ first. I still do the same things I’ve always done. I stay home when I’m training so I can be in church and not in some secluded place. I want to live my life like I live every day. I’m a boring guy. I don’t do anything. I don’t know what happens in Vegas. I don’t know anything about this city.”

Boxers are among the most disciplined athletes, and Byrd is certainly no exception. Even though he lives in Vegas, he has somehow managed to shield himself from the worldly distractions. His ability to stay focused has been a work in progress that dates back to his early days growing up in Flint, Michigan.

Byrd’s parents are part of his boxing team. His father is his trainer, and his mother is often seen in his corner on fight night. He began amateur boxing at the age of 10, and by the age of 23 he had racked up 275 amateur wins and had claimed three US amateur titles. As a middleweight, he won the silver medal a the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and won the gold medal at the 1992 Canada Cup.

Everything seemed perfect in his life at that time. He was married to his high-school sweetheart, and was a proud father. But the one key ingredient that he lacked was a relationship with God. When his wife began taking their daughter to church, Byrd began to take notice. Then, when his wife later gave her heart to Christ, his interest was really piqued – although not necessarily in a positive way.

He says, “She got saved and I was like, ‘Wow, what’s that? I’m not going in that direction because I don’t want to be like that.’ My brother and sister-in-law had gotten saved five years earlier, and I thought they were strange, so I didn’t want to be like that.”

As his wife and daughter continued their spiritual walk, Byrd quickly started to feel left out. Finally, he started to tag along with them and eventually had a miraculous change of heart. He says, “I went a few weeks and really wasn’t listening. But one week I listened, and God just convicted my heart so bad. I truly understood why Christ died for me. I walked that aisle [of the church, to talk with one of the pastors], and someone led me to the Lord.”

By then, Byrd was embarking on his professional boxing career, and he desired to compete in the heavyweight division. He was so convinced that this move was part of God’s plan, the prayed for supernatural intervention. He told the Lord in prayer, “If I can be a heavyweight,  I will be a witness for You. I won’t forget about You. It’s going to be all about You.”

God answered his prayer, and in April 2000 he defeated Vitali Klitschko in Berlin, Germany for the WBO title. He lost that title six months later, but in December 2002 he claimed the IBF title by defeating Evander Holyfield.

But the Lord taught him a lesson in humility vs pride in a fight in September 2003. He was battling Fres Oquendo, and although he won the fight by a decision of the judges, it was very controversial. Many people thought he lost the fight. He was embarrassed, humbled, and put into his place. He said he learned the hard truth found in Proverbs 16:18.

Later, he eventually lost his IBF title. But he still found ways to use his platform as a heavyweight boxer to share God’s love with others. Even through his losses, his demeanor and strong moral character made a lasting impression on the fans and the boxing world.

Read Proverbs 16:18 (HCSB)
18 Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

  • What do you learn from this verse?
  • How would you apply this verse to your life?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (HCSB)
25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

  • What does v 26 mean?
  • How do you think purpose works together with discipline?
  • Is it possible for your discipline to ultimately have little meaning? Why do you say so?

Read Romans 6:12-13 (HCSB)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness.

  • What are some things that challenge your physical discipline?
  • What methods do you use to overcome those challenges?
  • What are some things that challenge your spiritual discipline?

Read Luke 12:48 (HCSB)
48 … Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.

  • What are some things that are required of you as an athlete, and/or in every other area of responsibility that you have?
  • As your level of responsibility increases, how does that impact the decisions you make?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to remember that you have given me the abilities that I have. Help me to be disciplined in every area of my life. And help me to use the platform you have given me to be a witness for you every day of my life.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 9, “No Pain, No Gain,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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