The team that should never have won …
Leicester City won the league in England. Maybe you heard? If you are not aware of how big a deal this is then here are some headlines that were more likely than ‘Leicester win the 2016 premier league’:
Simon Cowell becomes the Prime Minister of the UK
Piers Morgan becomes the manager of Arsenal Football Club
Sir Alex Ferguson wins Strictly Come Dancing
The Queen is top of the charts at Christmas
The Loch Ness monster is found
Kim Kardashian is voted president of the US
Elvis Pressley found alive
Nick Grimshaw wins Olympic gold at Rio (which could technically still happen I guess)
So, even if you have no interest in football you get that this was a very unlikely, very big deal. They were truly the team that nobody thought could win. At the beginning of the season their manager, Claudio Ranieri, seemed bound to be fired. His team had been assembled using fringe players from other teams and leagues of less quality. The whole aim of Leicester was to survive, not sink into the also-rans, not descend into the ignominy of the lower leagues and be back in the fight all over again. They had no heroes, no hope of success in the view of even their most committed fans.
And then, they won.
Over the course of the season a team that looked destined for a poor season, dressing room strife and possibly relegation took on some of the biggest names in world football and won. And then they kept on winning. Everyone thought the bubble would burst eventually as Arsenal, Tottenham and others looked like recovering, but it never happened and they received their trophy in the end.
Times like these inspire us, events like this can make everyone sit up and spiritually we see examples of this all the time. The writer of Hebrews uses a number of examples in chapter 11 of people who should never have triumphed.
Noah lives in a world of unbelief and godlessness and yet he commits himself to the work of God and became ‘…the heir of righteousness…’.
Abraham moves to a place he does not know with his family to establish a nation that so far consists of just him and his wife who is past child bearing age. Moses, the disgraced son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a murderer, an outcast and getting on in years led the people out of Egypt, ‘…not fearing the king’s anger…’.
No chance. No hope. No way. Yet, they all triumphed. How? Hebrews tells us ‘by faith’, but how did this faith affect them so? The simple fact was that for them, when God said a thing, it was done, it was certain. When God said to Noah that a flood was coming and he was to build an ark, Noah built an ark because a flood was coming.
‘By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.’ (Hebrews 11:7)
When God said to Abraham that he would be the father of many, and Abraham trusted Him, for Abraham there was no question that he was to be the father of a nation, countless as the sand on the seashore.
‘For he was looking forward to the city without foundations, whose architect and builder is God… and so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore’ (Hebrews 11:10,12)
For Moses when God said that He would take the people out of Egypt, it was done and when God said He was the God of the Israelites, He was
‘By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.’ (Hebrews 11:27)
All of these people lived lives so convinced that God would come through that God was able to achieve amazing things in this world through them and they left us an example …
We started by discussing an underdog story and we have come full circle. The church was the ultimate underdog story. A ragtag group of men and women went out with a message of hope to the world. Their leader, as far as the world was concerned, was gone and would not return. They had no heroes, no wise men, no champions. They were blasphemers to their own families and a threat to the authorities.
Leaders of a new movement? No chance. People who would transform the world? No hope. Would they still be changing the world thousands of years later? No way.
And yet, they did, they have and they are.
Just like the men and women in Hebrews 11 this was only possible because they were convinced that when God said a thing, it was settled, He meant it and it was sure.
The church grew out of those who were not 'the best' as Paul says;
‘Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But, God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26b-29).
The biggest underdog story in the world is not a sports team or anything else this physical world has to offer. The biggest underdog triumph is that of the church.
Hebrews 11 shows us how God works. God uses those who are willing to serve Him, to love Him, to do His work in the world; those who live by faith.
By the world’s standards they were the least, the worst, the poorest, the people of no consequence. But, they would change the world, they would bring hope to it and at the end they would receive the crown of righteousness. For others it was ridiculous, but for them it was certain. Their God had promised.
When we have faith, let us not have faith in ourselves that we can do it, the job is too big for us; but faith in God that He will do as He has promised. He will build His church. And in the end, He will take us home.