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The Underdog

Ah, Cleveland. Defeat after defeat, they marched on, holding to the thinnest thread of hope. The city had endured 50+ years of no championships in any sport, no grand celebrations, just endless disappointments. Enter the Cleveland Cavaliers. They started this year’s NBA finals on a losing streak, down 3-1. No one had been down that far in the history of the game and then came back to win. No one, that is, until the underdog Cavs knocked at history’s door and walked right through. The Cleveland fans were stunned. They stood there in shock, unsure how to even celebrate because it had been so long since they could. The fans’ expressions of disbelief slowly gave way to smiles, and even silent tears. Finally, as the enormity of it all kicked in, there were the hugs, shouts and complete jubilation you would expect. They finally were able to understand what it felt like to be a champion.

I love those stories, the stories where victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat, where incredible odds have to be overcome and hope is hard to find, but somehow the story ends gloriously. I like it, that is, until it comes to my own life. The truth is I’d much rather have the easy win, the quick fix, and a path of victory marked out for me with bright, neon arrows guiding my way. I don’t want to have to struggle; I don’t want to have to hurt and mourn. I don’t want to have to sit on the bench, feeling the weight of my failures and burdens cloaked around my shoulders. I just want to wear the championship ring, hoist the trophy, and bask in the glow of victory.

Life, of course, rarely works that way. We all of us get knocked around, bloodied by the tragedies and hurts of life in a way that makes it hard to move forward. We force that smile, give that handshake, and say we’re fine, but in our hearts we wonder if we’ll ever recover. It’s in that moment of weariness and defeat Jesus steps into the arena, ready to do battle with the demons in our hearts and minds. He declares, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to declare the year of the Lord’s favor,” (Luke 4:18-19). When he delivered these words to the battle-weary crowd, their eyes were fastened on him as he added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” (v.20-21).

Jesus is the 4th quarter Quarterback, the creator of incredible comebacks when all hope seems lost. He has taught me how to shake that heavy cloak off my shoulders and to reach for something greater than myself, something infinitely better than a championship ring or a silver trophy: the peace and blessing of a transformed renewed life. He has taught me how to find deep joy and peace in the middle of life’s storms, to embrace beauty and love even in the face of malice and hatred. He has taught me that this world is not my home, but that he can achieve great things within my heart and mind if I follow his path as I pass through. He gives me those neon arrows to direct me toward victory after victory.

All it took was for me to realize the Master and Creator of the universe actually did have a plan for me, and to embrace the fact that he actually knew far better how to direct my life than I could. It took wrestling with him in order to give up my need for control. It took offering up my hurts and my sorrows, and my joys and victories up into his hands. It took me seeking him out with all my heart, knowing he promised me if I did just that, I would find him.

So what about you? Are you still sitting on the bench, wondering why life has left you in the dust? Are you searching for meaning in the piles of rubble that used to be your life? Look up, and see God’s hand reaching toward you. Grab a hold of it so he can pull you up and help you find purpose, peace and joy again. Then, like the Cav fans, you can experience your own very real, very special come-from-behind victory.

For Further Thought: Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Think of one way you can run toward Jesus this week, and then go do it!

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