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TONY ELDER: We accomplish great things only through the power of God

The Olympics often bring with them a number of interesting stories. There are the heartwarming ones having to do with close family relationships. There are the inspirational accounts of athletes who have overcome tremendous obstacles to reach their goals.

The games themselves often write another chapter in the script of many of those stories. High-profile competitors at the top of their respective sports come to the Olympics with high hopes. Some complete their journey as expected with dominating, gold-medal performances, while others falter and suffer the heartbreak of disappointment.

In most Olympics, there is often another kind of story that emerges — the ones about the underdogs. Inevitably there are at least a few cases in which little-known athletes or unheralded teams unexpectedly turn in the performance of a lifetime, resulting in their receiving one of those coveted medals. I’ll confess that those tend to be some of my favorite Olympic outcomes — I like to pull for the underdog.

As followers of Christ, we will often find ourselves viewed as the underdogs by many in this world. In other words, we won’t be looked upon as being the smartest or the strongest or most successful. We won’t be voted the most likely to succeed in this world. We won’t enjoy much respect at times. The world doesn’t expect us to win.

But such a view shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus faced similar circumstances. Isaiah prophesied of Christ: “And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men… He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:2-3). As a humiliated and suffering Jesus went to the Cross, many looked at Him as being a failure and loser.

Jesus warned His disciples that they would be treated the same way. The Apostle Paul also observed “that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world… and God has chosen the weak things of the world… and the things which are despised God has chosen” (I Corinthians 1:26-28).

God likes to use those whom the world considers underdogs. Why? So that we won’t be able to claim any glory for ourselves, but rather give it all to the Lord. We recognize that He’s the One who deserves the gold medal for anything we accomplish.

There’s a TV commercial currently playing which incorporates the catchy tune from the old cartoon show, “Underdog”, as it advertises running shoes. Part of that song refers to “speed of lightning, roar of thunder.” It reminds me of the picture the Bible gives us of God’s awesome glory and presence. It’s often described in such terms as thunder and lightning.

It should remind us that whatever good we accomplish as Christ’s followers and as underdogs, it’s not due to our own power and strength. It’s only because of the presence and power of God in our lives. The thunder and lightning comes from the Holy Spirit living in us and working through us.

Although Jesus was seen as an underdog, He rose victoriously from the grave. One day He’ll return to this earth in all His glory as King and Judge. And while this world may not think very highly of us at times, we are more than conquerors through Christ. God uses the foolish, the weak, and the despised to accomplish His will in the world.

The world may view you as an underdog, but if you’re faithfully following the Lord, always remember that you’re a winner.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at revtelder@aol.com.