David against Goliath. Frodo Versus the dark lord Sauron. The Tortoise and the Hare. People love the underdog stories, but nobody wants to be the underdog. Why is it that people are fascinated by characters and stories that overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, but when faced with daily challenges, that seem insurmountable, the human instinct is to escape not to overcome?
“Everyone wants to live in the happily ever after, but we tend not to want to go through the process to get there.”
Storytelling has been refined in several mediums today, but at its core, good stories, that is to say captivating and entertaining stories, follow a pattern. Literary geniuses have ascribed terms to refer to these patterns with terms like “The Hero’s Journey” wherein underdogs become heroes. No matter how you break it down, stories have a before, an after and a conflict in between. If only life could be so neatly wrapped up like the ending of a good book, so someone could say “they lived happily ever after”, but it just isn’t the case while we live and when we die, as all men do, people continue on. Everyone wants to live in the happily ever after, but we tend not to want to go through the process to get there.
This is part of what makes a hero is it not? The willingness to leave their ordinary world, go through the testing and conflict to achieve the reward and return to the world to improve it. At some point people have to decide to do something about an issue to overcome and change their world. Yet as humans our tendency is to shy away from this process of an ordeal and hope that someone else can do the job for us. “We need a hero!” we cry. The truth is Sometimes we need a hero and sometimes we should be the hero.
For example, in the case of the problem of sin – everyone stands condemned under sin for all have sinned (Rom 3:23-24) and are in need of a saviour found in Jesus Christ. It is the ultimate underdog story of one man against the giant problem of sin and death. Spoiler alert, he wins. Now if you follow Christ, then you are living in Act 3 of the hero’s journey because Christ has redeemed you and changed your ordinary world, thus you are empowered by that change to live differently and to help others live differently too. We don’t have to live in act 1 of the story of sin and redemption, it’s done. There are other trials of life within which Christ now expects us to step up to the plate. So when is it our responsibility to get up and take on the trials of life?
- Start by asking yourself, “what is within my power?” Solomon tells us in Prov 3:27 “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.” (NLT). This could mean financial assistance. It could mean your position in your workplace or social status. Maybe you have material possessions that others need. What is within your power to change someone’s life, including your own?
- Learn how to do good. Is 1:17; “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (ESV). There is no shortage of good causes, and doing something good isn’t just by virtue of what it is, but how it’s done. Get practical, how can I uphold justice in my life and for others? By being just, and fair – which is not equality, but equally just for all.
- Do it. Don’t let inaction creep into your life under the guise of “it’s not my business”. Samuel says to Saul and the Israelites in his farewell address in 1 Sam 12:23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” The Israelites have made a huge mistake, Samuel is being removed from the leadership of the Israelite people in favour of a king. This act defies God, and sets up the nation for death, corruption and tyrants who will exact great evils on the people. Samuel knows this. but even so, he doesn’t walk away and wash his hands of the issue but commits instead to continue his supplication before God. He could have said it was none of his business, but he didn’t.
“The truth is Sometimes we need a hero and Sometimes should be the hero.”
Although life’s troubles can be pretty daunting, disease and disaster threaten to overcome us, God has given us a powerful example in the underdog story of Jesus Christ. The change that He brought about in our world should equip those who follow to be able to change someone elses; albeit to a lesser extent. There’s no sidelines in the kingdom of God from which to watch, we’re all called to fight the good fight.