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3 Biblical Underdog Victories

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

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Jacob vs. God (Genesis 32:24 – 30)

This is the battle that gives rise to the name Israel. Jacob had built his reputation as a cheat, long ago among his people and now in the eyes of Laban & his sons (although this time around, it wasn’t because he had done anything particularly wrong). So, as God instructs, Jacob flees with all that he has back to his father’s land Canaan.

The journey is remarkable enough given a strange encounter with his father-in-law from whom he fled (Genesis 31) and, in Genesis 32, he encounters angels. His brother also hears of his imminent return and then charges towards him with an army of 400. Somehow amid all the chaos that ensues, he is left alone at night and meets a man with whom he starts to wrestle until daybreak. When the man sees it is daybreak, he touches Jacob’s thigh and dislocates the joint. Yet, Jacob who is beaten and broken refuses to let the man go until he is blessed. Eventually the man blesses him and changes his name from Jacob to Israel. At this point Jacob realizes he had been dueling God.

This battle is most fascinating because Man (Jacob) wrestled God (who ‘cheats’, as if being God isn’t strong enough) and won. Jacob most likely didn’t win the physical fight as we learn that his body was broken. Jacob’s victory is in achieving is goal in the face of what seemed like defeat.

What do we learn from this? Know exactly what you are fighting for and do not stop till you get it. Jacob understood what he was fighting for, he was not in the duel to win a physical fight, he just needed the opponent to bless him. In the end he got what he wanted. Don’t let defeat in areas that don’t matter distract you from focusing on areas that do matter to you.

David vs. Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

Goliath was an experienced warrior: he was 9 foot 9 inches tall, his coat weighed 57kg and he intimidated an entire army. David was a delivery boy with experience as a shepherd and equipped with nothing more than a sling and few smooth stones – oh, he had also confronted and killed a lion & a bear.

The story is famous as David nailed the philistine with his first stone and cut off his head.

Of course, God was with David, but what wisdom was he granted that we can learn from in this encounter?

Appreciate the little victories: David constantly reminded himself and anyone who doubted him that he had experience killing a bear and a lion. These weren’t 10-foot warriors with a spear, but they were relevant for 2 reasons: first they created a basis on which he would be given an opportunity. Also, they served as combat practice, how else would a shepherd have gotten into a fight. The moral of the story: do not run when challenges come through in your everyday life – they are CV builders, potential door openers to opportunities for greater things. Volunteer, participate and contribute to causes that are close to you today. Help solve a problem, no matter how little.

When you get these little victories, don’t ignore them. Use them to inspire you to greater achievements, let those little victories inspire you to greater things. For example, most of my academic/non-academic achievements have been inspired by a little victory in the form of a third term SS1 biology exam. In first and second terms, I had scored a combined 75 points (out of 200 possible). I got 20 out of 40 in continuous assessment and therefore needed to score at least a 55 in my final exam out of a possible 60 marks to get a total of 150 marks required to pass a ‘must pass' subject. This is the first time I clearly remember studying hard. In the end, I scored 57 just enough to make sure I didn’t repeat SS1. I still remind myself of this victory, I tell myself, if you did that you can do anything – this thought often propels me still

Finally, with respect to victories (great or small), don’t rest on past victories, there’s always a greater victory possible. Keep climbing

Staying true to yourself: vs. 39 shows that David refused to go into battle with an armor or another man’s sword because “He had not proved it”. The way I see it, the battles/situations you face in life are tailored to you and your skillset, adopting the skills of someone else won’t give you victory in your own battles. Your point of view, your experience, your proficiency matter. You being You matters. You can’t win your battle being someone else. Learn from the experience of others but don’t let this define you. You, walk your path.

Proverbs 18:16 A man's gift makes room for him, and bringeth him before great men.

Gideon and His 300 vs. the Midianite & Amalekite Army (Judges 6 & 7)

Somehow, the children of Israel had worked their way back into oppression, this time under the Midianites and Amalekites. However, God seeks out Gideon to lead the liberation charge. After he upsets the oppressors by breaking the alters to their idols, the Midianites and Amalekites (too many to count says the book of judges) gather to wage war against Israel.

At first Gideon unites Israel and organizes thirty-two thousand men to fight. Things get really strange from there God takes over from there: already outnumbered, God asks Gideon to ask those scared to go home and ten thousand leave camp. God still insists twenty-two thousand men are to many, so he takes the men to a stream and asks them to drink freely. This turns out to be a trick as God asks Gideon to eliminate anyone who isn’t drinking conservatively. 300 men left to fight an innumerable army.

At the end of the day, God wins the battle by weakening the Midianites and Amalek mentally first. Then Gideon strategically positions his few men and equips them in such a way that amplifies the efforts of those left fighting.

What are the lessons to take away from this? Strategy trumps energy. A battle/circumstance has many facets mental, financial, physical. Whatever circumstance you find yourself, find out which tools are most relevant. Don’t fight a battle of wisdom with a thousand men. The same way Gideon did not need thirty-two thousand men to fight, you may not need the resources you think you need to overcome your present circumstance.

And even when you don’t know what will work, learn to trust God. Gideon’s story shows why it is important to be on God’s side. He knows the end from the beginning, He knows just what you need to win.

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