Unless you are a very fortunate person, every one of us has experienced what it is like to be an underdog. We were been chosen last for the team in gym, picked last for the class project, overlooked for the “select” chorus, rejected for the school play, and never the one to get the promotion at work. Or maybe we have been the one who falls in love with all the wrong people, or maybe we have never found the right person at all. There are times we all feel like the underdog.
I have been the underdog. Chosen last for teams, never invited to any of the cool kid parties, or any parties, and mostly overlooked all through school. My last year in seminary I was taking a class and a guy came up and said, you must be new here. I said, no. I had been in his class for three years, just always overlooked.
Because I was an underdog, when I had the opportunity to get my first dog, my own dog, I picked the underdog, the runt of the litter. I was in Jr. High and a family on my paper route had a dog that gave birth to a litter of brown and white puppies, Mack was the only black one. Every time I saw the puppies, Mack was the one who was always pushed to the back and not allowed to get much milk. He was the underdog and my heart went out to him. When they were old enough for me to take one home, I took him. Everyone asked me if I was sure that was the one I wanted, the runt of the litter, and I said yes.
We all know what it’s like to be an underdog which is why we love underdog stories. Some of the greatest movies are about underdogs.
How about Rocky,
or The Karate Kid.
The entire Star Wars saga is about how the underdog, Luke Skywalker, becomes the top dog and leads a ragtag nation against the evil Darth Vader.
And of course we can’t leave out Rudolph and that island of misfit toys
and my all-time favorite character, the constant underdog in all things – Charlie Brown.
The Bible is full of people who were true underdogs and while we often look at these people and see individuals possessing a faith that is beyond our reach, what we are going to see is that they were all underdogs just like we are. During this series, we are also going to meet some real underdogs. We have partnered with PAWS in Centre County and each week we are going to feature an underdog that will touch our hearts. You will be able to learn more about these dogs in the bulletin, and the PAWS website, and you can help sponsor the dogs or become a guardian angel and cover the costs of adoption.
During the series we are also going to collect small items that PAWS is always looking for. The list is in the bulletin, and you will be able to drop these items off in the bins at the front doors of the lobby, and by the office. We want to help turn these underdogs into top dogs and help care for them while they wait to find a home, and if you are thinking about a new pet in your home, we would love for you to consider one of these dogs.
One of the most interesting things about the story of God as it unfolds in the Bible is that God loves the underdog. When the odds seem to be against someone and all hope seems lost, that is often the person, and the moment where God steps in and uses the underdog to save the day. God chooses the underdog to make it clear to everyone that the salvation or the victory did not come from human wisdom, strength, or power but from God, and that is something we always need to remember. God may choose us because we are the underdog, but that doesn’t mean we should boast about it, we need to always be humble. God chooses the weak to show the world that He is strong. He chooses the underdog to make clear that God’s power and glory are seen.
So God loves the underdog and today we are going to look at David. I know what you may be thinking, the story is going to be little David going up against the giant Goliath in battle. After all, that appears to be a true underdog story, a young boy taking down a giant of a man with a slingshot and a stone, but that’s not the story we want to look at because before David was the underdog in battle, he was the underdog in his own home.
Here’s the setting. The people had been begging God to give them a king. While God wanted to be the king and lead his people, the people kept asking God over and over again for a king just like all the nations, so God finally gave in and anointed a king, a man named Saul. Now Saul looked like a king. He was tall, very tall, a full head and shoulders above the rest of the men around him, so he was a natural choice to be the king. Saul ruled for many years, but he wasn’t faithful or consistent. One month Saul would follow God completely, the next month he would do what he wanted to do. Sometimes he would acknowledge God as Lord, sometimes Saul made himself Lord. Finally God got tired of Saul’s lack of faith and trust and decided to anoint a new king.
So God decided to do a new thing and anoint a new king, and God is still always looking to do new things. No matter who we are, or where we are in life, God is looking to do something new and fresh in our lives. The new thing might be stepping out in our own faith to deepen our relationship with God, and this fall we are going to have several opportunities to do that in new small groups. It might be to step up in the church and serve in some new way and in a way that we know will stretch us beyond what is comfortable. It might be to serve in the community, step out in missions, or start something new in life that God has laid on our heart and mind.
While God wants to do something new in our lives, what often holds us back is fear. It is fear that leads us to make excuses. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not strong enough in my faith. It’s fear that says, I don’t know if this is what God wants from me. I don’t have the right background or resources to do this. We make underdog excuses out of fear, but if God is calling us – then God is with us – and if God is with us then what can stand against us.
God wanted to do something new in Israel so he sent the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king in Israel.
1 Samuel 16:1-5
Samuel goes to Bethlehem and finds Jesse and his sons and it says he consecrated them, which means he set them aside and invited them to come back to a sacrifice where God would anoint one of them for something important. They know Samuel is there to anoint one of them to be some kind of leader, so the anticipation for Jesse and his sons must have been great. Something extraordinary is going to happen.
