There has been a great deal of excitement in recent days over Cumberland University’s third National Championship in baseball.
Those who know Bulldog baseball history remember the story of Cumberland’s big win over Georgia Tech. Cumberland whipped Tech, with a final score of 22-0. The year was 1915, and the Engineers were coached by the legendary John Heisman. The following year, the two schools were scheduled to meet in a football game. History records what happened in that game as the largest upset and the highest score ever in college football.
While the details of the game vary widely depending on the source, no one can dispute that Cumberland was defeated by a margin of 222-0. Records were set for most touchdowns, most yards of offense, most PATs in a game, and highest number of players to score touchdowns.
Cumberland players acknowledged before the game that they knew they wouldn’t win, but hoped to at least put up a fight. While Tech scored on every possession and racked up almost 1,000 yards of total offense, Cumberland’s law students never got a first down. But they never quit. They knew the odds were against them, yet they took the field and played with courage until the last down.
In the Old Testament book of Judges, a man named Gideon faced similar odds. Gideon was called to lead God’s people into battle against the fierce Midianites. Some scholars estimate there might have been 100,000 soldiers from Midian, described in Judges 7 as covering the ground like locusts. Gideon’s army had been reduced from 32,000 to just 300.
As if going into battle outnumbered 333:1 wouldn’t be intimidating enough, the battle plan given to Gideon and torches, blow trumpets and shout. It couldn’t have made sense to those mighty warriors, yet they went where they were sent and did as they were ordered. The Midianites were thrown into confusion, turning their swords on each other and running away in fear.
I have to step back from this story and ask what could have made those men follow Gideon. It couldn’t have seemed logical or even hopeful. Yet they went where they were needed and did what they had to do. Their courage is astounding. From what source did it come? Maybe they found courage in the words Gideon heard from God: “The LORD is with you,” (Judges 6.12) and “Surely I will be with you” (6.16).
There will be times for us when going where God sends seems frightening. Yet his assurance to us is the same: “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Hebrews 13.5). Never. No matter how large the enemy looms. Courage. No matter how insurmountable the obstacle seems.
Courage. That is what is required when we are outmanned, outcoached or outplayed. It’s courage that does not come from trust in our own power. With God, by God and because of God, we can courageously get into the game of life and know that victory is guaranteed.
Tim Parish is the preaching minister at Maple Hill Church of Christ in Lebanon. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher writing a column each month.