Does Tim Tebow’s Faith Make Him Great?

Everyone’s Talking These Days

In case you missed it, Tim Tebow is a Christian.

But if you did miss it, you have either been sequestered with a jury on a high profile case, or you just landed from Mars.

People of all faiths are cheering for Tebow these days.

Whether they love him or hate him (and whether they love or hate his Christianity), Americans are currently obsessed with the missionary’s kid from Florida. Just today ESPN reported that Tim Tebow is currently ranked as America’s most popular athlete. That is apparently pretty impressive if your last name isn’t Jordan, Woods, or James. Also, not too bad for a “goody two shoes Christian.”

It’s not just Broncos fans or fanatic Christians either. Last Sunday I was at the airport in Atlanta during the Broncos-Steelers game. I stopped for a bite to eat and to watch the game. As the game was drawing toward the end more and more were gathering to see if Tebow “could do it again.” There was only one guy at the restaurant cheering for the Steelers, and everyone else–even a guy in a Dolphins jersey–was cheering every move of of the Denver QB. I could have done cartwheels down the concourse unnoticed. No one would have seen. Eyes were glued to TV monitors as random shouts and cheers could be heard from gate to gate throughout the airport.

Then there’s the media. Oh boy. Everyone wants a crack at a good Tebow story. (And here I am, too. Guilty as charged I guess.) Rick Reilly juxtaposed Tom Brady and Tim Tebow in a column that made for good reading but where only the last two sentences mattered:  “They play Sunday. Who do you like?” I suppose the article could be reprinted today if he just changed “Sunday” to “Saturday” since the two QBs are about to duel again tomorrow.

Not every article or conversation is as jovial. Last December Charles P. Pierce blasted Tim Tebow and Christianity with an article that argued that his faith ought to be fair game for criticism, critique, and mockery, too. As an American only, I’ll concede to Pierce that he does at least have the right as an American citizen to say whatever spills from his mind to his keyboard. But as a Christian pastor, I must say that the article was ridiculous, ill-informed, and filled with the bigotry he charged Tebow with.

First, Pierce ought to get his facts straight. He blamed Tebow for a Christian form of bigotry and bias, stating that most people in the world are Christians–so what makes Tebow’s kind of Christianity right? That’s actually not true at all. Unlikely Pierce claims, Catholics and Greek Orthodox believers are not at all Christians. A quick review of Reformation history reminds us that those who protested against the Roman Catholic Church broke off and became known as Protestants. Protestants are more properly identified as Christians today, and those with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox faith are just that–Catholic or Greek Orthodox.

Further, Pierce may hide behind his First Amendment ability to mock everything that Tebow is (and to tell others to do the same freely), but the article itself smacks of bigotry. Fine, go ahead and mock Tebow. But will Pierce or others write an article mocking proponents of gay rights tomorrow? Will they write articles taunting Muslims and Islam as a foolish religion of bigotry and hatred? Of course not. These media personnel A) Want to keep their jobs; B) Don’t want protesters outside their house; C) Have to stay “politically correct”; and D) Don’t want to check for pipe bombs under their cars every time they drive.

Yet isn’t it interesting that in the media some systems of belief are untouchable, but–oh yes most certainly–Christianity is “fair game.” You might get a pass via freedom of speech. But that–as American and pastor–I call bigotry.

But I digress.

The point is, everyone knows about and talks about Tim Tebow and his faith these days. Even Saturday Night Live had a little parody of the Broncos’ locker room with Jesus visiting Tim to have a conversation at halftime. I won’t link to that one. It had humorous elements, but too many toes made their way across the line of sacrilege in my opinion.

But Does God Help Tim Tebow?

Americans call it "Tebowing." God's people have called it "praying" for just a few years prior to Tim.

Ok, so everyone knows about Tebow the Christian. We love to talk about the topic too. But what are the answers to the questions many are asking? Last night ESPN reported on SportsCenter that 43% of Americans believe Tim Tebow receives divine intervention and assistance. So does God really help Tim Tebow win football games? Does his faith make him great?

