Tim Tebow has handled NFL defenses stacking the line on him and the media frenzy that has surrounded his meteoric rise to be the most popular athlete in America, but nothing seemed to prepare him or his team for Tom Brady. Patriots QB Tom Brady showed why he is the league’s best by throwing for 363 yards and six TDs as his team crushed Tebow’s Denver Broncos 45-10 in the AFC divisional playoffs.
Tebow was battered by a defense that sacked him five times and shut off his running lanes. He was limited to 13 yards on five rushes, and completed nine of 26 passes for 136 yards.
Many fans wondered how Tebow might respond in defeat. After all, Tebow-mania had many fans believing that God might be giving him supernatural help to win big football games.
It didn’t take long after the loss to New England for a reporter to ask Tebow about his perspective on losing.
“There’s been a lot of talk this year about faith and winning. As Solomon said, ‘Victory belongs to the Lord.’ What about losing? How do you make sense of what’s the end of your season?”
Tebow responded by saying, “Well, something I pray before games, during games, and after games is regardless whether I win, whether I lose, whether I’m the hero or the goat — it doesn’t matter — that I still honor the Lord and give Him the glory because He’s deserving of it. And just like my effort shouldn’t change, neither should that. So that’s how I try to approach it. Sometimes even in a loss you can honor Him more. And so, for me I just pray that my character and who I am doesn’t change. Even though you can be dejected, you can still feel hurt, you can be disappointed; but you can still honor the Lord with how you handle things.”
Nathan Busenitz blogged his analysis of Tebow’s response following the press conference, “For a professional athlete who just lost the biggest game of his pro-football career in a landslide defeat on a national stage, that was an admirable response. He didn’t cry, as though football were more important than it really is. He didn’t blame his teammates or his coaches. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t fault God or say something silly about not having enough faith. Instead, he gave an answer that was theologically sound and inherently God-honoring. In essence, Tim was telling the media that they were missing the point: Christianity is not about winning football games; it’s about honoring the Lord in every situation, even when you lose the football game.”
Most football fans believe that winning is about defeating your opponent. Turn that around 180 degrees and losing is being defeated by your opponent. These definitions are ingrained in us from our early years of competition. I like to call this type of winning/losing philosophy, “scoreboard winning.” However, for the Christian athlete and coach there is something beyond measuring success by the score as Tim Tebow expressed during his press conference.
The Bible gives us God’s perspective on winning and losing. I believe winning is maxing out all that we are toward becoming like Jesus Christ in every situation. By contrast, losing is not maxing out our entire self toward becoming like Jesus Christ in each situation. Once we adopt God’s perspective on winning and losing, circumstances will not control our athletic performance.
Colossians 3:23 is a key bible passage for understanding this true success. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.” The word “whatever” includes everything we do in sports. Whether it is running, throwing or jumping. The word “heartily” means we do it by maxing out all of your abilities toward the task at hand. it refers to our mental, physical and emotional energies. Paul doesn’t stop here or it would be a philosophy of “Just give it all you got and you’re a winner!” It is maxing out or giving it all we have but also doing it for the Lord rather than men. Jesus Christ must be our only audience as we perform.
That’s how a Christian athlete can honor the Lord in every situation, even when they lose a football game. Maxing out for the Lord will keep us from being sidetracked by the score or any other factor if our only thought is to represent Jesus as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. As we perform in this way, we can also know that the results of competition will be His to bring Him honor!
1. What stood out to you in Tebow’s comments following the loss to New England?
2. Do you agree with Nathan Busenitz’s commentary about Tebow? Why or why not?
3. Explain how Colossians 3:23 relates to your athletic performance?
4. Read Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus given thanks through Him to God the Father.” How does the phrase “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” relate to your athletic performance?
5. Read 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were working through us …” What does it mean to be an ambassador? What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ in sports?
6. What can you be assured of when you max out for the Lord?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986. Currently, he is the Director or Training and Resources for the Nebraska FCA. He has a weekly blog, Sports In Focus. You can subscribe to the podcast at itunes and the blog here.He has also founded Cross Training Publishing (www.crosstrainingpublishing.com). He has written Team Studies on Character and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. He is married to Terri and has four grown children. You can find out more information about the Nebraska FCA at www.nebraskafca.org.