Why would a homeschool mom write a devotional about football? Because God has been saying a lot through football lately, and I am trying to listen! My career as a Tim Tebow fan goes back about seven years to Jacksonville, Florida, where my homeschooling journey began. Pam Tebow spoke at the first homeschool convention I ever attended. She was preparing to homeschool Tim in his final year of high school during the summer that I took the plunge into the world of homeschooling. Today I find myself benefitting from the fruit of her labor as I learn lessons from her son.
In a day when society offers our children empty, shallow, media-driven role models, it warms a mother’s heart to see a football player that her son can look to as an example of biblical young manhood. All the debate about whether Tebow can throw or how long he will last in the NFL means nothing to me. It isn’t the wins or the losses or the last-minute miracles—and I do think some of them are miracles! Instead, it is the testimony of a life of obedience. No doubt critics are looking for the flaws or the big fall, but any honest Christian will tell you there is no need to look hard. We all have them, and Tebow is no different. What has been beautiful to witness this season is how God honors someone who follows Him wholeheartedly
It is a rare opportunity to have a public figure who appeals to our kids AND has qualities we actually want our kids to emulate. So, what lessons can we point out to our children this week while Tebow is so heavily in the public eye?
- Live with a posture of praise. “Tebowing” now appears in newspapers, on t-shirts, and—most recently—as the closing pose for sportscasters after the Steelers-Broncos game. Whatever you call it, we see Tim giving praise to his Savior every chance he gets by public prayer and praise and by his first comments in interviews. His default posture in all circumstances is to give glory to God.
- Our accomplishments do not define us. Tebow has been quoted as saying, “Football does not define me.” In a day when the world tells us that our worth depends on how much money we make, the kind of job we have, or how many people know our name, it is refreshing to see someone “famous” who knows where his real worth lies. What a great opportunity to examine the source of our own worth and to make sure our kids are grounded about theirs.
- Being a Christian does not mean you win every game. Watching some miracle-finishes to games this season has been great fun. God has “shown up” and rewarded Tebow’s obedience with some awesome, odds-defying victories. The general public may be tempted to say that the losses reflect an inconsistent God. As Christians we know better. The Christian life is like any other life in a broken world. It is full of ups and downs. The difference is that we walk them with a Savior who knows our struggles firsthand and who can bring good from all circumstances.
- Work hard all the time. Tebow’s work ethic is no secret. Supposedly, he sprints from station to station in practices, while the “norm” is to walk leisurely. In his noteworthy speech following a Florida loss to Ole Miss in 2008, Tim tearfully and humbly declared, “…I promise you one thing. A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see another team play as hard as we will play the rest of the season.” Despite the loss, Tebow’s Gators went on to win the national title that year. Hard work pays off. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23, NIV’84).
- It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you. People either love Tebow or hate him. Neither matters to him. The only approval he seeks or cares about is that of the Lord. He repeatedly tells the media that he does not pay attention to his critics. Much of the criticism surrounds his public displays of his faith, but as Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of things against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12, NIV’84).
- Public notoriety brings great responsibility. In a time when athletes sign multimillion-dollar contracts and splurge on extravagant cars and houses and flamboyant lifestyles, it is refreshing to show our sons and daughters an athlete who spends his free time in orphanages and prisons and uses his wealth to build a children’s hospital for children in the Philippines. Tebow constantly acknowledges his position as a role model for young people. As Jesus stated in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much more will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (NIV’84).
- A true hero knows he isn’t worthy of being a hero. None of these observations are intended to elevate Tim Tebow. He is a sinner and would be the first to tell you so. He needs a Savior just like you and I do. He has, however, been provided a unique platform. So far, he has used it well, and we can be grateful to learn from it. Jesus Christ is the only person worth emulating, but our kids like to have “heroes” to look up to. The Bible is full of them, but it is a blessing to have a “real, live” example who actually recognizes the responsibility of that position.
Whether you are a true football fan or a curious onlooker, Tebow’s season—and the upcoming playoff games—offer a great opportunity to show our sons and daughters what a life sold-out to God can look like. It isn’t easy, you don’t always win, and it doesn’t mean people will like you. But if you focus on your Savior, praise Him in all circumstances, work as though for Him, and live a life worthy of the calling to which you have received, God will honor that—even on the football field.