I really like football. I just don't have much time to watch it. But this past weekend, I watched a whole game! And it wasn't even my team!
I watched the Denver Broncos win an astonishing victory over the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild-card playoff game. But I was watching more than a football game. I was watching Tim Tebow - and the drama that unfolds every time he takes the field these days. Yesterday was no exception.
Tim Tebow went from being America's top college football player to a much-critiqued ("He's not NFL material") rookie quarterback for the Broncos. When he replaced Denver's starter after a string of Denver losses, Tebow led his team to seven wins, including six in a row. Several of these wins were "come from behind," last-second "miracle" victories. Then three consecutive losses, in which Tebow performed rather poorly. And then this weekend's playoff game - where the Broncos were basically written off as having no chance.
Somebody forgot to tell Tim Tebow. He exploded for 316 yards passing and 50 yards on the ground, leading his team to a stunning overtime victory.
But the drama that swirls around this unconventionally impressive quarterback has less to do with football than faith. He's often in the news for his unashamed praise of Jesus Christ - especially his trademark response to good things that happen on the field. He kneels on one knee, head bowed, a hand to his forehead. After completing a game-winning 80-plus yard pass on the first play of yesterday's overtime, he - you guessed it - took a knee.
His God-praising, bent-knee posture has now become part of our national vocabulary - "Tebowing." There's even a website dedicated to showing pictures of people "tebowing" all over the world (tebowing.com). An expression of respect from most, mockery from others. In a sports world known for scandalous headlines about its heroes, it seems no one quite knows what to do with a strong, consistent Jesus-guy like Tim Tebow. He's still a virgin. He's known for constantly encouraging and building up his teammates. He serves the poor and the lost on missions trips. He genuinely cares about others. And yet, he's a fierce competitor, a physical powerhouse and a passionate player.
But since I've never been - or never will be - mistaken for an NFL hunk, is there any example here I should be doing? You bet there is. Because this indomitable quarterback is, in many ways, a living, breathing model of what it means to be "Christ's ambassador" (2 Corinthians 5:20) - no matter what field we play on.
First, Tim Tebow understands the responsibility of divine positioning. We work where we work, live where we live, go to school where we go to school, recreate where we recreate for a life-saving purpose - to "shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16).
This "star" in the football universe says, "I'm going to take the platform that football has given me and try to give back with it and make a difference." Every person who belongs to Jesus has been given a "platform" to point people to their Jesus - your job, your medical or financial battles, your success, your losses, your community activities, your children's activities. Your situation is your assignment - your divinely conceived position to show the difference Jesus makes.
Tim Tebow also models for us a radar for open doors. His eyes are wide open for circumstances that open a door to talk about his Jesus. He says, "My relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in my life - so any time I get an opportunity to tell Him that I love Him or to shout Him out on national TV, I'm gonna take that opportunity to give Him glory. He's due for it because of what He did for me and what He did on the cross for all of us." Paul's prayer needs to be my daily prayer - "That God may open a door (a natural opportunity) for our message...that I may proclaim it clearly" (Colossians 4:3-4).
I also see in my gridiron brother the power of show and tell. Our life has to back up our words and give no one a reason to write off our Jesus. One political columnist said, "I do think this Tebow boomlet is about faith. And it's about confidence. And leadership. And humility..." This is a Jesus-follower who understands that you win the right to be heard by showing the difference Jesus makes - by being the best employee, employer, son or daughter, mom or dad, friend or neighbor you can possibly be.
But showing isn't enough. No one's going to guess Jesus died for them just because you're "a nice guy." Somewhere you have to cross the line and say, "I don't care who knows that Jesus is everything to me - and no amount of pushback is going to make me deny Him by my silence." Again, I pray with Paul that "whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known...the Gospel" (Ephesians 6:19).
I guess what Tim Tebow's brand of faith shows more than anything is the magnet of a Jesus-identity. He explains that a person's love for Jesus is "not just something that happens when you're in church or praying or reading Scripture. It's part of who you are, as a person, as a player, in your life, in everything." Or in the words of Paul again, "Christ, who is your life" (Colossians 3:4). Not your religion...your belief...a compartment. He's your life.
No one can look at Tim Tebow - even those who despise his faith - and not think of Jesus. How about me?