(Photo: Dan Delzell)
Tim Tebow sure knows how to praise others. I guess he is so good at it because he has been doing it for quite awhile now. His highest praises always go to the Lord. After the Broncos defeated the Steelers in their playoff game last weekend, Tim said: “First and foremost, I just want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Tim has never been ashamed to boast about the One who created the world and who died on the cross for his sins.
Tim also knows how to “praise” others for their skills and abilities. As always, he was very genuine this week in his comments as he prepares to face the Patriots on Saturday night. Tim referred to Tom Brady as “one of the best quarterbacks of all time,” and added that Brady is “one of the best when it comes to championships.” Tim knows a talented quarterback when he sees one.
Millions of football fans know how to praise their favorite players. They do it all the time. This business of praising Jesus Christ is on a whole different level and wavelength. It confuses the heck out of many in the media. They don’t understand why Tebow seems to “wear his religion on his sleeve.” They don’t understand his motives, or his heart, or his obsession with John 3:16. It’s a mystery to them, and frankly, it seems to embarrass them even to discuss Tebow’s faith.
While it’s not complicated, it certainly is a mystery. Tim Tebow has an “apostle Paul like” fervor when it comes to the message of Christ. Paul wrote, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make know the mystery of the Gospel.” (Ephesians 6:19) If it wasn’t a mystery, everyone in the media and in our society would probably join Tebow in praising Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many of them don’t get it. That doesn’t mean they are not intelligent. It simply means they have not yet solved the mystery of John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The apostle John also wrote these words: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) Did you catch that? The truth can actually get inside of you. You won’t begin to praise God for the mystery of Christ until the truth of John 3:16 gets inside you. When Tim Tebow offers up praise to Jesus Christ, it is not contrived. It is the supernatural outflow of a wellspring of living water which dwells within his soul. It’s a real experience with the living God. That doesn’t make Tebow better than anyone else; it just makes him different than those who are living life without the truth dwelling inside of them.
Fans in Denver held up signs last weekend which read, “Believe, Believe, Believe.” Football fans attempt to believe for a team victory. Human beings are invited to believe that God really does love them even though they have opposed Him by breaking His commands. If a person refuses to believe in Jesus as Savior, he will remain clueless when it comes to the truth on the inside of Tim Tebow. Without faith in Christ, a person remains in the dark. Once you believe it, you begin to be changed from the inside out and you begin to praise the One who suffered and died for sinners like you.
One of the many aspects of Christianity is that God doesn’t ask us to be “fake” or to put on a show for others. Instead, He gives us a new nature and He places His love in our hearts for His Son and for others. Tim Tebow would have to be fake not to speak up about Christ. Football means nothing to Tim when compared to what God has done for Him. After all, what good are Super Bowl wins when compared to everlasting life? In the grand scheme of things, athletic victories are completely worthless to the person who praises athletes but doesn’t know the mystery of John 3:16.
If Jesus only died for certain people, then no unbeliever can know for sure whether this message is actually for him….rather than just for Tebow and other Christians. If God didn’t “so love the world,” then no unbeliever could be told with absolute confidence that this message is for him or her. Since “Christ died for sins once for all,” (1 Peter 3:18) this Gospel message of good news is available to everyone in the media and everyone who is a sinner and has broken God’s laws.
The Gospel points to man’s problem and God’s solution. If I am not convinced that “my sin” is a problem, then I will probably go on cheering for athletes while ignoring Jesus and His cross. Those who don’t have the truth on the inside of them tend to view people like Tim Tebow as religious fanatics. From heaven’s vantage point, the fanatics are those who refuse to come to Christ with their sin while continuing to praise man for his ability to throw a football or tackle someone on the field.
Does it really make any sense for a person to neglect the needs of his immortal soul while at the same time rejoicing in those who have some athletic skill? Such is the mystery of Christ and the fact that so many are perishing after a few years or a few decades of cheering for their favorite sports team. Many people only cheer for what is happening on the outside, while others reserve their greatest applause for what has been revealed to them on the inside. “We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:15,16)
The Gospel remains a mystery to a person until he “bows his knee” before His Creator and Redeemer, just like Tim Tebow kneels at times on the football field. It takes humility to tell God that you are a sinner and in need of His Son to forgive your sins. If Jesus is worthy of praise when a touchdown is scored, then He is also worthy of praise when the pass is dropped and the game is lost. Earthly losses are swallowed up in the victory that Jesus won on the cross. Earthly losses are actually the best opportunities to point people to a much greater victory and a prize that never wears out. If I cannot rejoice in the Lord just as much when I lose the athletic event as when I win it, then my faith in Christ is extremely weak at best and perhaps even nonexistent.
When the Broncos compete against the Patriots on Saturday night, Tim Tebow will once again have the opportunity to lead Denver into battle. He will undoubtedly play with passion and determination. Knowing what he knows about the mystery of the Gospel, he will ultimately be playing for an audience of One. If Tom Brady comes out on top, Tim Tebow will offer him congratulations. Win or lose, we know that Tim will reserve his worship and highest praise for the One who has given him and all believers eternal life in heaven. It would be insane for a believer to think that a football win or loss could even begin to compare to “the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” (Colossians 2:2)
Since we already know where Tim Tebow stands, and kneels, what about you? Are you open-minded enough to take a fresh look at John 3:16? You won’t be able to truly praise God until the truth gets inside of you through repentance and faith. The mystery will be solved when you do what it said on the sign at the game last weekend: “Believe, Believe, Believe.”
It’s easy to believe that Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards in that game for an average of 31.6 yards per catch. Those are the facts. Now just believe in the facts of John 3:16. That too is part of history. It’s not a numbers game or a football game. It is God’s plan of salvation. It’s also about your soul hanging in the balance. Will your soul be won for Christ, or will you "lose your soul” forever and spend eternity apart from God? If you really want to be a winner in God’s eyes, then “this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4,5) That is why Tim Tebow praises Jesus whether the Broncos win or lose.