The other night Bob Costas raised—and ultimately dismissed—the possibility of God’s role in the nearly unbelievable string of Broncos victories with their unabashed evangelical quarterback Tim Tebow at the helm:
The combination of Denver’s continuing late heroics, and today, the Bears’ otherwise unexplainable errors, is enough to have some at least suspect divine intervention. Except that Tebow, whose sincere faith cannot be questioned, and should be respected, also has the good sense, and good grace, to make it clear he does not believe God takes a hand in the outcome of games.Which raises the question: how should believers think about this improbable season? About sports games in general? Why would God care who wins and who loses? Isn’t it dangerous to think God is pulling for one team over another?
Most of us are good with that. Otherwise, how to explain what happens when there are equal numbers of believers on either side? Or why so many of those same believers came up empty facing Sandy Koufax? Or hit the deck against Muhammad Ali? Or why the Almighty wouldn’t have better things to do?
We need some thoughtful theological reflection here, and I’m thankful that Owen Strachan has provided exactly that. After providing some important background and clarification, Strachan writes, “we’re positioned to answer a question that, as we can see, requires more care than your average drive-time call-in show may gave it.”
Here’s the upshot of his piece:
God oversees and ordains all that comes to pass. This includes, as surprising as it may initially seem, football games. The outcome of every football game ever been played was planned by the all-wise, all-seeing mind of God. But this is not saying what some might think. God has also planned every haircut you’ve ever had, and every shopping trip you’ve ever taken. He is lord of football, and he is lord of produce. Nothing happens outside of his sovereign direction.I encourage you to read the whole thing. It’s an important, careful answer to a question that is rarely this front and center in our culture.
We err, though, if we equate his general superintendence of this world—the falling of sparrows, the numbering of hairs—with the special working of his kingdom. This is what Costas seems to be protesting, and in a much fuller sense than he understands. God has a special interest in promoting his gospel and building his church (John 3:16; Rom. 10; Eph. 1). This is not to say that he is uninterested in the ordinary things of the world, but rather to note that the mission of salvation begun after Adam’s fall holds preeminence for God and, by extension, for his followers.
We must also say that for Tebow, the way he plays football is necessarily a matter of God’s glory. In the same way that God gains glory through the work of a faithful accountant, a sacrificial, sleep-deprived mother, and a repentant cellist, God gains glory through righteous athletes who work hard in his name and seek to be a light in dark places. God directs the life and exploits of Tim Tebow, football hero. But he also directs Owen Strachan, Boyce College professor, or my friend Colin LeCroy, a Dallas lawyer, or my friend Emily Duffus, an Atlanta schoolteacher. Tebow may reach more people in his work, but we are all working for the glory of God, who directs and blesses our work so as to magnify his name.