Underdog

I love underdog stories. Those stories where the main character comes from unfortunate circumstances but still manages to overcome the challenges in his life are the most heartwarming stories in culture, I think. Like the Karate Kid movies, even the new one, which I really enjoy. Like the Mighty Ducks. In some cases, even some superhero types are considered underdogs. They just never intended to be heroes.

You have to admit, there’s something endearing about a character who has always had a rough time in life suddenly finding himself (or herself) in the middle of a situation where the stakes keep getting higher. And there’s something inside us that cheers for the underdog constantly. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’re trying to accomplish; if it seems impossible, and if the odds are stacked against them, we cheer them on. At least, I do. I have a soft spot for underdogs.

What’s amazing to me is that so does God. The Bible is full of underdog stories, where average people like you and me end up in extraordinary circumstances, and through God’s power, they change the world. Yesterday I blogged about how God can take the sadness in our lives and change it into something worth rejoicing about, but that’s not all He can do.

Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Zephaniah 3:19.

And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you.
    I will save the weak and helpless ones;
I will bring together
    those who were chased away.
I will give glory and fame to my former exiles,
    wherever they have been mocked and shamed.

You want to talk about underdogs? Let’s talk about Israel for a moment.

When I was little, I used to think that Israel had to be some amazing, great country full of resources and power. I used to think that they had to have done something incredible for God to have called them His Chosen People. But let’s be honest here. Israel is a beautiful country, and they have many resources. But in comparison to other countries in the world, they’re kind of small. They have a lot of history, but other countries have more. Honestly what makes Israel special isn’t anything they’ve done; it’s the fact that God chose them.

By that same token, I used to think that Abraham was someone special. I used to think that he had some kind of special gift or something that made him the best candidate to found the nation of Israel. But he didn’t. He was just a guy. There wasn’t anything special about him other than the fact that God called and he obeyed. That’s it.

Israel and Israel’s history is full of instances where they were the lightweight in the corner who didn’t have a chance. But every time Israel’s leaders did what God told them to do, whether they were patriarchs or kings, God gave them victory over armies much larger than they were. God took a little, unimportant country and elevated it to a place where the region had to recognize their victory. He did the same with people, ordinary shepherds, children, uneducated people, outcasts, foreigners. You name someone who would be relegated to the dregs of society and read about how they followed God and how God raised them up to a level where other people (people who had made fun of them or hated them) had to recognize that they had achieved something.

Only God can do that.

Do you think Joseph could have become the second most important man in the world on his own steam (Genesis 37-54)? Do you think David could have had the strength to stand up to Goliath without God on his side (1 Samuel 17)? Do you think any prostitute could deserve to belong in the lineage of Jesus Christ Himself without God changing her heart (Joshua 2)?

God is a God of underdogs, and He’s always looking for people who are willing to answer when He calls. And those people who answer when He calls have a chance to do the impossible, because when God is working with you, the impossible isn’t impossible anymore.

Are you in a situation where you feel inadequate? Do you find yourself in a place where no one recognizes you, whether you want them to or not? Are you lost in the shuffle of the crowd? Are you the low man on the totem pole?

Guess what? God’s cheering for you. It’s the folks on the bottom who attract God’s attention. I’m not saying He can’t use people on the top. He’s done that before too, but I’d be curious to know how those people at the top got there to begin with. Usually if you start out at the top, you aren’t interested in helping folks at the bottom–and that’s what God usually asks.

So if you’re inadequate and all you know is that you don’t have the skills to accomplish what God has called you to do, you’re in good company. But don’t worry because your responsibility is to answer. You don’t have e to know how it’s going to work out. You just have to do what God’s called you to do, and He will equip you for any eventuality you encounter along the way. And through His power and His strength and Him just being Him, He will change you from being the ineffective one at the bottom of the chain to someone who can change the world.

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