Logically speaking, I think the answer to the first question is obvious. Why would God help one Christian and not another? What about Christians on the other teams the Broncos or Florida Gators have defeated? Are we to suppose to think that God likes one Christian more than the other–or cheers for the Denver Broncos and not the Minnesota Vikings? (As a Vikings fan, I can assure you that the Lord is not cheering for the purple and gold!) If Tebow is “Tebowing” up a storm on one sideline and another devout Christian is more quietly and privately taking the game to the throne of God, why would God answer Tebow’s prayer affirmatively and not the other Christian’s?

Or might he do that???

Logically, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that God would favor one Christian’s team over another. But could God favor Tim because he is “more active and open” with his faith?

I’ll give you the short and easy answer first. NO! But since this is a faith question, we ought to take it to the source.  God.

In the Bible God makes it pretty clear that everyone is equal and the same in his sight. And not in a good way unfortunately. While Adam and Eve were created as the crowning jewels of God’s creation–even in his image–that image of God was quickly lost when they fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 5:3 reveals that after sin all descendants were then born in the sinful image of their parents. Read Psalm 14 some time. King David makes reminds us that there is no one who does good, not even one. But the apostle Paul says it in a way that’s easier to understand:  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The first important point to understand is that all of us, yes even Tim Tebow, are sinners. No one in this world is different than the other in that respect. All of us have fallen short of God’s demands for perfection. Even the “holiest” and most faithful or philanthropic of Christians are still sinners. No one is like God. All sin. And that’s a problem. By God’s decree that means that everyone deserves punishment and hell (just read Romans 6:23 or Ezekiel 18:20a).

So even though Tim Tebow might be a great guy, a great friend, a devout Christian, or a warrior for the Lord as some view him, his sins mean that God would give him death and hell rather than wins and trophies.

Yet there is another truth presented in Scripture. One not of consequences and punishment and judgment, but one of grace and mercy and forgiveness. It’s interesting (and encouraging!) to read how two of those verses above continue. Romans 3:24 is a strong contrast to the verse before it. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. In a similar way Romans 6:23 proclaims, The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While God has universally condemned human beings for their sin, he has also universally declared innocence and given the gift of eternal life. The Bible makes it clear then that these gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation are appropriated, or applied, to each individual only through faith.  Ephesians 2:8,9 says,  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works,so that no one can boast.

Tim Tebow confesses to believe this. That doesn’t mean that God likes him more than anyone else. That simply means that he is the same as millions of other Christians–a sinner bound for hell whom God has saved through faith in his Son Jesus Christ.

In heaven there will be no football pads or championship trophies or any other distinguishing factors. Believers will all be the same–dressed in white robes of righteousness and worshiping God. (Read Revelation 7:9-17!) Tim Tebow is the same as I am, and any other Christian in the world in that regard.

So Does Tim Tebow’s Faith Make Him Great?

Only tough QBs can run option in the NFL!

I’ve played a few football games in my day. I’ve coached a few football games in my day. Even better, I was the senior quarterback on one and the coach of two other state championship high school teams that run triple option–like Tim Tebow.

As a former player and coach and avid option fanatic, I think Tim Tebow is having success in part because of the option. It’s an offensive attack that isn’t seen often in the NFL. It’s being run by a quarterback who is unusual in physical attributes for the NFL, too. For a great read about Tebow and the option in the NFL today, read this article by Michael Schottey.

I’ll also admit as someone who has spent a lot of time in sports and in football, there is something to be said for the intangible qualities of certain players. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been through it, but some players just have “it.” Athletes don’t even know what “it” is. But they can describe the “it” factor. Players with “it” are leaders. They rally the team. They build confidence on the team. They find a way to win. The methods might be different or even ugly, but some how these kinds of players do all of the above and sometimes even win a lot. Whatever “it” is, Tim Tebow seems to have that.

I would say that Tim Tebow’s football success seems to a combination of all of the above–a different offensive attack, special skills and leadership abilities, and a good Denver defense I haven’t even mentioned yet.

