Hope for the Underdog
David was only a young boy when he decided to go toe-to-toe with a Philistine giant. Everyone else was too afraid to fight because it seemed like more than they could overcome.
They were right. The only way this battle would be won was by trusting God to intervene. On his own, David was an underdog, but with God, he was an overcomer. There is no enemy you can face in this life that God cannot give you the victory over. But you must trust in Him.
When the Church comes together in great faith, there is nothing it cannot do. The Israelites were fearful until David stepped up in faith. Sometimes a community of believers needs someone to go first. That step of faith can ignite others to follow.
I want to talk about the hope that is given to us when we feel like we’re facing more than we can handle and we are the underdog.
There’s a reason that so many of us love some of the classic movies in our culture. Movies like Rudy, Rocky, Cinderella Man, and Cool Runnings are loved because they all have a common theme. They’re all movies about underdogs.
They are films about unlikely characters overcoming amazing odds. They’re all told in different ways and all have their own unique outcomes, but they all tell a story of hope.
Maybe these movies do something to us because we, at some level, all know what it feels like to face overwhelming circumstances that we can’t overcome on our own. We cheer for the underdog because, somehow, we feel like if they can win, so can we.
Life is full of daunting situations, isn’t it? Parenting children can feel incredibly overwhelming. Navigating global pandemics can be more than we can handle. Juggling careers and family can be hard to do well. Growing in your faith and defeating sinful habits can be a challenge. I would argue that’s because these things are not meant to be done alone.
The Bible is full of stories of characters who, against all odds, experience victory. There is a common thread in these stories as well. The characters are all fully aware that without God on their side, there is no hope of a favorable outcome.
Left to themselves, they would face defeat. One of the classic stories of an underdog is the story of David. This account takes place long before David is King of Israel. At this point, he’s just a young boy.
Just hours before David arrives at the front lines of a massive conflict between the Israelite and the Philistine armies, he’s in the fields taking care of sheep. It’s clear from the beginning of this story that David has found himself in a position that is above his pay-grade. The first readers of this text would have been overwhelmed by the change of scenery. From the fields to the fight. 1 Samuel 17:20-21
WE ARE RARELY PREPARED FOR THE FIGHT
The truth is that we are hardly ever prepared to handle what life throws at us. It’s a phone call with a diagnosis. It’s a discovery of infidelity. It’s a temptation we didn’t see coming. No one asks to be placed in a position where there is no clear route to victory.
This is where David finds himself within the first few verses, and it might be where you are today. When we find ourselves in this place, we need some kind of hope. It’s at this point in time when we have to decide how we will respond. Do we give up and accept defeat, or do we trust in God to give us the strength to carry on?
David arrives at the front lines to check on his brothers who are fighting in the Israelite army. It’s at that point that he gets the first real look at what the Israelite army was facing. 1 Samuel 17:23-26; 32-37
You can hear in this passage the determination within David. Though he is just a boy, he knows someone has to stand up to this threat. This threat is a massive man named Goliath. Goliath was a decorated warrior from Philistine. He struck fear into the hearts of all who saw him.
He was a giant. He was terrifying. The whole of the Israelite army was paralyzed with fear. No one was willing to take on this giant. However, someone had to do something, and David is willing to take that on.
What causes a young boy, an underdog, to take on such a mountainous task?
Hope that he will not fight this battle alone.
Hope that with God’s help there is nothing that is impossible.
Hope that what little he has to offer is enough.
David’s reasoning for this hope comes from God’s faithfulness in the past. God was with him when he was protecting sheep in the field from lions and bears, surely the Lord would protect him now as well.
IF GOD IS FOR US, NOTHING CAN STAND AGAINST US
When we find ourselves in seasons of struggle, sometimes we have to remind ourselves of how God has been with us in the past. Hope is a derivative of trust. When we believe that something or someone is trustworthy, it gives us hope.
It’s like a child who’s playing in the pool with his/her parent. They leap into the deep end of the pool, knowing full well that their parent will catch them… that their parent won’t let them sink. David’s confidence comes from God’s faithfulness, and it is the drive he needs to overcome.
Saul, the King of Israel at the time, tries to fit David with armor and weapons to protect him in the conflict, but none of them fit. As if David being a boy did not make him disadvantaged enough, now he is going to fight Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and five smooth stones. After Goliath breathes out threats to this little underdog, David responds by telling him that though Goliath fights with sword, spear, and javelin, he is letting God fight his battles for him. 1 Samuel 17:40-47
THIS IS HOW WE FIGHT OUR BATTLES
Maybe you don’t feel equipped to overcome the things that you’re facing. You’re in good company. Maybe you know that your trial is too much for you. This is a good place to start.
It’s only when we realize that our battles are not waged in conventional ways, but rather in the spirit, that we will begin to experience God fighting for us. For David, this is a spiritual battle, and it takes God’s involvement to experience a victory. Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 6:12.
Paul reminds his readers that if our battles are not really about the physical world around us, then we can’t overcome by physical means. It takes a spiritual approach. We fight our daunting battles by submitting to the will of God. We fight our most difficult circumstances by bring them to God in prayer.
We fight the evil that we come against by inviting God to intervene on our behalf. David calls upon God as he engages Goliath on the battlefield. With a single stone, a precise throw, and the power of God, David’s shot flies straight and true and connects with Goliath’s forehead. The giant falls to the ground, dead.
This single victory turns the tide of the entire war. The Philistines run, and the Israelites pursue.
Suddenly, the once frightened Israelite army is emboldened by a little boy and his sling. Because of David’s bravery and trust in God, they are all given hope that they too can be a part of the triumph of God. 1 Samuel 17:51-52
HOPE IS CONTAGIOUS
David’s hope in God spreads like wildfire. The entire story changes. The entire narrative takes a new tone. It’s no longer about defeat; it’s now about victory. There’s something that happens within a fellowship of faith when just one person has the audacity to believe God for great things. The church benefits greatly from just one person with a little hope, because hope is contagious. It spreads.
It begins with one person in the congregation who believes that God can use them to lift others out of poverty.
It starts with one person who wants to see children in the community impacted in the summer by a Vacation Bible School.
It takes one person with a heart for overseas missions.
It takes one person who believes that prayer changes things.
It could be the spark that ignites a whole congregation of hope.
That person could be you.
Ancient church father Thomas Aquinas said it this way, “Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not at hand.”
Even though you can’t see how God may work in your situation, faith is believing that it is still possible. When a whole church begins to function in this way, that is when the world changes.
Written by the Back to Church Sunday Campaign
Edited by Shauna Neville