Why we love the underdog

I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. And I’m a Tennessee Titans Fan. And I root for the UT Vols. Which means I’m always a fan of the underdog.

My team tends to be the one that Vegas says, “Bet against.”

As a Reds fan, I grew up in “The Nasty Boys” era: Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, and Rob Dibble, the three-headed closing pitching monster that did the heavy lifting in the late innings for the Reds in the late 80s/early 90s. Throw in a little offensive power like Erik Davis, Chris Sabo, and Paul O’Neill, and you’ve got a lovable losers team worth rooting for.

Even with all of that, they were the underdog in the 1990 World Series against the A’s. Which made their sweep of the A’s even that much sweeter.

I love rooting for the underdog. The guys that everybody counts on losing. The guys that are counted out before the game begins. The team that nobody gives a chance.

And don’t we all love rooting for the underdog? It’s no secret that our culture loves movies like Remember the Titans, The Bad News Bears, and Rudy. We love shows like The Biggest Loser. Because there’s a part of us that wants the “unlovable” guy to win. That wants the big bully to lose.

But why do we really love the underdog so much?

Because we are the underdog.

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image credit: abcnews.com

In life, we feel like we’re the guy at the bottom.

We are the underdog

  • We were the one who was picked on at school.
  • We were the one who picked on others because we were insecure in ourselves.
  • We were the one whose marriage was doomed to fail.
  • We weren’t the one “most likely to succeed.”
  • We were the ones that nobody thought would be a good parent.
  • We were the ones that almost failed out of shop class.
  • We were the ones that never could get the girl.
  • We were the ones that were made fun of.
  • We were the nerds.
  • The goof-ups.
  • The forgetful.
  • The lazy.
  • The cheap.
  • The funny-looking.
  • The ugly one.
  • The one with the broken family.
  • The one with the addiction.
  • The one that was slow.
  • The overweight one.
  • The one with the lisp.
  • The dumb one.
  • The one who couldn’t dance.
We’re not any different spiritually, either.

Spiritual underdogs

Spiritually speaking, we’re the underdog, too. The Bible says that we are

  • dead (Romans 5:12, 19)
  • disobedient (Romans 11:32)
  • dumb sheep (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Like a thorn (Micah 7:2-4)
  • worthless (Romans 3:10)
  • Not good (Luke 18:19)
  • Evil (Ecclesiastes 9:3)
  • dumb (Jeremiah 10:14)
  • unable to save ourselves (Colossians 2:13)
The Bible paints a picture of us not of ones who are on top of the heap, righteously fighting for the good of our souls. We’re made out exactly the opposite. And if we’re honest with ourselves, doesn’t life feel like this? As much as we try, we feel further from God. As hard as we work, life still doesn’t make sense. As much as we want to do the right thing, we stumble into the wrong thing. We’ve never drifted into doing the right thing. We continuously drift into that thing that we don’t want to do. (Romans 7:19)
The Bible doesn’t paint a picture of us that we haven’t seen before. We look at it in the mirror each and every day.
We love to root for the underdog because we are the underdog.
Which makes the grace of God that much more beautiful.

I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:18-24

It’s time we embrace our weaknesses. And turn back to the God who saves the weak, the dead, the dumb, the blind, the maimed, the bleeding, the wicked, and the wanderers. And find He’s running towards us with open arms.

 

 

If you’re stuck…

Whether you’re a dad, a store manager, a pastor, a small group leader, or a leader of any kind, if you’re stuck right now, my guess is that you’re asking the wrong questions.

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image credit: CreationSwap user Boaz Crawford

If you want to get stuck in a rut with no sight of the sun, just keep asking the same questions over and over again. If you want to move forward, start asking different questions.

Instead of “who needs to be blamed here?” ask, “What can I do about it?”

Instead of “what can I do about it?” ask, “why?”

Instead of “why,” ask “why not?”

Instead of “why not,” ask, “Do I believe God can?” (Matthew 9:28)

Instead of asking whether you believe God can, ask “when?”

Instead of “when,” ask “now”?

Instead of “now,” ask “why am I scared”? (Matthew 8:26)

Instead of asking why you’re scared, ask, “Me?” (Isaiah 6:8)

Instead of “Me”, ask “who else”?

Instead of “who else,” ask “who can I serve?”

Instead of asking who you can serve, ask, “What needs to be tweaked?”

