Did you watch Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA basketball tournament last weekend? Even if you’re not a sports fan, VCU’s victory over favorite Kansas was good television (an oxymoron) and good drama. I love to root for the underdog, to hope that the impossible will happen, to celebrate Davids knocking down Goliaths. Is that a human trait or maybe it is a distinctly Western idea? I just know it is deeply ingrained in me. As I’ve considered it this week, I also think our faith story is rooted in the underdog’s story. The Bible and subsequent history are full of examples of unworthy and unheralded people used by God to challenge the odds-on favorites in the world.
One of the lectionary readings this week is I Samuel 16:1-13. Verse 7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'” (NRSV) The context here is that God chooses David, the shepherd boy, to be King of Israel over his older brothers.
There is also a challenge in the underdog story. If I am only competing against “weaker” opponents, God doesn’t need to be involved and I won’t be pushed to reach my potential. On good days, I can say that I want to live my life in such a way that I am going to fail unless God shows up. It is uncomfortable but also invigorating. Kind of like those VCU players must feel as they head to the Final Four in a few days.
There is good news in this for you and I. Jesus comes as an underdog to reach people like us- without him, we really don’t have any hope of victory. As we look at the obstacles between us and service in Africa, it feels overwhelming. Questions and doubts come up: about our kids, the finances, our medical abilities…and the list goes on. But when I remember God’s penchant for using unlikely people who trust him, I am encouraged and able to give him my concerns. What about you? Where in your life do you need to be reminded of God’s desire to use you and your struggles? With God, all things are possible.