Muhammad Ali in Bible Prophecy ?
Well , not quite !! But consider his remarkable life . . . .
The recent death of heavy weight boxing champion Muhammad Ali has brought a universal pall of sadness the world over. For over 50 years , Muhammad Ali was a ' giant ' on the world stage. A towering figure ' beloved by billions ' for his boxing prowess , his showmanship , his charisma , his philanthropy , his commitment to humanitarian causes & his love of the common people. Perhaps most tragically , he was admired for his tenacity over more than 32 years fighting his most brutal opponent Parkinson's Disease , which would ultimately claim his life. At his inevitable passing , the global out-pouring of grief has been both impassioned & immense , the tributes & superlatives used to describe this extraordinary man stand ' almost unsurpassed ' in modern times.
Arguably the most recognisable & famous person on the planet , Muhammad Ali was a global icon. Admired & revered among global elites & celebrities alike , his name being idolised even among children in the back streets of remote third world countries , Muhammad Ali was a household name world-wide & the equal of any 20th century ' icon ' . . . whether Elvis , the Queen of England or John F. Kennedy. Always comfortable & frequently in the presence of kings , presidents & other dignitaries around the globe , this likeable and enigmatic superstar was fawned over by politicians , celebrities and elites around the world , with even the most notable of these luminaries clamoring to be photographed or seen with the legendary boxer. Yet Muhammad Ali was also renown for his personal touch & connection with the poor & down-trodden , often abruptly stopping his entourage to meet or play ball with children & adolescents in the most under-privileged neigbourhoods. He was a ' champion of the people ' . . . universally loved by all !!!
So how is Muhammad Ali's passing related to the Bible ?!? . . . And what lesson is there for us ??
Here is a man who rose to the very ' apex ' of humanity for fame , achievement & popularity. Over the many years of his public life , Muhammad Ali's personal impact was truly global . . . & extended far beyond the theatre of sport. His influence & personal impact often transcended race , religion , civil rights , politics , economics & even international relations. Staggering !!
Coming from humble beginnings , Cassius Clay burst onto the global stage in the 1960 Rome Olympics when he won the Gold Medal in the Light Heavyweight division. Within four years this fresh-faced youngster upstaged the seemingly ' undefeatable ' reigning World Heavy-weight Champion Sonny Liston to claim the title. Ali captured the world's imagination like no-one ever before him , with his electrifying flurry of punches , his penchant for ' braggadocially ' prognosticating the outcomes of his fights & his pre-fight habit of ' antagonising ' his opponents with colorful poetic verses.
On winning his first world title this young brash fighter in his youthful exuberance famously declared himself as " The King of the World " & the man " who shook the world ". In time - somewhat audaciously - he would go on to bestow upon himself more titles with strong ' Messianic ' overtones , such as " The People's Champion " , exhorting people to " pick up their garments & follow me " & claiming that unto him " every knee would bow ". Famously though , it would be his own self-bestowed title " THE GREATEST " for which he became universally known.
He was indeed a masterclass , both as a boxer & also as a showman. In his 15 year career he would go on to win a stunning 56 of his 61 fights & achieve an unprecedented ' 3 World Heavy-weight ' titles & in the process he transformed not just the boxing industry , but completely revolutionised many aspects of world sport. As a sportsman, celebrity & personality he was indisputably ' one-of-a-kind ' !! Having a sense of his own unique place in history , he once lyrically asked :
" Will they EVER have another fighter ... who writes poems , predicts rounds , beats everybody ,
makes people laugh , makes people cry , and is tall and extra pretty as me ?? "
Yet he was not always a popular figure. Early in his career , he became a highly controversial figure for his brash, indomitable spirit ; his conversion to Islam ; his principled stand on civil rights & his heavily publicised refusal ( as a conscientious objector ) to be drafted into the military & fight in the Vietnam War which saw him ultimately stripped of his World Title. Despite these controversies , over time Muhammad Ali would break-down many social & ideological barriers by standing for what he believed in. The passing of years would largely bring vindication of his past preparedness to ' challenge oppression & injustice '.
