In 2006, I fulfilled one of my childhood dreams by sitting down for an exclusive one-on-one conversation with Sylvester Stallone. He was promoting a new product, and so my editor-in-chief -- knowing just how special the moment would be for me -- sent me to chat with him. The interview was scheduled just a few months before Rocky Balboa would hit theaters.
Walking into the host hotel, I remember Loretta straightening my tie before I headed up to the suite to conduct my interview. It was a moment I'd never forget. I even carried my master's thesis with me so Stallone could sign it where I had given Rocky praise nearly a decade earlier.
Sitting there, just the two of us, was both surreal and motivating, to say the least. I remember wishing that I could convey just how much of an influence he had been on my life. But before I could, he said something that I repeat to myself to this day. In fact, you've likely heard it repeated in commercials or motivational videos. But to one of my questions, he said:
"Jimmy, in my next film, I wrote that the world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.”
In Romans it says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25)
Funny, I don’t know if I’m winning in life, but I do know that my weakness will never fail me. Grit doesn’t absorb life’s punch. Grace does. My muscle? It wasted. Strength? It faded. When I fail in my workouts these days, I chuckle in worship, grin in surrender and shake my head in praise. Beat that with a stick. My weakness is only getting stronger. Looking inside the old thesis, the irony hit me. Even though Sly told me it’s not about how hard you hit, he wrote what he said to Apollo at the end of Rocky III, “Keep Punchin.”
I will buddy. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Like Paul Tripp so delicately wrote, “God is willing to break your bones in order to capture your heart.”