Instead of asking what needs to be tweaked, ask, “What needs to be done away with?

Instead of asking what needs to be done away with, ask “What if we had no resources?”

Instead of asking what you’d do if you had no resources, ask, “Am I being faithful with the little things in front of me?” (Luke 16:10)

Instead of asking if you’re being faithful, ask, “What would happen if we compiled every resource available to pull this off?”

Instead of that, ask, “Is this important enough to put significant financial, emotional, spiritual, and physical resources into?”

If it’s not, then stop what you’re doing. You’re asking the wrong question completely. Here’s where you need to start:

“What should I spend my life doing?”

You have a tweak on a traditional question we should be chewing on?

 

 

Accountability

If you want accountability in your life, you’ve got to take responsibility.

image by Cassandra Security

Nobody will do that for you.  Others can pour into you, teach you, model for you, and share resources with you.  But if you want accountability, you’ve got to take that responsibility on yourself.  I’ve asked people to help me with certain aspects of my spiritual life.  Sometimes it’s “worked.”  Many times, it hasn’t.  But I’ve learned some principles along the way that have helped ensure success.

8 principles in seeking spiritual accountability

1. Ask for it.

If you don’t ask, nobody will respond.  You need these deep relationships that help you with your personal spiritual growth.

2. Help define what it needs to look like.

Don’t just assume that if you ask someone, they’ll instantly know what accountability needs to look like for you.  You have to help set the paramaters.  How often?  What will you talk about?  What questions should they ask you?

3. Be vulnerable and share your story.

Otherwise, how can someone else help?  If they don’t know who you are, where you’ve been, and the weak spots in your life, they’ll have no idea how to help you grow.

4. Take a risk.

You’ll never know if the person on the other end, that you’re asking to step into that relationship with you, is 100% trustworthy.  This is  a step of faith, not a step of pre-knowledge.

5. Remember that accountability is a two-way street.

This isn’t a cure-all solution.  You’ve got to be doing the difficult task of working on yourself and your own shortcomings.  Having someone “hold you accountable” doesn’t assure you’re accountable.  You’ve got to continue to actively pursue that relationship, and be open and honest with where you are at all along the way.

6. Give the other person the room to say, “No.”

This is a big responsibility that you’re asking someone to.  Give them the freedom to say that this is not the right season for them.  Forced accountability rarely works.  Both parties have to be willing to step in and do the hard work.

7. You have to continue to drive the relationship.

Don’t expect that you can ask once, share your story, and the other person will then magically follow up with you exactly when you need it.  You’re the one asking for accountability.  You need to be the one driving this relationship.

8. Ask for grace.

Since accountability isn’t a cure-all, there’s a good chance you’ll mess up again.  In a big way.  And this is where many “accountability partners” fall apart.  If you’ve messed up, you think, “I can’t possibly be honest about this with him now.”  And he’ll think, “I guess I’ve failed at holding him accountable.”  What needs to happen is what happened in the beginning: grace.  Set out from the beginning this idea that if failure happens, grace is the knee-jerk response.

You need someone to spur you on. (Hebrews 10:24) You’re too weak on your own to fight sin, insecurities, and the battles that rage against you doing what God’s calling you to do.  You need someone who’s got your back.  You need someone who is going to encourage you on the good days and the bad.  You need a warrior who won’t give up on you, who knows where you’re headed, and is willing to walk through the dark and the light to help you get there.

So encourage each other and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Do you have someone who’s intentionally encouraging you and helping hold you accountable?

Have you seen this kind of relationship misused?  Where one (or both) parties expected too much?

 

Play the back 9

You may have seen this, but let me fill you in.

Kevin Na, 27 year old PGA Tour golfer from South Korea, turned pro at age 17.  He skipped his senior year of high school.  He’s no slouch of a golfer.

He was playing in the PGA Tour’s stop in San Antonio, the Valero Texas Open.  During round 1, on the 9th hole, Na had…um…one of those holes.  If you’re a golfer, you know what I mean.  It’s one of those holes where nothing goes right, and you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing.  You begin to wonder why you’re even playing golf, and if in fact you have ever played before.

After going right, into the trees, off of the tee, re-teeing, going right again, and proceeding the knock it around in the woods for a while, Na finally sunk a 6-footer for a cool 16.  He set the record for the most strokes in a PGA tour event on a par-4.

