Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
303-665-6105
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September 9 – Pentecost 15 – Is. 35:4-7 – God’s Word To The Underdog

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Old Testament Lesson just read, from Is. 35.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • It has been noted that some people tend to relish being in the role of the “underdog.”  I suppose that being in such a position has certain benefits and advantages – depending upon your temperament.

 

1.    The underdog has lower expectations – no one expects him to win or prevail, so the pressure to win is off, and any good showing can constitute a “moral” victory

2.    The underdog may be able to take an adversary by surprise – his opponent may be unprepared for him, so that the underdog actually gains the victory in an “upset”

3.    If the underdog loses miserably it is not his fault and there is no shame – his status as underdog was based in realities that destined his defeat; he is not to be blamed

 

  •  However, most of us would probably prefer “winning,” and being in a position to “prevail” and to obtain whatever it is that is being contested, and from time to time the stakes can be quite high.  So  one of the things we work hard to do is to put ourselves into a position to be successful, to not be an “underdog,” having the odds against us. 
  • This is not always possible – especially for those who have suffered setbacks through no fault of their own, for example those who are blind, deaf, lame, or who have speech impediments or some other disadvantage.  And even if the setbacks we have experienced are of our making, we still have to live with them – they may persist and leave us in the position of being an “underdog.”  This may be true of those described in our Epistle Lesson [James 2] as being “poor.”
  • So while there is nothing wrong with being properly “ambitious” and “industrious,” and we should strive to fully utilize the abilities and blessings that God has given to us, we are encouraged to have a proper respect, care, compassion, and love for those who are “underdogs.”  In fact, we see in all three of our Scripture readings for today that God is quite mindful of the plight of “underdogs.”  And in our text, God makes promises precisely to those who are “underdogs,” those with disadvantages and who have “an anxious heart.”  But first:

 

I.  God Reminds Us That There Is No Partiality With God – He Loves All People

 

A.  He Promises That He Is Coming To Save All People, Even The Underdogs, With His Vengeance And Recompense

  

Text:  “Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.”

 

Statement:  In regard to God’s salvation, we should of course all recognize that we are all the spiritual “underdogs” who are in desperate need of His salvation, for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and “the wages of sin is death.” 

 

Application:  Those who think they can prepare themselves to “win” their own salvation, to gain victory over sin, guilt, death, and the devil on their own, are sorely misguided and mistaken.  We are all described by the apostle Paul who wrote:  “The good that I would do I do not; and the evil that I would not do, that I do.” [Rom. 7]  So thank God that all underdogs, all of us, are included in this promise of God’s salvation!  And this is the chief message of our text, a message to all of us who recognize that we are spiritual “underdogs”:

 

B.  God Loves Us, And He Is Coming To Save Us – So Be Strong And Do Not Fear

 

Text:  “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!  . . . He will come and save you.’”

 

Statement:  So God does not just give us a “pep talk” and tell us to rise up and prepare ourselves, and that if we work real hard we just might pull an “upset.”  Rather, He Himself makes promises to act on behalf of His dear people, we who are in fact “anxious” in our hearts – because we know and recognize our own sin, our own guilt, and the claims of justice against us. 

Application:  He doesn’t tell us to just “put on a good face,” to merely “act courageously.”  No, He promises to come and save us – and this is precisely what He has done for us in Christ Jesus, His beloved Son!  He wants to calm our hearts with His own actions, His own love and promises – to remove our fear and make us strong!  So He assures us that “if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” for “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Transition:  But we can easily become confused in all of this – turning God’s victory and God’s promise of blessedness into an instrument of gloating and of actually despising other “underdogs.”  James warns of this in our Epistle reading, of “dishonoring the poor man,” and behaving as “the rich ones who oppress you.”

 

II.  So The Church Must Take Note Of God’s Love And Compassion For Underdogs – Especially Poor Miserable Sinners – And Follow Christ In Love And Compassion For All People

 

A.  We Are To Adopt His Compassionate Love For All

 

Epistle:  “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”

 

Eph. 5:1,2  “Be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 

B.  We Are To Have No Partiality Against Others

 

Epistle:  “Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. . . . But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

 

C.  Instead, We Are To Have A Faith That Is Working In Love For All, Without Any Partiality – Especially Not Against Underdogs

 

Epistle:  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

 

Gal. 5:6  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

 

Statement:  Sometimes we mistake the encouragement and empowerment of the church as something other than what God grants to us in His promises and gifts to the “underdogs” in Christ Jesus.  When this happens we no longer think of ourselves as “underdogs,” but that somehow we have gotten a “leg up” on others.  Then we look at our strengths and blessings not as gifts given by God for the service and nurturing of others, but rather as qualities by which we can “abuse” others, and really treat them as the world does to “underdogs.”  That this is shameful, wretched, and completely contrary to God’s will and love should be plain and evident to all

 

Application:  So let us remember always that we are and always will be “underdogs” when it comes to spiritual matters, to life and salvation.  It is true – in God’s salvation we are not to fear or have “anxious hearts,” but rather to be strong, fearless, at peace, and filled with joy. 

 

Such strength, however, is not given so that we escape our role and status as “underdogs” and begin abusing others within the church, but rather precisely so that we can love, care for, and lift up our fellow “underdogs” – just as God has lifted us up in Christ Jesus.

 

Conclusion:  In this matter it really doesn’t matter how we feel about being “underdogs,” or what our preference might be.  It is what we are.  And there is only one advantage to being such spiritual “underdogs” – and that is “GOD’S WORD TO THE UNDERDOG,” His gracious promises of mercy, forgiveness, life and salvation!  This Word remains upon us – so long as we remain such underdogs as also have genuine care, compassion, and love for our fellow underdogs.  God grant it to us all, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

 

Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.