As football fans know, Tebow routinely painted the numbers “3:16” in black under his eyes during his collegiate years, referring to John 3:16 in the Bible — a Scripture that has been described as “the gospel in a nutshell.”
The NFL, however, banned the practice of painting such personal messages on their players. Still, Tebow, who was born in the Philippines to missionary parents, is said to use football to take the message of John 3:16 beyond the field.
He (and his team) did this in historic fashion in their 29-23 overtime victory over the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8. The amazing thing about that win is that Tebow unknowingly threw for 316 yards and set an NFL playoff record by averaging 31.6 yards per completion, while the TV rating was an astonishing 31.6 million viewers at the moment he through an 80-yard touchdown pass.
As you could guess, John 3:16 suddenly became the most widely searched item on Google for much of that Sunday night into Monday.
Whether people want to call it a football miracle or the perfect blend of good timing and big plays, Tim Tebow had unwittingly taken the message of John 3:16 to a new height on that special day. He is even credited with introducing the art of “Tebowing” into pop culture — that is, kneeling on one knee, elbow perched on the other and fist to forehead.
Even casual football fans, like myself, can admit there is something intriguing about a self-described “momma’s boy,” kneeling on one knee in prayer at times when many players are pounding their chest after scoring. What does this mean? Win, lose or draw, Tebow has transcended his sport.
While all of this may have solidified him as a new football legend and brought much deserved attention to a Bible verse that should never be taken for granted, this situation raises the question as to whether or not God cares who wins a football game?
What do you think? If both teams and their fans are praying for Almighty God to get involved and grant them the victory, do they have a Scriptural basis for believing God will do this?
Personally, I have yet to come across any indication in the Bible to suggest the Creator of this vast universe take sides in who wins in any kind of sport. Have you? Instead, His Word tells us at Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” — New World Translation.
The Amplified Bible reads: “Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.”
Do most sporting events ignore these words or do they promote less desirable qualities for Christians who are told to love one another? More importantly, would God involve Himself in a competitive sport that often promotes a win-at-all-cost attitude when He sent His only-begotten Son to teach us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you?
It comes as no surprise that football has taken on a religious significance to some fans. But I admit, I was surprised to read this comment in the Encyclopedia Brittanica regarding football: “Football games in the U.S. have all the external trappings of religious festivals ... one side representing evil and the other good, depending upon the viewpoint of the members of the audience.
“Leading the congregation are the priestesses (cheerleaders). Operating on the principle of sympathetic magic, the priestesses attempt to transfer the enthusiasm of the crowd to the appropriate combatants.” — Macropædia, 1976, Vol. 7, page 202.
To most people football, like any other game, is a competitive sport where losing is as much a part of the game as winning. Still, is it wrong to exercise caution in how athletes are admired or imitated? For example, 1Peter 2:21 reminds Christians it was Jesus “leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” — not athletes.
Jesus taught us that a person can pray in any position, at any time and anywhere, and still be heard by God if we pray in Jesus’ name. We can never pray enough. Ephesians 5:20 says we should be “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thanking God is one thing. Praying for a win is entirely different. As far as asking God for a game victory — 1John 5:14 says, “If we ask anything according to his will he heareth us.” God’s will is outlined in His Word. It involves matters of salvation, not contests or sports.
Still, if a sparrow does not fall to the ground without God’s knowledge (Matthew 10:29), how can anyone be 100 percent sure He doesn’t notice someone offering thanks for making a touchdown?
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