He was a 350-pound professional wrestler from Bulgaria who enjoyed an undefeated record throughout Europe. In 1898 he came to the United States where he challenged Strangler Lewis for the American Heavyweight Championship. The match was a total mismatch. Lewis was outweighed by 150 pounds and could not overcome Yusuf’s brute strength. Easily defeating Lewis, Yusuf had the $5,000 in prize money converted to gold coins which he carried in a money belt.
Shortly after his victory over Lewis, Yusuf took the first ship back to Europe booking passage on the ill-fated S.S. La Bourgogne. Many miles at sea, the ship sank on the morning of July 4, 1898. Yusuf fell overboard with his money belt full of gold coins. The added weight was too much for even the Terrible Turk to stay afloat. Before the lifeboats could reach him, he sank straight to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. If only he would have taken off the heavy money belt!
The Hebrew writer gave this word of warning about encumbrances, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). The thing about weights is that they are not sinful things; they’re just things. Got any weights in your life? Any spiritual distractions? Is there anything getting in the way of your walk with God? Are there any encumbrances diverting your attention and dampening your enthusiasm?
If so, do what Yusuf Ismail the Terrible Turk should have done. For the sake of your spiritual survival, lay it aside. Do it now. Only then will you be able to run with perseverance the race set before you.
Pastor Todd Weston