By Southeastern University Online, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever wondered how God uses the weak to accomplish His will?
Discovering that He truly does this is simple. All you have to do is open your Bible.
The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, indulged in temptation that led to the fall of man (Genesis 3). Noah got drunk (Genesis 9:20-21). One of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, Elijah, was suicidal (1 Kings 19:4-8). Even Jesus' disciples were not immune to weakness. Not only did Peter deny Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62), but he, along with James and John, couldn't stay awake multiple times while praying in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42).
The list goes on. Scripture is full of people who displayed weakness. It’s encouraging to see how God uses the weak to demonstrate His glory, to offer redemption and grace, and to show humanity the truth in Him. The following biblical underdogs highlight how, with God’s help, weak people can do great things.
3 Examples of Biblical Underdogs
Here are some of the most instructive biblical underdogs. You can study their lives and weaknesses to better understand where true strength lies:
Gideon is first introduced in Scripture as hiding from the Midianites in a wine press (Judges 6:11). That’s not his only display of weakness, however.
Not fully believing that he would save Israel, Gideon immediately asked God for a sign that what he was witnessing was Him. God was patient and granted that to Gideon, who led 10 men to take down Baal’s altar (Judges 6:14-28). Then Gideon did it again; he asked for another sign, this time in the form of the wet and dry fleece. God once again answered Gideon’s request (Judges 6:36-40).
The rest of the Gideon’s biblical account demonstrates his bravery and righteousness. He took an army of 300 valiant men to subdue and eventually overthrow Israel’s foes. Once he saved Israel from the Midianites, as God told him initially, the people of Israel wanted Gideon to be king.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.’ But Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.’
Judges 8:22-23 NKJV
Gideon insisted that God should be the sole king in Israel, and that resulted in 40 years of no foreign nation oppressing Israel (Judges 8:28). Once a frightened warrior hiding in a winepress, God called Gideon to overcome fear and a lack of faith to be a faithful, mighty commander. Fittingly, Gideon is included as one of several “heroes of faith” mentioned in Hebrews 11:32-34.
God appeared to Moses as a burning bush and identified Himself. Next, God told Moses that he would lead His people out of Egypt to the Promised Land (Exodus 3:1-10). However, Moses, multiple times, responded with uncertainty about his calling.
- Moses immediately asked: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).
- After God answered Moses, Moses further hesitated to obey the call (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1). God answered each of Moses’ questions.
- "Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,’” admitting to a speech difficulty as well as more serious doubts about his calling. “So the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say’” (Exodus 4:10-12).
- Moses still didn’t accept God’s response. “But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.’” God was angry with Moses, but granted him a speaker in Moses’ brother, Aaron (Exodus 4:13-14).
Although Moses was by no means perfect, the rest of his actions illustrate his faithfulness and powerful leadership. Moses faced Pharaoh, led the Exodus, parted the Red Sea, and brought the people to Mount Sinai where the Old Covenant was established. He even gave sermon-like speeches, such as his exposition on the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. After Moses dies, the Book of Deuteronomy closes with recognition of the prophet’s leadership.
But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse to anoint a new king. Once Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse's oldest son, Samuel thought he had found him. However, God had someone else in mind...
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
So Samuel continued with seven of Jesse’s sons. "And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Are all the young men here?' Then he said, 'There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep'" (1 Samuel 16:11). That was David, who was likely a teenager at the time. He was the least likely to be chosen, but God told Samuel that David was the one.
David rose to his first challenge as anointed king during a battle with the Philistines. Despite the Israelites' fear of Goliath, David defeated the giant warrior. It’s one of the most famous events in all Scripture and one of the best Bible stories for kids. “David and Goliath” has even become synonymous with underdog situations of many kinds.
David successfully evaded Saul's attempts to kill him and showed mercy to the current king (1 Samuel 24:5-7). Once he became king, David was a powerful military commander and soldier, and he "administered judgment and justice to all his people" (1 Chronicles 18:14). David penned approximately half of all the psalms. In Psalm 28, he acknowledged where true strength lies.
Blessed be the LORD,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
Discovering True Strength
The biblical underdogs illustrate where to find true strength. It’s only possible by relying on and cultivating a relationship with God.
Trying to be strong on your own is a recipe for failure. Whenever you meet difficult times or seasons of life, you must call on God, who is always there for you. By embracing prayer for strength, you can learn to be in constant communication with Him. He will provide you with all the strength you need.
Prayer is one of the most important things you can do to become closer to God. It helps you become more like the One in whose image you were made (Genesis 1:27; Colossians 3:10). By embracing prayer, you can receive whatever you need, whether it's strength, wisdom, patience, or an answer to a difficult decision.
Prayer is also important when responding to the calling of God to vocational ministry. Perhaps you can serve God by helping people come closer to Him in various leadership and support roles at churches and other faith-based organizations. If so, consider an online B.S. in Ministerial Leadership to develop the skills and knowledge needed to serve God in this way. If you’re already serving, an online M.A. in Ministerial Leadership can help you expand your ministry and effectiveness.
Southeastern University’s programs take place in a fully online format. SEU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.