Joseph Herrin (1-9-2012)
Tim Tebow - Quarterback for Denver Broncos
Not having a television, I don’t watch too many sporting events, but athletic competition does interest me. There are numerous references to athletes and various sporting competitions in the Bible. God has used the image of a athlete as an example of the discipline and focus required by those who would follow Christ as His disciples.
II Timothy 2:5-7
If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules... Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
I Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
The apostle Paul was quite familiar with athletic competition. He was writing during the time of the Roman Empire when Olympic competitions were renowned far and wide. Paul taught that even as there are characteristics of athletic champions, there are also traits that are common to those who would be overcomers in Christ. There are certain rules that must be adhered unto, or a person will be disqualified.
Some of the traits the apostle mentions are self-control, bodily discipline, and focus on the goal line.
I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Yahshua. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Yahshua. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (mature), have this attitude...
I have been following the remarkable career of Tim Tebow since he played quarterback at the University of Florida. Tim had a very successful career at Florida. Wikipedia summarizes his college years with the following words.
As a backup to starter Chris Leak and a key situational contributor, Tebow helped the Gators win the national championship during the 2006 college football season. Tebow was the Gators' starting quarterback during the 2007 season and became the first college football player to both rush and pass for 20 or more touchdowns in a single season. Consequently, he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. In 2008, Tebow led Florida to a 13-1 record and its second national championship in three years, and was named the offensive MVP of the national championship game. The Gators again went 13-1 and finished with a top- ranking in 2009, Tebow's senior year.
It was at Florida that Tim Tebow became renowned for his unabashed testimony of being a Christian. During every game he would paint a Scripture reference in the eye black on his face. After every game he would begin his interviews by saying, “First I would like to thank my Lord Jesus Christ.” There were more than a few detractors of his outspoken faith, but they never gained much ground for everyone loves a winner. The supporters of Tim Tebow were more numerous, and more vocal than those who criticized him.
Tim made quite an impact by these outward signs of his faith. Wikipedia states the following regarding his practice of painting Scripture references under his eyes.
In 2010, a new rule for the next NCAA football season, dubbed "The Tebow Rule" by media because it would have affected him, banned messages on eye paint. During his college football career, Tebow frequently wore references to biblical verses on his eye black. In the 2009 BCS Championship Game, he wore John 3:16 on his eye black and the verse became the highest-ranked Google search term over the next 24 hours, generating over 90 million searches. Additionally, later, when Tebow switched to another verse, there were 3.43 million searches of "Tim Tebow" and "Proverbs 3:5-6" together. Tebow stated of the searches "It just goes to show you the influence and the platform that you have as a student-athlete and as a quarterback at Florida."
For those of you wondering what Proverbs 3:5-6 says, I will provide the Scripture for you.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Tim’s acknowledgment of Christ went beyond Scripture reference under his eyes, and opening statements at press conferences. An Internet mania arose from what came to be referred to as “Tebowing.” Tim would regularly take a knee on the field, and bow his head in prayer at the end of a game, win or lose (though he did not have many losses).
When Tim was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in 2010, there was already a rule in place forbidding messages in eye black. However, there was no prohibition against bowing in the end zone and saying a silent prayer and this became his signature way of expressing his devotion to Jesus Christ.
Claiming to be a Christian, or even mouthing words of faith or gratitude to Christ are one thing, but many people’s lives speak quite a different testimony. I have been impressed that Tim has manifested in his character various traits that are what one would hope to see in a disciple of Christ. One characteristic that has impressed me most in one who has had such success and acclaim is his humility. In a realm where the media and fanatic legions of sports addicts make idols out of champions, Tim has remained very down to earth. Although Tim is passionate about football, he is quick to tell reporters that there are more important things. Tim has been in the news frequently regarding the sincere compassion he shows to others.
