Going into the 2000 Olympics in Sydney Australia, Russian Alexander Karelin was a shoo-in for the gold medal in super heavy-weight wrestling. His record was amazing: he had never lost an international match in his fifteen years of competition, he had won gold in the previous three Olympics, and in fact had never even lost a point in the previous decade. He had seven consecutive world titles. Everyone knew this Olympic event had his name on it.
In the final match, Karelin was met by a young American named Rulon Gardner, a farmer's son from a small town in Wyoming. Gardner had two accomplishments to his name: he had won a junior college national title and placed 4th in the NCAA finals, but these were nothing on the scale of Karelin's record. Gardner was clearly not in the same league as his formidable opponent, who was hailed as the greatest greco-roman wrestler of all time.
And then the improbable – no, the impossible – happened.
In a stunning turn of events, Gardner beat Alexander the Great in overtime, resulting in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
On that day, the match didn't go to the man everyone knew would win. Instead, it went to the one who dared to step onto the mat and take him on, despite the odds against him. It went to the young man who thought that chance might go his way. This might just be his day.
I'm reminded of one of my favorite verses, found in Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Some people read this as a "hard luck" verse, but I see it as just the opposite.
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all. (NIV)
Now, I don't believe in luck. But Time and Chance? That's another story.
You see, I believe in the God of Time and Chance.
I believe that there is a Supreme Being who defies all limits of time, who is INIFINITE and all-powerful, and who knows all about my battles here on this earth.
He creates opportunities, chances, if you will, for things to happen.
I absolutely LOVE Ecclesiates 9:11 because I know I am not the swiftest runner in the race. I know I am not the strongest, or the smartest, or the most capable. The odds are against me being a successful competitor.
The gold will most assuredly be given to someone else.
But I have a heart that wants to win, and a soul that is giving God every opportunity to make me a "winner." My job is to stay in the race when my inclination is to drop out after comparing myself to the others.
They seem so much more together.
So much smarter.
So much more connected and well-educated.
Look at me! I'm a nobody!
I'll never win.
Does this sound familiar?
Ah! But you never know when the God of Time and Chance will say, "This is YOUR day! This is YOUR time! This is YOUR match! GO, girl, GO!"
God will put you in a position to succeed if you just keep preparing yourself. Be willing to do the hard work of conditioning, even though the odds are against you. Show up for the match, even when no one gives you a chance of winning. Get on the mats and then work with all your might.
Because "Time and Chance" happen to everyone! Give all your best to God and let Him take care of the outcome.
He will put you in the right place at the right time.
He will give you the opportunities you've been waiting for.
You see, this "hard luck" verse is really about a door being left open for all of us, at any given point in our lives. When we are a David facing a Goliath, or a Gideon facing a huge army of Midianites. When the deck is stacked against us and there is no hope of winning.
Except that we believe in the God of Time and Chance, who holds victory in His hands.