Heavyweight Champion

By Laurel J. Davis
See Laurel's blog at The Reluctant First Lady

The last time Jeff stepped into our church was at our very first anniversary service in 2008. He was in pain from cancer and the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and radiation. He was so frail, body so sick and weak, voice faint and stumbling over the responsive reading he was leading with the congregation.

What did we really see that day? What were we most paying attention to? That weakness? That frailty? That stumbling? Did any of us think, "Couldn't pastor have picked somebody 'better' for this?"

Admittedly, it was hard to watch him in some respects. Jeff was my husband's long-time friend whom we had always seen as a man of quiet strength. In fact, that's what we called him, "Mr. Quiet Strength." Quiet, because he was not much of a conversationalist. We'd often tease him because of the way conversations would go whenever he'd call.


"Hey, it's Jeff."

"Oh hey, man. What's up?"




The strength part of our affectionate moniker came from the fact that, even though Jeff was quiet and on the short side, he had a formidable physical profile and the spirit to match. As a prison guard, he had to be buffed and tough. As a family man, barbeque aficionado, self-proclaimed old school R&B music historian and a Christian, he was a gentle giant. Either way, you did not want to pick a fight with Mr. Quiet Strength! Certainly not at work and not about his family. Also, not his secret barbeque sauce, "Name That Tune" battles or, most of all, the truth of the Gospel and sound biblical teaching.

Yes, whether in fun, on the job, or in defense of what was most important to him, Mr. Quiet Strength was a fighter. A fighter.

And then the fighter fought cancer. That's what Jeff was doing — that's what we saw and paid attention to — that day at church: a prize fighter still in the ring even though he struggled to get up from his seat, walk to the microphone, stand steady before the congregation and speak from the Word of God (Galatians 4:11-16). Cancer and the effects of treatment may have weakened the fighter's body, but not his faith. It was a heavyweight champion we saw and heard standing there before us.

That is why Jeff was chosen to share at church on that special day in spite of his physical limitations, why we speak of him on every anniversary since then, and why we honor his name with an annual "Fight the Good Fight of Faith" Award to a member who has demonstrated similar fortitude as a contender for the Gospel.

As a peripheral witness to Mr. Quiet Strength's and other loved ones' physical deterioration from the disease, I see why it's called battling cancer. Jeff certainly contended with terminal illness and all that comes with it — including the fear, the doubt, the anger, the despondency. But while it weakened his body and maybe even his outlook from time to time in the heat of battle, he remained spiritually "in the ring," so to speak — an embattled heavyweight who nonetheless stayed on his feet, gloves up, mind focused and eyes on the prize of the high calling of Christ until the final bell.

That's the legacy we celebrate, Jeff's legacy of heavyweight fighting. But it wasn't really his fight. Like Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego in that fiery furnace, who were walking unharmed in the midst of the fire with a fourth Man "like unto the Son of God," Jeff knew the Lord was right there with him through every round. Yes, his body eventually succumbed; but with the Lord in his corner, Jeff still fought the good fight, he finished his race and, through it all, blow by blow, he kept the faith.

But Hallelujah! It doesn't end there! Yes, the fight ended, but the heavyweight champion is still, all these years later and from here on out, basking in the glory of undisputed victory! Namely, the eternal victory that comes to every soul who contends earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3-4).

Jeff's favorite Scripture passage was 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." I can't wait to see Mr. Quiet Strength donning his heavyweight crown!

I hope this little story encourages you to keep up the good fight of the faith of Jesus Christ in your life and witness, no matter what. Like Brother Jeff, you are more than a conqueror through Christ, nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:31-39), and a wonderful crown of undisputed victory is being reserved in your name.

Image Credit: Hossam el-Hamalaway; "Boxing Gloves"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  |  Eternity-Forever  |  Hardships  |  Personal-Life

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Published on 9-17-14