The Underdog

I believe there’s a reason we cheer our hearts out when underdogs win in sports. There is something about seeing them win that gives us great hope. Maybe it’s a hope that the things that are beating us won’t always win. Hope that the formidable opponents in our lives, our hurts, struggles, sins and fears, won’t always have their way. Hope that victory can belong to those who have faith, not just those who have strength.

Danger zone…I’m about to talk about God and the subject of football together in a state where football is like a god. I come from the foreign land of North Carolina where football takes a backseat to basketball and when it comes to Alabama vs. Auburn, I don’t take a side. Truly! My husband is from Tennessee and that’s our SEC team. So please, kindly remove the lens of your side as you read this because last year’s iron bowl reminds me of a real life story that I don’t want you to miss.

The iron bowl, in case you don’t know, is the last football game of the regular season where arch rivals Alabama and Auburn play each other. It’s a BIG deal. Alabama was the team to beat last year. Auburn was an underdog who had pulled out some unexpected victories giving their season a good record. The stakes were unusually high this time because whoever won would advance to the National Championship. Auburn was not favored in the Iron Bowl. Alabama had won three national titles and was not only Auburn’s arch rival, but the least likely team they could overcome.

So, what happens? They are down to ONE second left. The game is tied. Alabama is kicking a field goal to seal the deal. If you’re Auburn, you’ve got two choices here…you can either lose, or you can buy some more time to fight the formidable opponent and block the kick. To buy more time seems like the best option. In the one second left, I think they were all hoping their hearts out for a tie. But as Alabama lined up for the kick, it seemed unlikely.

Let me insert a real life story here. I was reminded of God’s love and faithfulness this week in a way that gave me hope to keep fighting the fight of faith. There is a gentleman who used to work on the janitorial staff at Will’s office who has become a friend of ours. Will got to know him through talking about football, and over the years, Will has seen ways he could help this man. I am not bragging on my husband, but on God who has transformed Will’s heart and leads him to love this man with the love of Christ. This is Christ working in Will, and it’s beautiful. But, it has not been an easy road. This friend has had some struggles and it seems when he takes one step forward, he takes five steps backward. My eyes have been opened to how hard it is to make a way without a car, without education, without internet, without the things I take for granted. He has lost several jobs, a car, and his family. He does not struggle with any addiction; life’s circumstances have just been hard on him. And when Will gets a call, it is usually to help. Will always shares the gospel when they are together and lends an open hand whatever the hour. In the past weeks, it has been tough. If I’m honest, I had come to a point where I started to lose hope. Is Will’s help actually helping? Is this ever going to get better? God, are you there? God, is this one your fight too?

Last week Will got a voicemail from this friend saying, “I don’t know what my purpose is any more in this world…thank you for being the only one who has believed in me.” It sounded desperate, like there was not much time on the clock. The choices seemed to be…to end in defeat or to buy some more time. Will had hope there was another outcome.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we DO NOT GIVE UP.” (Galatians 6:9)

“May the God OF HOPE fill you with all joy and peace AS YOU TRUST IN HIM, so that you may overflow WITH HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.” (Romans 15:13)

Will called immediately. They talked for a long time and Will said he had nothing left to offer him but Jesus.

So, let’s go back to the iron bowl. One second left. Tie or lose. But wait…your mind might not even let you go there, but…there is ONE play that could actually turn this whole thing around. One play, one second…the ball flies into the hands of an Auburn receiver and he runs it ALL. THE. WAY. BACK. for a…TOUCHDOWN. WOW. Auburn wins!!! It’s over! Auburn advances. Done. I stood there with my mouth open for about 30 seconds with tears streaming down my face (I am a sucker for an underdog). Did. That. Just. Happen? I’m not sure anyone saw it coming, not even Auburn!

At the end of the phone conversation with his friend, out of the OVERFLOW OF HOPE and led BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, Will led him in a prayer to receive Christ. Two days later on Sunday, we got a voice mail that Will will keep on his phone forever. It said, “I went back to church today, and rededicated my life to Jesus…love you brother.” To think of him returning to his childhood church after so many years and dedicating his life to Christ in front of the whole congregation brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart swell with joy! If there was a field, we would have rushed it!!! And all the angels in heaven rejoiced as we did the happy dance!

That Jesus, HE’S THE GAME CHANGER. He’s the one, who in one second, can turn defeat into victory. And during moments when victory looks impossible is exactly where he steps in. Because that’s often the moment we ask him to. And when he steps in we change from prayerfully avoiding defeat to claiming the victory that is ours.

A child born in a manger who died on a cross is not someone who the world may see as victorious or strong. Yet, isn’t it wild that every time we write 2014, we acknowledge that all times and dates revolve around him? No other ruler or emperor has ever had this influence. The people of his time wanted a king to fight armies. Jesus knew our struggle was not against flesh and blood but against powers of darkness. Our big opponents, sin and death…he took them out for all generations. The one who came to serve, who was raised in a carpenter’s home, who spent time with fisherman, who let the little children come to him, who washed feet; He is the one to whom every knee will bow. His love for us counts more than our rejection of him; his grace counts more than our sin. Sometimes in the world’s eye, he may seem like an underdog. But he is the victorious King of Kings!

Now, whatever comes our friend’s way, he is going to be okay. It will not be easy, but more than cars or jobs or financial security, this man has the one thing he needs in this world…JESUS. And he now is a NEW CREATION with an inheritance of glorious riches in Christ and eternal life.

Yes, there’s a reason we love underdogs. There’s a reason we love action movies and rescue stories and films like Braveheart where the martyr yells freedom at the end and gives his life for it. There’s a reason little girls love princesses and the story of Cinderella who, while she is in rags, has dreams of being rescued by a prince who will carry her away from the place of slavery and cruelty into the kingdom of light when she is treasured and special and beloved. There’s a reason we love Saving Private Ryan, because the Commander in Chief takes the time to organize a special task force all in the name of rescuing one person. A reason that from the time we’re little we love firemen. Because when called, they drop everything and charge full speed into the dark places to perform great rescues. They are ready to extinguish the fire, and while everything else may burn, they help rescue the person on the inside. There’s a reason we like to see dragons in dungeons and justice prevail. There’s a reason millions around the globe tuned in at all hours to watch the royal wedding. To see a common girl be loved by a prince and brought into a royal family. Because we know we’re all that girl.

The father throws a grand feast with the most fattened calf when his lost prodigal son comes home, the shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one, and all the angels in heaven, tens of thousands of angels, rejoice when one sinner repents. Because this is the most epic rescue story of all times. The fight is real, but the battle is won. And our best days here are when the God of the universe gives us a chance to be a part of the love story He has called us into. If you’re fighting the good fight today, please be encouraged! Run the race with perseverance. You are on a winning team.

Jesus pulls out all the stops, he mobilizes all the troops under his command, he gives it everything he has, he enters into the mud and mire and goes all the way to that cross, all the way to death to get his bride…to get each one of his kids.

This is the story of a hero…a hero who kills the dragon and rescues the bride. But this is not a fairy tale or a game. This is a REAL LIFE STORY…the story of the redemption of Jesus Christ.

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, HE’S ALIVE, HE’S ALIVE!

“Christ is Risen” Lyrics

3 thoughts on “The Underdog

  1. Katie,
    I have so loved and appreciated your writings. I praise God for the heart you and Will have turned over to Jesus. Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Maybe my favorite one you have written so far! Love:) thank you friend. Btw- Will did an amazing job yesterday. Really amazing!!!!



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