That evening they all return and the first of Jesse’s sons, Eliab, is presented to Samuel. He is the oldest so it makes sense that he would be the king. It’s always the first born that gets all the breaks right? (I can say that being the youngest.) From what we know of Eliab, he was also tall and good looking and again it is always the tall people who are chosen leaders (statistically this is actually true), and it’s always the good looking people who get ahead. But God tells Samuel not to look at the outside, his height and appearance, but the heart. It’s not Eliab.
Now can you imagine being Jesse’s second son? His name was Abinadab and he must have said, “Yes! Finally it’s my turn now,” and so he is brought before Samuel – but he is also rejected. Now the third son in line must have been beside himself because he is always overlooked. But it is not him. Nor the fourth, nor the fifth, nor the sixth, nor the seventh. None of Jesse’s sons gathered there were chosen by God. Samuel is confused and so asked Jesse, Are these all the sons you have?
While Jesse doesn’t say this, by only bringing these 7 sons, he has made it clear that these are the only sons that matter. These are the only ones who are qualified and able to do the job. Even in his own home, the 8th son is overlooked. He wasn’t even invited to the sacrifice, but Samuel says, go get him, and here’s the rest of the story. 1 Samuel 16:12-13a
David was overlooked in his own home. His own father didn’t think he was qualified to even come to the meeting with Samuel, and sometimes the feeling we have of being overlooked and unqualified comes from own homes. It starts when we are very young. Many of us have had to fight the voices we have heard all our lives telling us that we don’t measure up, that we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t qualified to do the job.
I’ve heard this a few times in my life. In seminary I was told I wasn’t very good at preaching and it was my roommate who was asked to be a guest preacher in the chapel. Going through the process to be ordained there was a pastor I worked with who said I didn’t measure up and that my words and preaching weren’t good enough. Some in my own church told me I didn’t have what it takes to be a pastor We all hear those voices at times and what we need to learn from David is that being overlooked and disqualified is not the end.
Let me stop here and go back to Sadie Marie. We chose her for this week because they said at PAWS that she is a great dog that is often overlooked. Being a little older and a little bigger wasn’t in her favor, so she was often overlooked, and yet look at her, she is beautiful and full of life and love. Here’s the good news for this underdog, we have found out that there is now an application pending for her adoption. Being overlooked was not the end of her story – and it is not the end of our story.
Being overlooked and told that we aren’t qualified happens all the time, so we need to be prepared for it, and we need to tell ourselves that it’s ok for others to say that as long as we continue to live for God, and follow God’s leading in our lives. We may be overlooked by those around us but we are NOT overlooked by God. David was not overlooked by God, instead he was anointed by God. And that’s the second lesson we learn from David, underdogs can become God’s top dogs.
Our story isn’t over yet; there is more to come and God has more in store for us. We have all been picked by God to be in this place at this time for God’s purpose. God has placed us in our jobs, in our schools, among our friends, in our community, and in this church for a reason, and our story is not over – God is looking to do a new thing in our lives and while we may feel like an underdog – we can become a top dog in God’s plan for the world, so we need to keep going. And that is the last lesson we learn from David, we have to keep going.
We think David is about 13 years old when he was anointed by Samuel, but he doesn’t become the official King of Israel until he is 30. That’s 17 years of waiting, working, wondering, and walking with God into the fullness of his calling. These 17 years were difficult ones for David. He was questioned by his brothers and persecuted by Saul and his leaders. He was chased from his home, chased out of his own country for a while, and he suffered bouts of real doubt and depression. While he could have easily given up, he didn’t. David kept going, and it was these 17 years that helped David become the king. They were years of growth for David. It was these years that helped David become king.
As we desire to become all that God wants us to be, as we ask God to take us from underdog to top dog, we can’t skip the growth process. Don’t forget, Rocky didn’t win in the first Rocky Movie – he lost to Apollo Creed, he didn’t win until Rocky 2. David was an underdog for 17 years before he became the king. We can’t be afraid of the growth process because what we go through as the underdog helps us become the top dog.
David was forgotten by his father and overlooked by his family, but that did not disqualify him from being anointed by God. Underdogs can become top dogs if we will remain faithful, hold true to God’s calling in our lives, and work through the hard process of growth, maturity and change that God has for us all.
Underdogs – David
1. What underdog story (movie, cartoon, character) is your favorite and why? What does this underdog have to teach you about being a top dog?
2. Where do you feel like an underdog today?
Marriage and Family
Work and Career
Spiritual Life and Serving God
3. What excuses are you making in each of these areas?
4. Where are you skipping the process of growth God wants for you?
5. Read the story of David in 1 Samuel 16:1-13.
6. In what way is God calling you to something new at home, in school, at work, in the church, in our community, or in the world?
7. Allow God to anoint you for this work and begin the process of growth. A wonderful opportunity to hear God’s call, experience God’s anointing, and grow is through the Global Leadership Summit, August 8-9. Registration forms at the Connection Table or register online at www.bellefontefaith.com/gls.