But I would not say that Tim Tebow’s success is because of his great faith or great amounts of prayer. Consider 1 John 5:14. The Bible actually says just the opposite. If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

First, we see there that God promises to hear the prayers of his people. He doesn’t promise to answer “YES” to every prayer–especially when we are praying really hard or “Tebowing.”

Also, pay careful attention to the phrase according to his will. God will always grant us things that are in accord with his will. Stronger faith, greater love, more patience, peace, joy, contentment, the ability to forgive others–these are things that are definitely in line with the will of God. Making footballs fly through goalposts, ensuring the sure-handed reception of touchdown passes, and winning football games are definitely not in line with the will of God.

So if Tim Tebow and his pastor are saying that God wants Tim to win and is giving him success because of his prayers and faith–as some are reporting–then their viewpoint is just flawed and skewed. It is possible that God is allowing success and victory for his own divine reasons and as blessings for Tim to enjoy. But nowhere in the Bible does God promise to do such things or that such blessings would continue for anyone, even Tim Tebow. I’m even a pastor myself, but I don’t remember God remembering to answer my prayers to win a high school football state championship my junior year.

The point of Scripture is: God always gives things that are in line with his will, but all these other things of the world God does not guarantee to his people. So if Tim Tebow is having temporary success right now, he should just be thankful and leave it at that.

Credit where credit is due? Flaunting it? Only Tebow really knows.

Which reminds me . . . about this wearing your faith thing. Tim “Tewbows” in prayer very openly. He always thanks the Lord. He points to heaven. He wears crosses and Bible passages for all to see (at least until he isn’t allowed anymore). I get it. I did a few of those things during my athletic career.

But there is a very narrow middle road to be walking. Indeed, Jesus tells us that we are to be salt giving flavor to the world and lights shining brightly on a stand. He also commissions us to go and make disciples of all nations.

However, one ought to be careful with such actions. Jesus actually warns about praying out in the open like hypocrites looking for a reward for such faithfulness. Rather, he encourages pious prayer in private. I’ll say that practically: When I’m at Applebees I could shout the Lord’s prayer and “Tebow” on the table tops. Or, I could continue my current practice of simply bowing the head and closing my eyes. I’ll choose the others. I’m not causing offense, but others still know what I’m doing.

I’m not telling Tim Tebow to stop what he’s doing necessarily. But he also needs to be careful. After all, whom does Jesus teach us to be like in Matthew 18:9-14? Isn’t it the humble and penitent tax collector and not the boastfully proud Pharisee? I don’t think that’s Tebow. But it is a narrow road to walk!

Final Questions and Concluding Thoughts

So does Tim Tebow’s faith make him great at football? Absolutely not! (Otherwise I submit that Moses or the apostle Paul might hold every NFL record.)

Does Tim Tebow’s faith make the Broncos great? Absolutely not! God is certainly allowing some success right now. That’s a success some people can be thankful for at the moment. But tomorrow they might lose to the Patriots again. That doesn’t mean God likes Tebow any more or less.

Does Tim Tebow’s faith make him a great role model? Yes . . . for now. Hopefully this isn’t a fluke. Hopefully he doesn’t have a mighty fall like other celebrities. And I can only pray he is careful with how forceful he is with his faith.

Does Tim Tebow’s faith make him great in the eyes of God? Finally, when all is said and done–when the scoreboard is turned off, the season ends, and more importantly, when life is over–this is the question that really matters. All these worldly successes and “things” don’t matter come Judgment Day.

All that matters right now is that Tim Tebow is in fact great in the eyes of God. Not because of anything he has done or accomplished, but because his faith connects him to Jesus Christ who has forgiven all of his sins and given to him the gift of eternal life.

That’s all that really matters.

That’s what’s really great.

For Tim. For me. For you.

About Pastor Phil Huebner

Pastor. Missionary. Principal. Husband. Father. Serving in love as each.

Posted on January 13, 2012, in Church, Preschool and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A very good article with detailed explanations and supporting scripture. Good job!

    Greg R.

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