Here’s his meltdown.


But here’s the rest of the story. Na turned and played the back nine at -3.  He didn’t give up, even after an epic meltdown!  Here’s what he said in an interview:

“I was pretty proud of the way I handled the situation.  And after that, I shot -3 on the back nine.”

That takes some courage, doesn’t it?  Likely many people would’ve just walked off of the course and quit the tournament.  They would’ve packed up their bag and been done for the day.  But not Na.  He knew he still had work to do.

Maybe you’ve felt like Na.

You’ve had an epic meltdown.  You’ve failed your work, your church, your home, your family.  And it feels like it’s time to hang it up.  Call it quits.  Give up on any significant dreams or goals.  And just give in to a life of insignificance.

But thankfully, God’s in the business of restoration.  And He loves to redeem His people.  He’s done it throughout history.  And He can do it again in your life.

Na may have still missed the cut.  But he didn’t quit.

You may have lost your job, your career, and some significant relationships in your failure.  You may feel like there’s nowhere to go from here.

But don’t quit.  If you’re still alive, God has plans for you on this Earth.

Take a step of faith in the right direction.

Thankfully, God hasn’t quit on you.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. – God (Hebrews 13:5)

Love is patient and kind; love never gives up. (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)

 

You probably wouldn’t like my small group

If you’re looking for a small group, you probably wouldn’t like mine.

Why you won’t like my small group

  • Nobody’s perfect. Our group is rather messy…in fact, much messier than I ever thought it would be.  If your life is clean and put together, and messiness frustrates you, you’ll hate our group.
  • We celebrate small steps, not just the ‘huge’ ones. And small steps may seem insignificant to you, so if you’re not willing to get excited over a step towards Jesus (no matter how seemingly insignificant), you’ll not feel at home with us.
  • There’s no teacher. Just a facilitator.  And the facilitator doesn’t have all of the answers, so if it’s merely answers you’re looking for, mosey on.
  • We talk about challenging stuff. And I don’t mean that we debate obscure theological dogma.  I mean that we work to apply the Scriptures to our lives.  If you love a great, obscure theological debate, you may not enjoy our group.
  • We expect full participation. Nobody in our group is lazy.  In one way or another, every member participates, and is vital to the success of the group as a whole.  If you want to be a lazy sponge, don’t join us.
  • We know each other’s stories. No hiding in our group.  Our group kicked off its first month by encouraging everybody in the group to share their faith story.  Comfortable?  Nope.  This group’s not for you.
  • We’re transparent. Mere platitudes aren’t acceptable.  If all of your answers start with, “Someone once said…” instead of, “I am dealing with…” then you’ll never be comfortable in our small group.
  • We’re diverse. If you’re looking for people that are just like you, who look, smell, act, read the same books, live on the same side of town, have the same number of kids…keep moving.  You’re not going to find that here.
  • Our group is going to end soon, and I’m going to ask each group member to take a step of faith and lead a new group…each one of them. No moss will be gathering with us.  If you like moss, find another group.
  • We serve together. Don’t want to serve?  That’s fine.  Just don’t get frustrated with us when we ask you to join us in making a difference in our community.
  • We have fun. Every week.  We laugh so hard that we snort.  We play games, share stories, and study the Bible…all while having fun.  I wrote more extensively about the importance of having fun in small groups HERE.  If you don’t like having fun, you’re an old codger.  And old codgers don’t last long in our group.

Based on the reasons above, would you want to join my small group?

 

You’ve got a smell…

…and you probably don’t even know it.

Your house smells a certain way.  So do your clothes.  Your car.  Your dog.  And your shoes.

But you’ve gotten used to it.

And you have no idea whether that smell is sweet or sour.

Over time, our sense of smell dulls when we enter our own home because it becomes “normal.”  Routine.  Habitual.

Which can be incredibly dangerous.

Whether it’s a good smell or a bad smell is irrelevant.  It’s our smell, so we don’t notice it.

And it’s the same way in our spiritual lives.

We get into routines, we find our niche, and we get comfortable.  And growing comfort lends itself to a lack of introspection.  And a growing sense that “normal” is good, whether it is or not.

Why not invite someone you trust to help you see (and smell) where things aren’t lining up?  Because other people see things you don’t.

Is there someone you can ask to come alongside you in 2011?