When reporters ask Tim the games he has won, or the players that are on his team, or those against him, his humility always shines through. After last night’s game in which the Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game Denver was expected to lose, Tim was asked about the play his wideout made to end the game. The humble Tebow described Thomas as someone "who makes me look a lot better than I really am." Though Tim is a fierce competitor, he does not demonize those whom he competes against. When asked about others, he praises their athleticism. When asked about himself, he gives praise to Christ.
Tim was born in the Philippines to parents who were Missionaries, serving there at the time. While pregnant, Tim’s mother suffered a life-threatening infection. Due to complications doctors advised her to have an abortion. She refused to abort the child she was carrying. During Superbowl XLIV Tim and his mother were featured in a pro-life commercial that was sponsored by Focus on the Family, the ministry started by James Dobson. This sparked national controversy as pro-abortion groups condemned Tebow, while pro-life groups rallied around him. The commercial did not mention the word abortion, but it upset many that it ended by inviting people to visit the Focus on the Family website to read about the full Tim Tebow story.
Since then Tim Tebow has become a very polarizing figure. Yet, his humble and enthusiastic spirit has continued to gain him admirers. A recent poll was conducted by the website Zillow asking people what celebrity they would most like to have for their neighbor. Tim Tebow came in first place on the survey.
Link to Survey Story
All of these things are interesting, but it is the parable I have observed concerning Tim Tebow’s career with the Denver Broncos this year that is the reason for my writing this post. Although he was drafted by the Broncos in 2010, Tim saw limited playing time last year, and was not the starting quarterback. The Broncos had a dismal season in 2010, winning only four games while losing twelve. Under starting quarterback Kyle Orton, the Broncos had one win and four losses this year when Orton was benched and Tebow was made the starting quarterback. Orton was replaced by Tebow at halftime during a home game against the San Diego Chargers in the fifth week of the season. Tebow nearly led the Broncos back from a 16-point deficit, as he passed and ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. There was little expectation for success, or hope that the season might be salvaged, but the Broncos went on to win the next seven out of eight games. But it was the way in which they won that garnered such attention.
Broncos' head coach John Fox announced Tebow would start in the following game on the road against the Miami Dolphins. Tebow and the Broncos struggled in the first three-and-a-half quarters against the Dolphins, but rallied from a 15–0 deficit in the last three minutes to win the game, 18–15, in overtime. Denver became the first team in NFL history to win a game after being down by at least 15 points with three minutes to play in a game. When things occur that never have happened before, it arrests my attention. This first game in which Tebow started as quarterback became a signature feature of his games.
The Broncos rarely led in any of their games until the very end. Under Tebow’s leadership, the team was constantly falling behind early, to rally late in the game. As win after win was posted at the very last moments, and often in overtime, people began to call the phenomenon “Tebow Time.” Even when the team was behind late in the game, fans of the Broncos would say, “Don’t worry, we haven’t gotten to Tebow Time yet.”
For example, on October 23rd, Denver was facing the Miami Dolphins. Tim Tebow’s stats were disastrous through the first three quarters. Behind 15-0 to the winless Miami Dolphins, with five minutes left in the game, Tebow passed for two touchdowns and ran for a 2-point conversion, tying the game. They won in overtime on a field goal.
Although Tim was a rookie quarterback, veteran broadcasters were noting what maturity he was playing with. They were particularly effusive about his unwavering optimism. He never seemed to get disappointed, but persevered to the end, always believing the game could still be won. Seven games, and six wins later, Timothy and the Broncos were facing the Chicago Bears. The Broncos were down 10-0 in the final quarter of play. The Broncos never gave up. In the final 2 minutes and 8 seconds of play, they caught up, sending the game into overtime. Tim was to have 236 yards passing this game, and 192 of them came in the fourth quarter. With three seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Broncos kicker lined up to make a 59 yard field goal attempt. He had only made one in his entire career at this length. He sent the ball through the uprights, and the game into overtime. In overtime, Denver won the game, marking the third overtime victory in eight games for the rookie quarterback and his team.
