Much of the time when I’m watching a football game in which I have no real interest in either team (Yes, guys do that), I’ll root for the team considered the underdog. We love it when the little guy comes through. We love to see Rocky get up time and time again when fighting the behemoth Russian boxer. We love the three-point shot at the buzzer. We love it when the nerd gets the girl instead of the jock. And we love it when the Average Joe’s beats Globo Gym.
In life we have an expectation of how things are supposed to work. The bigger, faster, stronger, more experienced team is supposed to win. The Russians we supposed to win gold at the 1980 Olympics, not the Americans. But what is it like to be the bigger, faster, stronger, harder working, more devoted team that gets creamed by the rag-tag group?
What’s it like to put in all the hard work and creativity at your job only to be passed up for a promotion? What’s it like to do all the homework, all the study, all the research, only to have someone else named valedictorian who took all the lower level classes?
It makes us want to throw our hands up and shout, “What’s the point of it all?!”
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
Look at that description. Don’t we all want our kids to be athletic, strong, wise, brilliant, and learned? Those are all great goals, I think. But what happens when we pressure our kids in sports so much that they just get burnt out? What happens when our strength defines us only to have it ripped away in a car accident? What happens when our brilliant investments turn out to be a pyramid scheme? What happens when a split-second decision ruins our life-long reputation?
Things don’t always work out the way we expect. Time and chance happen to everyone. Notice, he doesn’t blame God, and neither should we. Fact is we live in a broken world. Everything is susceptible to corruption and decay. The favorite will not always win – sometimes the underdog wins. Sometimes we’re David, sometimes we’re Goliath.
This verse in Ecclesiastes sounds very similar to another familiar passage in Scripture:
Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:20-26)
The kingdom of heaven belongs to the underdogs. The jocks have no advantage when it comes to the kingdom. The wealthy, the well fed, the wise, those with good reputation – the Goliaths need Jesus just as much as everyone else. It doesn’t matter if you seem blessed or successful by the world’s standards. God loves a good underdog story. Don’t believe me? Read the story of Gideon – of David – of Peter.
If you lost everything tomorrow, all the stuff that so easily defines us, would you still have enough? How good are you at losing? Would losing it all just completely decimate you? Or is your identity, your life, your very self in Christ enough?
I think it’s time we practice the art of losing.