The Underdog

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

I spent last weekend the way I suspect many of you did, watching basketball. A special treat this year was getting to watch round one from Keybank Center with some friends. Now, it’s not that I needed the reminder, but I walked away from the four games of basketball again realizing just how much we all love an underdog.

As Princeton (12 seed) hung with Notre Dame (5 seed) until the bitter end, the crowd grew more and more pumped up at the prospect of ND falling to a much higher seed (full disclosure: not this guy). As the Bucknell Bison (13 seed) kept things close with West Virginia (4 seed) for 40 minutes of basketball, the “herd” grew louder. Even Mount St. Mary’s (16 seed) had us all believing in miracles for at least one half of basketball.

Who doesn’t love a true underdog story? As I reflected on the prospects of an upset, I started thinking again about one of the greatest upsets of all time: David and Goliath. If you haven’t read that story since Sunday School, go back and read it again (1 Samuel 17). I guarantee some different things are going to stand out this time around. At least that was true for me, and one of those things was maybe it wasn’t as big of an upset as I used to think.

The story starts with a Philistine army assembled for battle. Rather than see unnecessary blood shed, the Philistines try a different approach. They select their greatest warrior (Goliath), and put him forward to battle any one individual the Israelites choose. I’ll spare you the details, but Goliath is described as one of the most intimidating warriors you can imagine. No one wants to fight him. In fact, many of the Israelites fled.

But, David happened to be on the battlefield that day too. Why? You might ask. Because he was bringing his brothers their lunch. That’s right. He was a boy running an errand. But when he heard the Philistine barking and saw the Israelites cowering in fear, David was moved to action. With Saul’s permission he engaged the giant in battle. At first he tried wearing armor, but it was too big and too heavy for his meager frame. Instead he chose his shepherding garb and his sling shot. And it was enough. Before the big fella could strike a blow, David sunk a stone into his forehead then used the Philistine’s own sword to remove his head (that’s the part they leave out in Sunday School).

When the Philistines saw what happened, they fled. And for many thousands of years this story has been told as one of the greatest upsets in history—salvation history, anyway. But, as I said before, after reading it again as an adult I was struck by one simple reality. While this might seem like an upset to us, to David he always had the upper hand. In David’s mind, Goliath winning would have been the shocker. David laughed at Goliath for going into battle with “sticks” as if he were fighting a dog (1 Sam. 17:43). David told King Saul that after fighting off lions and bears, defeating Goliath would be a walk in the park (1 Sam. 17:37). David always knew he was going to win. David always knew he wasn’t the underdog. He was the odds on favorite.

And the reason for that, of course, was that David was armed with a greater weapon than sword or stone. David was protected by better armor than the heavy chain metal that weighed him down. And David fought in a name far greater than the Philistines, or even King Saul for that matter. David went with God.

And with God, there is no enemy too great, no opponent too large, no obstacle too big, and no problem too menacing. All things are possible. God always wins.

Underdogs stories are awesome in March Madness, but as you tackle life remember that the odds makers in Vegas cannot stop you from anything God has called you to. Whether your giant comes in form of a job that seems impossible to get, love that seems impossible to find, disease that seems impossible to beat, or any other longing that seems impossible to achieve, trust in God and tackle your giant with the confidence of David.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.