This past fall I decided that I should steer clear of the Tim Tebow mania. Though I loved the story and continue to admire Tebow’s sincerity and faith both on and off the field, I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that much of our day-to-day commentary about “God’s favorite football player” was off. The way I saw it, if we weren’t careful with our words, we might start sounding like we actually believed God was intervening in order to help a corporate business which holds a professional football franchise to score more points than other such franchises.
At first I was mildly amused at the notion of God’s divine favor being poured out on a guy playing a game for a living. Americans love to be amused; we build incredible stages surrounded by ample amounts of seating to coddle our desire to be entertained. Sundays are our day of respite from our work and stress. We file into our rows, take our seats and expect to see talent, sharp performance, jumbo screens, and fog machines. Then we go home and see it again as we watch sports. And let’s be honest, Tebowmania was a great story. But then again, so was Seabiscuit, a horse (but I am unfamiliar with his religious affiliation).
My amusement with the Tebow thing turned to concern when I heard a fellow Christian say it was the “hand of God.” Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in the sovereign might of God our creator. Our Father has set the world on its axis, and I’m convinced that every breath I draw is a gift from God. But the inference was that God was giving Tim Tebow football victory, and shafting everyone one else (including Christians) on the opposing teams. And then I read one Facebook post too many. Following a game in which Tebow’s team won, and coincidentally Tebow threw for 316 yards, I saw a Facebook post that read, “Wow, a miracle. It’s a John 3:16 win, God is doing great things, way to go God.”
That’s when I snapped. “Let it go… let it go,” I said to myself. But no, I just had to post something:
“Tebow is just a very young guy getting paid to play a game that has little to do with anything global, practical, or eternal. Shouldn’t we stop creating God moments attached to grown men in spandex pants who get points for an exaggerated form of Candyland? Again, I’m a Tebow fan, but not so much a fan of the idea that there is divine intervention in football outcomes.”
Now that Tebowmania has passed, we’ve moved on to Linsanity. It too, is a wonderful story that is sweeping the nation. Jeremy Lin is the consummate feel-good story. This underdog-turned-hero is humble, gracious, and (have you heard?) he went to Harvard. While there were plenty of “haters” who were turned off by Tebow’s demonstrative prayers and sky pointing, it’s very difficult not to love Jeremy Lin.
This past week Lin led the New York Knicks to their seventh win in a row (for those of you looking for the supernatural —SEVEN!). In win six of the streak, Jeremy scored a three point play to tie the game. Then he hit a last second 3-point-shot to win the game for his team. I think even the opposing players had to smile. Wow! What a story. (I was waiting for someone on Facebook to note that Jeremy’s trinity of points both tied and won the game. Coincidence?)
After the game Jeremy was respectful and modest. As a Christian he wanted to thank God and keep his priorities in order. What a nice kid. But I have to admit that I cringed when his response to questions about the 3-point game winning basket was, “It was a miracle from God.”
Yes, I understand what he meant–“I am blessed to have been given this opportunity, and every good thing that happens in my life is by the grace of God.” But no, the Divine did not disrupt the natural order of the world by making a ball go through a hoop.
I appreciate what Tim and Jeremy are doing–to stand boldly, in faith, and telling the world that they fully devoted followers of Jesus. I admire them for it. And believe me when I say that I could not do better in their respective situations. But after the scoreboard is turn off and the stadium lights go down, we spectators and fans need to be sure that our commentary and conversations are clear-minded regarding our theology and biblical worldview.
Here are a few quick points for us to consider:
- If the game is won or the game is lost, God is still God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever;
- If circumstances do not appear to be in our favor, God is still good. He is absolutely trustworthy and faithful;
- If we use the word miracle to describe something beautiful in our lives, remember that faith itself is a miracle; God is supernaturally revealing His glory
- The purpose of a miracle is always to God’s glory; He is drawing us further and deeper into His love.
And though it’s fun to get caught up in the “manias” and “insanities” of celebrity stories, might I suggest that if we want to see the love of God and proclaim His glory in our lives, we might look first to the stories that don’t make the front page headlines. Surely the power of God is at work with the person feeding the poor in the slums of Calcutta, or the faithful pastor in a forgotten little town who is holding the hand of a dying saint, or the single mother who is working two jobs while staying up with her children’s laundry and faithfully taking them to church.
Those might very well be miracles.
P.S. For me, God isn’t so much into the business of changing my circumstances as He is working to change my attitude toward my circumstances.