It was Denver's sixth straight win and seventh in eight games since Tebow, dubbed the ''Mile High Messiah,'' was promoted to starter. The Broncos have trailed in the second half in six of those victories.
This latest comeback put Denver in sole possession of first place in the AFC West after Oakland's 46-16 drubbing at Green Bay.
''Never say never,'' wide receiver Eric Decker said. ''That's a great characteristic of this team. ... Again it wasn't pretty. But again in the fourth quarter, we found a way to make some plays. Matt Prater, man, the kid can boom it...''
''We're rewriting the book on 'keep fighting,''' coach John Fox said. ''Our guys never blink. They remain positive. As bad as it looked today ... we didn't play well; we had some drops. But the guy who dropped a couple of passes caught the ... touchdown. That's kind of the M.O. on this bunch.''
The message coming through this improbable string of victories is to have faith, and keep fighting. Don’t give up. Even if you have been pummeled and stymied for more than three quarters of the game, victory is till possible. To quit trying is to ensure defeat. To fight makes victory possible.
After winning seven of eight games, Denver hit a stretch of three games where they lost. Their worst loss came at the hands of the New England Patriots who beat them 41-23. Uncharacteristic turnovers and interceptions plagued the team, but they pressed on. The NFL’s website had this quote after the game.
His relentless attitude seems to still be rubbing off, a sentiment expressed to me when I asked Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey about it after the loss.
"It still felt like we had a chance at the end," Bailey said. "I think that's part of who we are. We've proven we will not quit until this thing is over."
The Broncos qualified for the wildcard playoff game, which was played yesterday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were Superbowl champions in 2009, and made the playoffs again in 2010 with a 12-4 regular season record compared to Denvers 4-12 record. The Steelers made it all the way to the Superbowl again, where they lost against Green Bay. Most people did not hold out any hope that the Broncos and their rookie quarterback would beat a premium team such as the Steelers.
The Broncos scored early in the game, and at the end of four quarters the game was tied. Once more the Broncos were headed to overtime. It is in the late minutes, and extra periods of overtime that they have shined. They have played with great faith that victory is still in their grasp. The Broncos won the coin toss to see who would have first possession of the ball. A new rule in effect states that if a touchdown is scored that the game is over. On the first play of overtime Tebow tossed the ball to Demaryious Thomas who ran all the way to the end zone, a distance of 80 yards. In one play, and a brief 11 seconds, the game was over. Denver had won.
The news has been reporting today on the strangely coincidental numbers that were put up during this game. No less of a newspaper than the Los Angeles Times reported that many were seeing the hand of God in the numbers. It was mentioned how Tim Tebow used to paint John 3:16 under his eyes. The article suggested that even now that Tebow is not permitted to display those numbers, that God seems to be doing so for him. Tim Tebow finished the game with 316 yards passing. He had ten pass completions, for a playoff record 31.6 yards per reception.
Another website added this further testimony. Due to Tebow’s huge popularity, the game brought in the highest sports viewer rating by a television network for a wildcard playoff game in 24 years. The ratings kept climbing throughout the game and during the final quarter hour of the televised broadcast. From 8:00-8:15, which included the winning score, it had a rating of 31.6. And to cap off this string of numbers, the lone interception thrown that night came from Ben Roethlisberger and it was on 3rd down with 16 yards to go. On third and sixteen the ball was given back into the hands of Tim Tebow and the Broncos.
In all of this, I see a message coming through. God is still using sports and athletics to serve as a type of those characteristics needed by the overcomers in Christ. Don’t give up. Keep persevering. He who endures to the end will be saved. Keep your life pure. Stay humble. In a very real sense, this victory for the Broncos was a moral victory. They persevered. They did not give up. They showed endurance. Their hope never failed.
After the game, the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers was interviewed. His words seem to be filled with meaning that I am certain he did not intend.
"I'm proud of our guys and the way they fought, but obviously we're not in it for moral victories," said Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin...
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