THE THIRD ROUND

by David Sisler

In case you missed it, the fight to unify the heavyweight boxing crown went twelve rounds, and ended in a draw at least in the minds of the three judges. Evander Holyfield drew a $20 million paycheck, Lennox Lewis pocketed $10 million, and the fight fans who paid for it all, got skunked. But have no fear, both men have been given the opportunity to do it all again. So mayhem mavens, get ready to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for arena seats, or half a C-note for pay-per-view and watch a good fighter try not to lose (instead of trying to win) and a once great fighter try not to get his brains scrambled. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Writing for the Associated Press, Jim Litke said that the fight "didn't set a new low for boxing, but only because no one can say for sure what the last one was."

Of all of the words associated with the Holyfield-Lewis fight, none are more famous than Evander Holyfield's bold statement that the fight would end with a third round knockout of Lennox Lewis. When a journalist asked if he had heard correctly, Holyfield said, "I'm not predicting. I'm telling you."

Holyfield amplified: "If I'm at my best, I know what the outcome will be, so I'm holding to the truth. The truth is the fact, and the fact is I'm going to knock him out in three rounds."

God, Holyfield said, told him it would end that way.

Evander Holyfield bills himself as "God's Champion." He enters the ring to the accompaniment of Spirited music, and proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ, giving God praise for his boxing accomplishments. He admitted to, and repented of, sinful practices which displeased his Lord. So what do we make of Evander Holyfield's failed pronouncement?

In 1973, the pastor of the Church of God in Windber, Pennsylvania, stood up and announced to his congregation that God had told him to move to another city. "It is God's will," he confidently announced. A few weeks later, he moved out of the parsonage and the Sisler family moved in. Several months passed and the dearly departed pastor found the new field full of rocks and announced, "God spoke to me and told me it is his will that I come back to Windber." Howard Price, one of the great men of that church told me, his voice oozing sarcasm, "I think God is confused!"

I have never predicted a third round KO which did not happen and thereby gave God a black eye. I do remember announcing that God told me we would have 200 people in the church building for a special service and we had forty-seven. My embarrassment was my teacher.

My misspeaking notwithstanding, God speaks to his people usually through his Word, sometimes through a still, small voice. That much is certain. Sometimes we do not listen. Sometimes we could not hear him if he were standing by our shoulders, yelling in our ears because we are wilfully distracted. Sometimes we doubt that it is his voice. Sometimes we disobey. Sometimes it was not God who spoke, but God gets the blame, nonetheless.

A minister I hold in great esteem once said, "If this thing works out well, God told me to do it, and all of the praise goes to him. If it works our poorly, it is all my fault, and God was not within a million miles of this enterprise."

God told the Psalmist, "Be still and know that I am God." We would save ourselves a great deal of embarrassment, and do a great deal less harm to God's Kingdom if we would reverse that: Know that he is God, and then be still!

If we cannot keep our mouths shut, and we all too frequently cannot, at least we could accept responsibility for our actions. But we are too quick to shirk the blame. "Oh, we must not have believed hard enough," we say. "Oh, we must have hidden sin in our lives," we say. "Oh, God's word was conditional, and we did not meet the conditions," we say. Any of those statements may be true, and often are, but all too frequently, we just were not listening. Or under pressure to be viewed as spiritual, we speak into the silence and hear only the echo of our own voices.

Listen. Christians often make mistakes. Maybe you have made some rather large ones. Maybe you have heard of some of my more dramatic ones. Maybe you have heard that Jesus said, "He that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Now that is a voice worth listening for. And a pronouncement worth repeating.

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/20/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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