OKEECHOBEE — The great boxer George Foreman tells of the night his life changed – the night that Jesus Christ became real to him. It was the night he fought Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico: March 17, 1977. The fight didn’t go Foreman’s way. He lost on points for less-than-noble reasons. Already a man fueled by rage, he entered the dressing room furious.
The dressing room was rundown, the air heavy, hot and dank. The AC unit had gone out, so when George entered the cool down room next to the main training room, “cool down” was out of the question. Hot in temper and temperature, he paced, alone – fighting heat in body and soul. It was there that he entered the greatest fight of his life.
Pacing alone in the stuffy, rundown room, George began fighting death. A voice spoke in his ear, asking him to entertain death. Not a religious man by any stretch – in fact, just the opposite – George fought this voice of death the only way he knew how: in his own strength. But three times the voice compelled him to die – and the third time, he knew it was bigger than he was. So in desperation he tried bargaining with God: “God, if you save my life, I’ll give you part of what I earn from here on out. I’ll give to charities!” Instantly, another Voice spoke: “I don’t want your money. I want YOU.”
George had never heard of a person not wanting money: the thought blew his mind.
But it was too late. Already he was sinking down, down into darkness.
Thoughts of regret ran through his mind: Why didn’t I tell my mother that I loved her? And my family? His last thought before experiencing the full descent into darkness was this: “I wish I had the chance to say goodbye.”
In that instant, his legs buckled and he collapsed, pitching forward toward the floor. He felt himself falling and yelled to the others in the room, “Hey, I’m fixing to—” Before he could finish the sentence, he was gone.
Instantly he was transported into a deep, dark void, like a bottomless pit. He was suspended in nothingness. He knew he was dead. And it wasn’t heaven. He says, “I was terrified, knowing I had no way out. Sorrow beyond description engulfed my soul, more than anyone could ever imagine. If you multiplied every sorrow and fear that you’ve ever had during your entire life, that wouldn’t come close to the panic I felt.”
Total darkness surrounded him. He could sense other beings in the darkness, but the void was also void of relations – outer darkness of soul and spirit. The place reeked with the stench of death, and the corruption of entities of death – putrid odor of spirit, infinitely worse than the worst smells of earth.
In the midst of this endless sorrow and darkness, something came over him, and he cried out with all his being, “I may be dead, but I still believe in God!” Instantly, a beam of light shone into the void, and a hand reached down and lifted him up, up, out of the darkness.
He felt blood running through his veins; he felt his body. His eyes opened, and there he lay, now in the training room, surrounded by the medical team and fight staff. The hopelessness and darkness eclipsed into spiritual light, and briefly he experienced a vision of calling. In his own words, he committed his life to Christ in that vision – and he awoke again, this time with a strange feeling on his brow: he reached up, and felt a crown of thorns, with blood pouring down. He looked at his hands, and saw nail prints – again with blood pouring out. Only he could see it, but he knew that the Lord Jesus Christ had claimed him, body and soul: His rage and bitterness gone, replaced by love!
George shouted out, in a roar that scattered the medical staff, “Jesus Christ is alive in me!” “I am ALIVE in Christ!” Their faces turned ashen. He began quoting Bible verses – and had never read the Bible. Then he said that he loved them – and this caused them to take him to the hospital!