Tim Tebow and Paul's Sport's Imagery

Let me first explain to those who are not living in the U.S. and who are not fans of the NFL (National Football League), because you may not know who Tim Tebow is. Tebow is one of the biggest stories in the NFL at present, especially after a spectacular overtime win against the highly favored Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday. This game has been called one of the most remarkable performances by an athlete and one of the most remarkable finishes to any game in sports history.

To those who have not heard of him, Tebow is the quaterback of the Denver Broncos, and he is perhaps the most well known Christian in the U.S. today because he always professes his faith publicly whenever he scores a touchdown and whenever he speaks. (At the time of this writing he has over 800,000 followers on Twitter and over 1.3 million subscribers on Facebook.) After a score, he would bow on one knee in prayer, which has been nick-named “Tebowing.” After every game, whenever he is interviewed he always says, “First I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” and then he goes on to profusely thank his team mates and his coaches by giving them all the credit for what they do. He is humble, self-effacing, spirited, joyful, likable and obviously happy whenever he speaks. He is 24 years old, single and still a virgin, which is unusual for those who are in professional sports. His parents were American missionaries to the Philippines, and Tebow is presently using his own money to build a hospital in the Philippines.

So much has already been written and said about Tebow by the Christian media, the secular media and on countless sport’s talk shows. But after giving my sermon yesterday on Sanctification, I want to make a connection between Tim Tebow and the Apostle Paul’s frequent use of athletic imagery.

A point I made in my sermon is that the Christian who is being truly sanctified by God is one who does not think of Christian life as a relaxed easy stroll in the park, but as an intense race to the finish in order to win the coveted prize at any cost. Paul frequently used sport’s imagery in his epistles (Php 2:16b; 3:14; 2 Tim 4:8; 1 Cor 9:24-27; Acts 20:24) to capture the spirit, passion, zeal, enthusiasm and victorious joy of the Christian life.

Tim Tebow has captured the imagination of many, both Christian and non-Christian, because he is a winner, and the world loves winners. Even Lady Gaga was impressed and tweeted about what a champion Tebow is! Also, whenever Tebow speaks and plays football, he is intense, real, tough, fearless and confident, yet always humble, unassuming and always deferring credit to God and others. As Paul wrote, we Christians should “shine like stars in the universe” or “shine as lights in the world” (Php 2:15; NIV, ESV). By God’s grace, Tebow seems to be brightly testifying to Christ in our unbelieving world. I pray that God may protect him from Satan’s certain temptation toward anyone whom God is using to reveal the name of Jesus.

Finally, if you are a movies and sports fan as I am, here is a cautionary warning from John Piper if you love movies and sports more than Jesus.

Does sport’s capture your interest? Is your Christian life like a joyful race to the finish line? Surely not like a celebrity, but is God enabling you to shine like a bright light in a dark place because of Jesus?


  1. Yesterday, I was watching the game at my brother’s house. After the coin toss in OT, I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich. When I returned to watch the game, Denver was celebrating. It was the shortest OT victory!

    Some thoughts regarding “shine like stars in the universe.” One way a Christian can shine is through influence.  Many “experts” have criticized Tebow’s throwing mechanics as a quarterback. While some athletes have tangible skills (e.g. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees), they say Tebow has “intangible” skills. Among them is to make those around him play better. His winning attitude is contagious and pervasive. 
    We are all sinners, but we have powerful “intangibles” such as the Holy Spirit, Christ love, etc. that allows us to shine like stars in universe. Personally, that has always been my prayer to be like “stars in the universe” to those close and far to me, especially to my children.

    The road to the Superbowl will be tough! New England is a formidable team. May the best team win! 

  2. Because Tebow threw for 316 yards yesterday, the top search after the game was for John 3:16: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/22475988/34284646 Tebow wore “John 3:16” on his eye black in the 2009 BCS Championship game and has since become identified with the famous Bible message. The coincidental stats caused millions of fans to perform Google searches on the Bible passage in the past 24 hours.

    Here’s one more unbelievable stat: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that the final quarter-hour television rating for the Broncos-Steelers game was, you guessed it, 31.6.

    Is God somehow in on this?

  3. I watched that game last night, it was pretty exciting. However, I was hoping the Broncos would lose. Yeah, he’s a Christian, and that’s great, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him…..right? Did any else notice that after the last Bears game one of the Viking’s players was interviewed about almost breaking the NFL record for sacks in a season. Much like Tebow, he thanked his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I was very surprised to see that, but didn’t hear a word about it from anywhere else.

  4. Two to three weeks ago I don’t have any idea of who’s Tim Tebow, maybe because his sport is not popular here in our country. When I first saw an interview of Tebow and learned that his a popular American football player in a major league and yet his very humble, it caused me to read a lot of articles about him for almost a day and he is truly amazing. But more than his talent in his sport, his faith is what really moved me, his very encouraging.

  5. Like you said, we should pray that he can be strong against temptation.  I can imagine how devastated some of his fans might feel if he ever got caught in a scandal. 
    But man, he’s exciting to watch.  Many Christian guys I know have become diehard fans of Tebow, even if they weren’t Broncos fans to begin with.  I think that Christians are proud of him.. he’s an all-American guy who’s respectable, kind, charitable, and “manly.”  He inspires people because he’s been proving his naysayers wrong, fighting until the end, even when hopes of a win are dismal.  His critics are begrudgingly admitting that he’s a genuinely nice guy and exciting player to watch.
    In the past, Christian figures have sometimes gotten negative press or been ridiculed by the media.  I think Tebow appeals to a lot of Christians because he is inspirational, is attractive to both Christian and non-Christians, isn’t caught in a scandal, seems genuine and unhypocritical, doesn’t seem self-righteous or judgmental, and, well, isn’t embarrassing but actually cool.  Whether his team wins or loses against New England, I’m sure he’ll handle it with grace and class.

  6. According to the news today, the top 5 popular athletes according to as ESPN poll at present are:
    1. Tim Tebow
    2. Kobe Bryant
    3. Aaron Rogers
    4. Peyton Manning
    5. Tom Brady

    Apparently, only 11 people all time have ever been on this list. If Tebow loses to the Patriots on Sat, since he is a 2 touchdown underdog, he’ll probably be off the list.

    And yes, dear guest. Tebow can fail as a football player, but may God guard him from failing as a Christian.

  7. Both Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, who are friends, each say that they want to be pastors after their professional careers are over: http://gma.yahoo.com/video/news-26797925/tim-tebow-jeremy-lin-bond-over-fame-faith-28462368.html