In the past week I’ve been to Washington D.C. three times. Out of nowhere several different groups of friends wanted to take a day trip and visit the sites. I’m not complaining, though. I enjoyed every minute and I have new-found appreciation for Art Museums. I think I could have spent all day visiting the Art Museums in D.C.
You can see famous paintings in a book or on your computer screen, but when you see it in person it is a different experience. Reprints or copies on a page can not capture the colors and emotions of the original work. You have to see the original in order to grasp what the artist was trying to portray.
So, I started to research some of the artists that stood out to me during my trips to D.C. There was one painting that struck my curiosity the most. It was painting by George Bellows and depicted two boxers. One boxer had knocked his opponent out of the ring. It is a stunning painting called “Dempsey and Firpo”.
It occurred to me that Dempsey was a real boxer and after some research I discovered that the painting depicted an actual event. George Bellows was at the arena that day. It was a heavyweight title fight that took place on September 14, 1923.
DEMPSY AND FIRPO
From what I gather, boxing was a different sport in 1923 than it is today. It was more brutal and there were less rules to keep the fighters at bay, but it is the lack of those rules that allowed for the creation of an incredible story.
Jack Dempsey had been champ since 1919 and the world thought he and met his better in Luis Firpo. In the first round, Firpo came out and dropped Dempsey in the first round. Dempsey comes back and begins to knock Firpo down several times. In modern boxing the fight would have been called and the fight would have been over. Dempsey would have won and Firpo would be the new champion, but in 1923 you could knock your opponent down repeatedly and unless he stayed down the fight was not over.
Then Firpo got Dempsey against the ropes and hit him with all his might. Dempsey falls out of the ring, legs flying up in the air. He lands on a local photographer and ends up hitting his head on a writing machine that was ringside. This moment is what George Bellows immortalized in his famous painting.
Undoubtedly this would have been the end of the fight if it took place today. Dempsey now had a cut on the back of his head from the writing machine, but back then Dempsey was allowed to continue and he didn’t give up. He needed help to get back into the ring, but he still continued.
Dempsey makes it through the first round in one piece, but it looked like Firpo had him beat at this point. Then during the second round Dempsey drops Firpo twice. The second time Firpo doesn’t get up. It was a K.O.
Dempsey had come back after being knocked out of the ring and suffering a head injury.
CAUGHT OFF GUARD
Maybe Dempsey had grown too comfortable where he was at. He had been the champ for a long time and maybe he didn’t expect much of a challenge from anyone. He had the fight under control for the most part. So, when Firpo starts pummeling him against the ropes, I think he was taken a little off guard.
When we go through the hard times we are a lot like Dempsey. Our guards are down and we aren’t prepared for the devil’s attacks. Peter warns us is 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. When things are running smoothly in life we begin to become content and forget to be thankful to God. We know God is there, but we forget to regularly pray, give thanks, and read our scriptures.
Basically, when life is good it is very easy to take God’s goodness for granted. That is when we let our guard down and then we get knocked out the ring, but maybe that is just our wake up call.
THE SECOND ROUND
The good news is that we get a second round. We are saved by a God of redemption and there is nothing he can not redeem. We are going to get caught off guard once and awhile, but once we get our head back into the game we can make a comeback like Dempsey. All it takes is some praying, some scripture, and some faith.
Sometimes the devil attacks. We never know how, where, or when. He is calculating the right moment to strike and many times he comes when we least expect it. That is why Peter warns us against his attacks. The devil is like a lion stalking his prey and his prey is us.
But even if we do get taken off guard we can easily turn the tables. According to James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” In can be that simple. Just submit yourself to God’s word, commandments, and will. The devil will have no other choice, but to run away. Christ’s power and protection is too strong for him. We can be like Dempsey in the second round. We may have got knocked down in that first round, but now we can be ready for it the second time by submitting ourselves to Christ.