A Karate Kid Devotional: Training for the Fight

Britt MooneyBy Britt Mooney12 Minutes

Devotional #5: No Reason for Discipleship without the Battle

There was only one reason Daniel needed to learn karate. He was attacked and outnumbered.

At first, Miyagi refuses to teach Daniel karate. But then Daniel makes the point clear – these guys are out to get him. He’s in the fight of his life. They almost killed him the night before, and Miyagi saved him. Johnny Lawrence and Cobra Kai won’t give up. Their motto is “strike first, strike hard, no mercy.” That’s what they learned from their teacher.

Miyagi reluctantly agrees.

We have an enemy who is out to kill, steal, and destroy us (John 10:10). He would absolutely wreck us in every way if he could. We’ve been given the spiritual armor of God, but we need to learn how to use it to stand against all the strategies of the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Whether we believe it or not, we’re in a battle for our eternal souls and the souls of others. Therefore, we need training. Discipleship.

Actually, the Devil would prefer that we don’t believe we’re in a battle, because then we won’t take it seriously and won’t be trained to fight. He’ll get to steal, kill, and destroy us, our families, and churches. He does it all the time.

Do you believe that the Devil is out to get you? The question should be this – are you dedicated to ongoing training, what the scripture calls discipleship? Because if you’re not, then you don’t.

Daniel shows up to Miyagi’s house for his first day of training, and Miyagi makes it clear that he must be totally committed or he’ll get “squished like grape.” Daniel commits to doing everything Miyagi says.

Looking through Christ’s teaching on discipleship, Jesus says the same thing. We can’t look back (Luke 9:62). We’re to move forward, letting the dead bury their own dead (Luke 9:60). We totally surrender to God. We shouldn’t start to build the tower if we’re not going to finish (Luke 14:28).

Paul tells us that soldiers don’t concern themselves with civilian affairs; neither should we (2 Timothy 2:4). That’s a complete focus on the spiritual reality that we’re involved in an epic spiritual battle. Let us take it seriously and surrender to the training by a loving Father.

Father, thank you for revealing the reality of the spiritual war going on all around us. Help me to completely dedicate myself to discipleship, growth, and mentoring others. Amen.

Devotional #6: Not to Remove Problems but Learn How to Deal with Them

There’s a great clip from the show “How I Met Your Mother” where one of the characters describes how Johnny Lawrence is the real hero of The Karate Kid. A YouTube video also exists detailing how Daniel is the true villain. Those ideas were part of the inspiration for the show Cobra Kai.

As funny as those clips are, they have a point. Daniel hits Johnny first on the beach. He gets fouled in the soccer game at school and starts a fight. Daniel’s the one that douses Johnny with water at the Halloween party. Yes, Johnny and Cobra Kai were aggressive bullies, too, but Daniel wasn’t completely innocent in the whole affair.

People dealing with the Orphan Spirit react in fear, force, and conflict.

In our culture, often parents and mentors try to remove conflict instead of teaching our kids how to work through it with love and integrity. But we all need to be shown the right way.

Miyagi saved Daniel one night, but he refuses to solve all of Daniel’s problems. Instead, he forces Daniel to deal with those issues, part of which he created. Part of “karate training” is to get Daniel to take responsibility and face people with honor and truth.

God does the same. He saves us in a way that we could never have done ourselves with his blood and grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). He doesn’t leave us there, however. He gives us the spiritual tools (the armor of God) to fight the spiritual battles and expects us to participate in our own growth and maturity.

Why? First, because the Kingdom isn’t about coercion or force but love, and love requires us to willingly submit to his leadership. Second, because as a good Father, he’s training us for eternal leadership in his Kingdom. He’s teaching us the eternal family business (Luke 2:49).

James writes to us that we are to rejoice at the challenges we face because these are opportunities to grow in Christ-like character (James 1:2).

Miyagi sees the bigger picture and wants to teach Daniel how to recognize it, as well, that Johnny and the students aren’t the real battle. The real battle is the force behind them; the teacher taught them the wrong way. Fighting the students won’t solve the problem. The bad karate needed to be exposed.

In the Kingdom, we are taught by God that we aren’t wrestling against the forces we see in front of us (Ephesians 6:12). This is a spiritual battle, despite how people act like our enemies and believe they are against us. The real enemy is spiritual, the evil force behind the evil in the world.

That is the real problem that Daniel and Miyagi must deal with, and Miyagi teaches him this.

We must learn the same lessons or else we’ll be wasting time, getting involved in fights and battles that don’t matter. If anything, we’ll be playing right into the Devil’s schemes.

Father, thank you that your heart is to join with us in the battle, to love through life’s challenges. Help me to learn how to better recognize the Devil behind division and conflict; teach me how to better fight the spiritual battle before me in prayer and obedience. Amen.

Devotional #7: Training Through Service

Cobra Kai teaches karate the wrong way. Strike first, strike hard, no mercy. But what is the right way?

Daniel wants to learn how to hit things. Miyagi says, “Karate for defense only.”

Every piece of the armor of God is for defense. The sword can also be used for offense, and it is the only one that could be an offensive weapon. The helmet, breastplate, shield, and belt are for defense. The shoes are about stability and purpose (the Gospel). The bulk of the armor, at least, is for defense.

How does Miyagi teach Daniel the right way of karate, “for defense only”? The first day, he gives him a bucket and sponge to wash the old cars, a specific way. Then Daniel has to wax the cars. Next comes painting the fence, sand the floor, and paint the house, each with specific instructions as to exactly how to proceed.

Service. The right way to learn leadership in the Kingdom is to serve others. Jesus said he didn’t come to be served but to serve (Jesus serves). He taught them leadership by washing feet (John 13:1-17), a really stinky and demeaning job in those days. Paul tells us to have the same mindset as Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). Serving others is how God teaches us the family business and how to fight the right battles.

But like Daniel, we think that’s the last thing we need to do. We pick seminary degrees and apologetics and ministry career opportunities, thinking that’s what we need. We’re wrong. Service is the heart of Jesus and our path forward.

In one of the most famous scenes in film history, Daniel is ready to quit. This isn’t karate, he argues.

I’ve been there. Have you? God has me serving others, noticed and appreciated by no one, and I argue with God, “This is Christianity? This is what you want from me?” Like a patient Father, he reveals that service is greatness in the Kingdom. Not fame or being on a stage or getting everyone to read my book, but service.

“You want to be great?” Jesus asks. “Be a servant. You want to be the greatest? Be the least of all.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

Miyagi reveals to Daniel that he’s actually been learning karate the whole time, all of it a way to block and defend, all through service. Even though it’s not directly stated in the movie, Miyagi was showing Daniel that karate is everywhere, no matter what you’re doing.

The Kingdom is the same. We believe a lie that the Kingdom only happens when we’re preaching the Gospel in front of thousands or getting our latest post shared around the world or what happens in religious settings. As great as those things can be, the Kingdom is within us (Luke 17:20-21) and is expressed in every part of our life. If anything, we learn more of the eternal power of the Kingdom in times of service when no one’s watching.

Father, thank you for teaching me your heart through serving others. Help me to see the Kingdom value and greatness in being a servant to people in everyday situations. Amen.