Rooting for the Underdog!
Carrie and I enjoyed watching our youngest son, Tobie, compete at the NCAA Division II National Diving Championships last week in Indianapolis. He did very well, placing 12th in the 3 Meter Board and 16th in the 1 Meter Board competitions and being named an All-American in both boards. We are very proud! However, despite how well he did, it became clear to us, that, as a freshman, competing against mostly seniors, Tobie was the underdog in the competition. Of course, Carrie and I, but others as well, couldn't help but cheer for Tobie. That's the thing about underdogs, isn't it? We love to cheer for them. Especially when they're our own child :)
Another NCAA national championship tournament is currently underway! The National College Basketball tournament, also known as "March Madness." My family and I, for years, have filled out our brackets for the tournament, in hopes that our individual selections might combine to be the winning bracket (go Kansas!). We even have a family trophy that Caleb made as a child, that still gets passed to the winner every year! My strategy is always to cheer for, and select, at least one or two of the underdogs - or Cinderella teams - they are often referred to as. In the same way, the whole nation seems to rally around and enjoy cheering for the underdog when they do well during March Madness.
There is often no reasonable explanation as to why an underdog performs so well and maybe even upsets a top seeded team, other than the team's single-minded determination and belief that they can win under any circumstance and against any team - so much so, that we tend to believe them, too!
Similarly, in life, most of us desperately want to believe that if we just work hard enough, if we just keep our eye on the prize and stay focused, we, too, can upset even the toughest of competitors, and be winners in whatever it is we choose to compete in.
Maybe that’s why grace is so hard for us to understand – and believe. Because grace says this has nothing to do with our determination or hard work or single-mindedness – it only has to do with the single-mindedness of God, who was willing to empty Himself, take the form of a slave, be born into human likeness and humble himself in obedience to a cross, which he didn’t deserve. Grace says we cannot earn our salvation on our own, but owe it all to the single-mindedness of the God who says, “It’s already been done.”
Good thing, too. Because no matter how talented and determined a top seeded college basketball team might be, or even a top ranked college diver, sometimes they lose or do not perform well. As is the case for all of us, at times. But we can trust in the grace and love of a God that never fails, never loses, and always performs at its best. And that’s something we can all rally around and cheer for!
See you in Church! (and bring a friend!)
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Pastor Dale Stiles
A Weekly Check-In