For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Tim 1:7

I am not a big fan of professional football, but I am a fan of Tim Tebow. I am not the only one. The whole country seems to be caught up in what is happening around this football player. What is happening through this young man is nothing short of a miracle. I use that word intentionally. I believe that God is doing something through him, for this period of time, to point to the power and reality of Jesus Christ. Do I believe God is a Bronco fan? No. Do I think Tim Tebow will lead the Broncos to the Promised Land? Probably not, but he could. However, I have no doubt that “Tebow Time” is happening because the Lord has chosen to use him in a very public and special way.

If you have just returned from Timbuktu and do not know what I am talking about, let me try to explain. Tim Tebow is a quarterback who plays for the Denver Broncos. He is a former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida. He is known for his passion on the football field and his ability to rally his team to victory, often in a very dramatic way. In eight weeks he has led a very mediocre Bronco team to a 7-1 record and first place in their conference.

He is a very likeable and sincere young man, but his quarterbacking skills have not been well received by the professional football elite. When he was promoted to the starting role, almost all of the experts predicted he could not be successful. His mechanics were all off. He ran too much. He lacked the ability to read defenses. His passing was inaccurate. He could win a few games and make a few plays, but he would never take a team to the top. Even his coach had his doubts.

Tim is also an outspoken witness for Jesus Christ. After his touchdowns you can see him bow in prayer or point to the heavens in praise to God for his help. After the game, he makes it a priority to give thanks to Jesus for what he has done in his life. His clear and unapologetic boldness has made a lot of sports commentators and interviewers rather uneasy. In fact, one former quarterback of the Broncos publicly advised Tebow that he should stifle his witness to his faith in Jesus Christ. It appears Tebow is not listening to him.

Timothy was raised in a Christian family. He is named after Paul’s son in the faith Timothy, whose name means “loved by God.” His father asked the Lord to give them a preacher for a son and Tim is the answer to that prayer. His parents have done a lot of missionary work in the Philippines and Tim has become very involved in their orphanage there. In a recent documentary, he was seen playing with the children of the orphanage. In it he appears to enjoy throwing Filipino orphans into the air as much or more than throwing touchdowns on a football field. Although many are uncomfortable with Tebow’s public and persistent witness, few doubt his sincerity.

However, there has been a lot of “push-back” from media commentators trying to give us a proper interpretation of what we are seeing. Some don’t think the attention being given to Tebow is fair. Brett Baird of Fox News felt he needed to remind us that Aaron Rogers of the Packers was having a more successful year and little was being said about his faith. Of course, he overlooked that Rogers was guiding a Super Bowl team. Tebow was leading a very mediocre team to last minute and unlikely endings, to the dismay of his critics. Bob Costas, of NBC Sports, felt he needed to give us a theological primer on why God doesn’t favor teams and sealed his argument by asking, “What does God do when two Christians are facing off against each other?” All of which misses the point of the Timothy narrative.

This reminds me of a story I heard told of when Woody Hayes of the Ohio State Buckeyes was being shown around heaven. He was led to his home, a very stately and impressive mansion, which was appropriately arrayed in scarlet and grey.  He was very excited about his resting place until he looked up on a mountain and saw a castle that dwarfed his in size and grandeur. He was upset because it was surrounded by banners of the Maize and Blue of the Michigan Wolverines. He complained, “How come Bo gets the castle and I only get a mansion?” The angel answered, “Oh!” That is not Bo Shembechler’s castle. That is God’s!”

Great story but not true. God does not wear the Maize and Blue of Michigan and certainly not scarlet and grey of Ohio, nor does he wear red and blue of the Broncos. He does wear the unapproachable light [1 Timothy 6:16] of His Glorious Being. He has one ultimate goal. It is to display His infinite perfections throughout the universe. No one, including Tim Tebow, is claiming that God roots for any one football team. But, what Christians everywhere believe is that he glorifies Himself by enabling His children to enjoy him. He does that by working and weaving His grace into the everyday happenings of our lives. He promises to bless those who will trust in His promises.

That is all Tim Tebow is saying. He knows that God is the Source of his skills and his passion. God through the death of His Son has forgiven him and loved him into His eternal kingdom. It is God’s promise that gives Tim the confidence that he can do all things through God who strengthens him [Philippians 4:13]. All that he does, whether it is done on the football field or on an orphanage playground, is done for the glory of Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 10:31] He really believes that all he can do is his best and God will do the rest. That is why he gives praise and honor to Jesus. It is not just about football, it is about life and eternity.

So, what is going to happen if Denver loses? Well, some of the fans will be deeply disappointed. The critics will probably feel justified and the atheists greatly relieved. What about Tebow? How will he respond? He will probably be disappointed too, not in God, but in the loss. But, He will recover and he will express the same joy and confidence in defeat that he had in victory. That is because the glory of Jesus is infinitely greater and more rewarding than what happens in a football stadium.   

So, what is the correct interpretation of this passage in the life of Timothy Tebow? What is the correct meaning of this story? First, God is bringing about dramatic and unlikely success for a season in the life of this young disciple of Jesus Christ. He is doing this on a public stage in such an extraordinary way, that cynics, skeptics and atheists can see evidence that God is still alive and well and at work on this planet. There will still be some who will explain the phenomena as the natural results of positive thinking, luck, skill and bad football. But, for others, it will plant the seeds of faith, if not by the incredible comebacks, by the faith of this one young sold-out athlete who really believes.  

One last thing needs to be said. Timothy Tebow needs our prayers. Not just for his football success, but for his Christian witness. Because of his public testimony he has a target on his back. The enemy is subtle and will throw the weight of his deceptive temptations at him in the future. More than a super bowl victory, let us pray for a final victory, where he finishes the battle for faith well, where he can say with the apostle Paul,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:7-8