Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Tim Tebow – Denver Broncos

This is the 10th installment in my series on Christ-followers in the NFL.  Today we will look into the story of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

I chose to write this article today in recognition of Tebow’s play yesterday – It wasn’t statistically among the greatest games ever played,  it wasn’t even statistically one of the best games in week 5 of the NFL, but it was good enough to make the last play matter in the Broncos/Chargers game, and it was likely good enough to bring this Broncos quarterback controversy back into the spotlight for some feisty discussion.

Yesterday, Tebow came in for the second half andby the end of the game,  the Broncos were a play away (albeit a miracle play away) from completing the comeback and stealing the win.  The fans are chanting for him, calling for him. He is a fan favorite in the Mile High city, just like he was in the Florida Swamp.  Fans love him, and critics sound off against him.  Again and  again, controversy stirs around the name Tim Tebow.

Controversy has been a part of Tebow’s NFL experience from before it actually began.  He was a star college player, known for some raw ability but more for passion, heart and work ethic.  He would carry these latter attributes to the NFL, but would they be able to cover up some of the shortfall of his skill set? Some pundits said, and still say no!

Here are some of the things that have come up.
There was a stir surrounding a pro-life Super Bowl commercial.  Sponsored by Focus on the Family, the commercial itself was not at all preachy, didn’t mention God, didn’t mention abortion, and still managed to stir controversy.  Pro Choice organizations were calling for the ad to be pulled.  See  the commercial itself below, as well as a link the story behind the troubled pregnancy that his mom, Pam, went through with him.

Others bring  up his faith.  Some writers have made some disturbing ideas about the way that Tebow’s faith works.  Questioning his faith, and relationship with God, questioning his abilities to play at the NFL level, criticism about his family and his association with the Pro Life movement – there is so much adversity that he has had to face, it is a remarkable load for a man who is only 24 years old.  If you google the name Tim Tebow, the search turns up story after story about his faith, yes, but also criticism about being so open about his faith.

Here are some lessons that I am taking from what I have read about this story.
1- Following God brings LOTS of adversity. When you take a stand for anything, you tie yourself to the stand you take, and those that do not share your views have lots of ammunition to attack the stand that you take.
In some parts of the world, taking a stand for your faith in God puts your life at risk.  Here, it isn’t quite that severe, but a lot can be said about you, your family, your beliefs and the stands that you take.  It can be very mean spirited, full of insults, conclusion jumping and outright misrepresentations of the truth.  It can make life very hard.
 It is also hard not to get defensive when these attacks are made.  We instantly want to defend our words that are taken out of context, or others words are put in our mouth that we didn’t say.  It is easier to simply keep quiet, keep our views to ourselves and let the critics find someone else to attack.  But if these attacks quiet us down, then our witness may be compromised.  We need to be bold in our faith, and not doubt that God will work through the hard things to accomplish His perfect plan. The enemy of God will do anything to keep us wishy-washy in our faith. 
Tebow, based on the story I read above (disturbing ideas)  did not say what he was reported as saying.  He does not believe that his faith in God entitles him to a starting job, based on what I read in the article.  It is quite a conclusion to jump to.  But Tebow didn’t return attack that I have seen.  He just continues to speak the truth about what he believes and let God remain the center of focus in his life.

2- God can work in mysterious ways – I really like that there is no doubt where Tebow stands in relation to belief in God.  He is always ready to proclaim it to whoever will give him a chance.  Again, this speaks to his boldness.  One of my favorite ways that God works is when He chooses to use even the little things to expand his kingdom.  Check out this statistic that I found in this Christian Post article

At college in Florida, Tebow frequently wore biblical verses on his eye black. In the 2009 Bowl Championship Series, he wore “John 3:16” on his eye paint, reportedly causing 92 million people to search the verse on Google. Later, Tebow switched to “Proverbs 3:5-6,” again causing 3.43 million searches of the verse together with “Tim Tebow.”

 I have an interesting story about how God uses little things to draw others to Him.  I collect sports jerseys.  One of the jerseys I have in my collection is a Texas Rangers #32 jersey – Josh Hamilton.  One day, I was wearing it on a walk around the neighborhood when I passed a man that was walking the other direction on the sidewalk.  I had never met this man before, and didn’t think much of it as we passed.  I stopped to tie my shoe, and when I stood back up, the man had turned around and came back to me to tell me that he liked my jersey.  I told him that I was a fan of Hamilton, and proceeded to talk to him about Hamilton’s book and how God is really working in him and through him.  This man was not aware that Hamilton had written a book about his life and struggles with, and eventual victory over addiction, and his walk with God.  The man was going to go to the library and borrow the book to read for himself.  I don’t know what this man thought about the book, or if he did actually get to read it, but I know that it is possible that God used my jersey to let this man read and know more about Him, through Hamilton’s jersey.  There have been countless times when I am wearing a random jersey and it leads to a conversation with a stranger, and more than once, our conversation has turned to God.  It is necessary to use our words to tell people about Jesus, but sometimes the avenues that lead to these conversations come from a common bond – like a team or player.  It is so amazing to see the different ways God works.

3- God is able to be glorified in all situations. – We don’t know yet if Tebow will ever become a star quarterback in the NFL.  It may happen, or he may be a perpetual second stringer throughout his career.  The one thing that seems fairly certain is that, regardless of Tebow’s status, He will be pointing others to know who Jesus is and how they can be in relationship with Him.  I am grateful that Tebow doesn’t get defensive to these attacks.  It would be very easy to do so, but by being careful, he is reducing the ammunition that they can get from his words.

We are all able to, and expected to let God be evident in our lives.  We are to be salt and light, serving others in God’s name so they can be drawn to Him.  We  can expect challenges, adversity, and all sorts of attacks from the enemy.  If we are not being effective witnesses for God, then Satan has no reason to attack us.  But at the end of the day,  I would like my life to echo the words I heard attributed to Coach John Wooden.  “If you were ever arrested for being a Christian,  is there enough evidence to convict you?”  Let that thought always challenge us to live a bold life alive in Christ