After his retirement from boxing , Ali's strong commitment to public service & humanitarian causes further endeared him to the masses. For many years & despite his rapidly deteriorating health , he was a beacon of hope & encouragement , as he continued to motivate & inspire people , seeking to see & bring out the best in humanity. Standing up & fighting against social injustices , raising ' hundreds of millions ' of dollars for charities , on multiple occasions an international ' ambassador for peace ' & at times , even a ' mediator ' in world conflicts. He kept fighting for humanitarian causes , an enduring legacy that many would suggest elevated the boxing legend into the same celestial status as Martin Luther King & Nelson Mandela.
So what are we to make of Muhammad Ali's life ??
The most recognisable name , face & personality on the planet. A stunning life of breathtaking achievements & bewildering contrasts. A legendary athlete , an over-sized ego , yet a humble man in private , whose desire in his latter years was to serve out his days helping his fellow man. In his boxing days , he had been the very essence of youthfulness , strength , power , skill , beauty & charm. A man who reached the ' absolute zenith ' of all that any man could ever hope to attain. The pinnacle of fame , fortune & achievement.
Yet in his prime , mortally struck down with a crippling , unassailable disease. For decades to come , he would be a haunting , fading shadow of his former glory , resigned to the sad inevitability of his condition. His powerful , athletic body transformed into a gaunt , lifeless shell. An intelligent , dynamic & entertaining mind , forever dulled & unable to communicate with the world around him. He would become a sad , living testament to the truth of the Apostle Peter's words & echoed by the Psalmist :
" For all flesh is as grass . . . & ' all the glory of man ' as the flower of grass.
The grass withereth & the flower thereof falleth away " -- 1 Peter 1 v 24
" Man is like to vanity : his days are as a shadow that passeth away " -- Psalm 144 v 4
Was it simply a tragic ' CO-INCIDENCE ' that THE MOST famous , successful , charismatic & inspiring person ' the world has seen ' in modern times - who himself had ' billions ' of devotees - was touched as it were by the Hand of God ?? Cut down at ' the peak ' of his powers to demonstrate the ' inherent weakness ' of mankind's condition & the utter futility of all man's pursuits , achievements & endeavours . . . if he is without Christ in his life.
Consider ' the sad irony ' of Cassius Clay , a man who ' turned his back on Christ ' by becoming a follower of the Prophet Muhammad & Islam , yet throughout his career shamelessly ( & even ' blasphemously ' ) likened himself to ' the Son of God ' for his own self-promotion & aggrandisement , knowingly using titles & phrases ' unique ' to the Lord Jesus Christ ( " The King of the World ... King of kings ... The Greatest ... " etc. ) Is it at all surprising , God should use such a global icon as a tragic ' standard-bearer ' to the abject pointlessness of all man's achievements . . . if he does not have the ' saving power ' of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life ??
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow ...
For what is your life ?
It is even a vapour , that appeareth for a little time
. . . & then vanisheth away -- James 4 v 14
Despite all his former glory , his unparalleled achievements , his fame , his wealth & even the enduring ' Messianic ' titles attributed to Muhammad Ali , nevertheless for most of his life , he became a haunting and heart-breaking reminder of the true nature of man.
Finally , we know among Muhammad Ali's many talents , he was famous & loved for his illustrious array of quips & motivational quotes. We would do well to consider two of these :
" Live everyday as if it were your last . . . because someday YOU'RE GOING TO BE RIGHT !!! "
" Don't count the days . . . MAKE THE DAYS COUNT !!! "
As we pause & remember the truly extraordinary life & legacy of Muhammad Ali ,
let us also consider ( before it's too late ) the tragic spiritual lesson from his life . . .
& then thoughtfully reflect on what should be ' THE GREATEST ' pursuit in our life.
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