the shape of leadership

Achieving Victory as the Underdog

When God leads, you can follow with confidence

Nichole Schreiber on August 8, 2018

In 1980, the Soviet Union’s Olympic ice hockey team was a group of professional players labeled as amateurs. Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic team members were unpaid college kids. They had less experience and a small chance of victory. To everyone’s surprise, the inspired U.S. team trained, worked hard and ended up beating the Soviets 4-3. One of the biggest upsets in sports history, people called it the Miracle on Ice. Two days later, the U.S. team won gold.

This underdog story generated excitement around the world. There’s just something in humanity that wants to root for the one nobody expects to win.

It’s easy to feel like the underdog in ministry. After all, God has a way of calling people to assignments they can’t complete without His help. If that’s where you are, here are three principles to keep in focus as you trust God for victory.

1. God Loves the Underdog

Many heroes of the faith in Scripture were underdogs. God uses their stories and messy lives to make His name great and grow our faith.

Almost two years ago, my home church, Erie First Assembly of God in Pennsylvania, asked me to come on staff as executive pastor. After serving as a Chi Alpha campus missionary for a little over a decade, I had felt God drawing me to the local church. Shortly after I accepted the new position, the church’s senior pastor of 21 years departed — and I became the interim lead pastor.

2. Criticism Clarifies Calling

I was a young woman, the mother of three small children, with no official experience as a lead pastor. I vividly remember a well-meaning board member reminding me of this.

I quickly realized that when you decide to take giant risks for God, you will encounter people who will do their best to talk you out of it. It may not be intentional, but they often cast paralyzing doubt and insecurity into your life.

When someone tries to dissuade you from following God’s plan, you are in good company. Joseph, Daniel, Elisha, Paul and even Jesus knew this feeling.

Sometimes, resistance confirms you are going in the right direction.

Stepping into the uncertainty and unpredictably of chasing God’s purposes doesn’t always make logical sense. Yet every time I forge on through the questions and criticisms, my faith grows stronger and my calling clearer.

Sometimes, resistance confirms you are going in the right direction.

3. Do Your Part, and Let God Do His

As interim lead pastor, I led a staff team and congregation through a challenging transition. The church had financial strain, so my first task was cutting budgets, salaries and benefits. Ministries needed reorganizing and reevaluating. Staff morale was low, and the team had become fragmented. The congregation needed vision, hope and purpose more than ever, and they were looking to me.

When God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses objected that he was not a strong, eloquent leader. God replied, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12).

I had countless similar conversations with God. In the confusion and chaos of transition, there were many days when all I could effectively do was show up. I didn’t know how to make all the right decisions, but I did know how to seek God. The Holy Spirit consistently reminded me that He would help, teach and guide me every step of the way.

My part was obedience, courage and faith. God’s part was perfectly working out His redemptive plan. God doesn’t need or want us to do His part of the plan. In fact, as hard as we try, we can’t do God’s part. When I clearly differentiate between my role and God’s, the course becomes more defined and the results more fruitful.

I decided to submit my name for consideration as the long-term lead pastor. I felt a specific and significant calling on my life to serve in this role. The church board voted unanimously to put my name forward to the congregation. Even the board member who initially opposed the idea changed his vote.

When the congregation affirmed me with overwhelming support, no one was more surprised than me! God clearly reminded me that this is how He chooses to build His kingdom — through ordinary men and women who submit to His plans.

If you’re facing an intimidating challenge, let God remind you that your insecurities and limitations are far less concerning to Him than they are to you. Let your confidence rest in His faithfulness.

When you feel like the underdog, remember that God himself is rooting for you.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Influence magazine.


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