In case you’ve been living in that proverbial domicile located under a rock somewhere and have missed the hoopla I will review what has happened. Tim Tebow is a young man playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos in his second year in the National Football League. While he was enormously successful in college most people felt he would not do well in the NFL because of big and serious flaws in the way he throws a football. I should mention that Tim is very outspoken about his faith in Jesus Christ and takes every opportunity he has to give glory to God. He bows in prayer during tense moments of games and in thanksgiving after touchdowns. Tim sat on the bench most of his first year in the league and at the beginning of this season he appeared to be on his way to anonymity until in desperation the woeful Broncos decided to give him a chance to play as the starting QB. To the shock of most observers Tebow proceeded to lead the team to wins in 7 of their next 8 games. This was a team that had lost 4 of their first 5 games. It was a stunning turnaround. Each week he consistently played poorly for most of the game until seemingly miraculously pulling the most unlikely comebacks out of his hat in the final quarter of game after game. Last weekend the Broncos were little regarded underdogs as they played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. Most agreed the Broncos were badly overmatched against the Steelers and that Tebow’s season was going to end that day. Surprisingly the Broncos fought to a 23-23 tie at the end of regulation. Then a lightning Te-bolt struck. On the first play of sudden death overtime Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas with a perfect pass over the middle and Thomas then raced 80 yards to the end zone. Game over. Broncos win. Tebow strikes again. It was electrifying.
Second, what a joy it is to know that people are being confronted with an acclaimed sports figure who is a man worthy of emulation. Though he is young still Tebow has consistently displayed sterling character. In a league that is loaded with players who are known for their rampant sexuality, violence and run-ins with law-enforcement, here is a man who stands unabashedly for sexual purity, who has integrity, who obeys the law, who unfailingly treats others with kindness and respect, who constantly, humbly deflects attention by praising his teammates and by giving praise to God.
Finally how could I not rejoice in Tim’s faithful witness to the goodness and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Yes, I know that some people are offended and turned off by how vocal he is about the Lord. Should we be surprised? Paul wrote in Romans 8:7 “the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God” (New American Standard Bible). People who are hostile to God are not going to be happy to hear about him. So of course there will be those who want to never hear the name Jesus Christ. I am glad that their criticisms do not cause Tim to back down. Many others are encouraged by his boldness and many more are at least caused to think about their own position in regard to Jesus Christ. I am thrilled that people are talking about Jesus because of the testimony of a football player.
Do I have any concerns about Tebow? Of course I do. My biggest concern is for Tim’s welfare. Spiritually speaking he is a target with a big bull’s-eye on his chest. The ferocity with which opposing defenses in football seek to bury him does not compare with how fiercely our spiritual enemy pursues him, seeking to produce a spectacular failure. When anyone is as vocal and as visible as Tebow is a compromise on his part would have huge impact. I pray that he will stay strong and stand firm.
A second concern is with the possibility of skewed theology resulting from his example. One such possible mistake that can result from what has been happening is a sort of prosperity gospel. Hey, look how well Tim Tebow is doing because God is helping him. The obvious conclusion is if I can do what is right maybe I can get God to help me and I’ll start winning in life too. I am pretty sure Tebow would never preach or endorse such a message, but I would be willing to bet there are some who are drawing just such a conclusion. Perhaps a corollary of that is the concern I have with the fact Tim seems to bow and give thanks for touchdowns and wins, but doesn’t do the same when he throws an interception or gets sacked. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all things because God is sovereign and will work good for us out of everything, whether the circumstance is favorable or not from our human perspective. And of course I have concern about the fact that while Tim’s success is wonderful, there are other followers of Jesus in the league and even on opposing teams who may not be experiencing the same success. Do we conclude then that God does not love them as well or is not also blessing them?
Having said that, I still am thankful for Tim Tebow and the impact he is having. It is important, I think, for us to pray for him. I hope he continues to have success and that the Lord is lifted up through his example. But even as I am happy for his success and his testimony I most urgently feel the need to pray for his continued faithfulness and humility. We need to pray that he will be protected from the attacks of the evil one and will stand firm. Oh by the way, I also have to admit it’s pretty fun to watch the improbable happen week after week. As much as I, a long time Charger fan, hate to say it, Go Broncos!