A little over twenty-four years ago in Makati City, a municipality in the Philippines, a young pregnant woman contracted a pathogenic amoeba and slipped into a coma. Doctors treated her with a life-saving drug, but it caused the placenta to separate from her uterus. Believing the baby would be stillborn, her doctor advised Pam to abort her baby to protect her own life.
The daughter of a US Army Colonel, Pam had married a Baptist missionary. They made the difficult decision that she would not have an abortion. The couple already had four children, two girls and two boys. But they believed God had given their baby life, and that He alone should decide when that life would be over. Pam and Bob Tebow’s son, born in August 1987, was named Timothy, and his life would make a big difference.
Tim Tebow came to national prominence in during his junior year of high school. As a homeschooled student in Jacksonville, Florida, he benefited from a 1996 Florida law allowing homeschooled students to participate in local schools’ sporting events in the districts in which they lived. Leaving the rest of the family on their farm in Duval County, Pam and Tim moved to an apartment in nearby St. Johns County to give Tim a chance to play football at Class 4A Nease High School.
A successful high school football career was just thebeginning for Tim. Upon graduation he was the most highly recruited quarterback in the nation, not only because of his running and passing abilities on the field, but also because of his leadership, courage, competitive spirit, and physicality.
He was awarded a scholarship at the University of Florida where he was honored in 2007 as the first homeschooled student and the first sophomore to win college football’s highest award, the Heisman Trophy. A leader among his teammates and colleagues, Tebow was featured in Sports Illustrated, and on an ESPN special called “Tim Tebow: The Chosen One.” The latter focused on his now-controversial homeschool status, and his summer mission work in the Philippines.
Since graduating college in 2010 and being drafted into the NFL to play for the Denver Broncos, he has been extremely successful, many times pulling wins out in the last moments like a rabbit pulled from a magic hat. Tebow’s critics say he isn’t good enough to be an NFL quarterback, but somehow, he keeps defying the odds and leading the Broncos to win after win.
One of the most controversial things he has done is to bow on the sidelines and pray, something any Christian could understand. The secular world, however, does not understand why we turn to God for help and wisdom when we feel overwhelmed. They see his prayers as grandstanding, and they resent the fact that Tebow has “God on his side.”
It has even caused some reporters to question whether God prefers Tim’s team to other teams. I don’t think that’s it at all. Like Tim Tebow, I happen to believe that God hears and answers our prayers. His answer isn’t always “Yes,” but the Bible clearly teaches that God gives grace to the humble, those who recognize their own weakness and God’s strength.
Does this mean any other quarterback who prays can expect to receive the same results? No. Those who try to gain God’s favor without relationship have no authority with Him. They are like the sons of Sceva who tried to usurp Paul’s power with God and cast out demons. The evil spirit answered them and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Acts 19:15
The controversy surrounding Tim Tebow seems to never end. First he was criticized for playing at Nease High School while being schooled at home. Then he was criticized for speaking openly about his faith while playing at Gainesville. The NCAA ruled that players cannot put messages in their eye paint after Tebow’s John 3:16 was considered offensive by some fans, yet it prompted 90 million Google searches of the verse.
Opposing players and even sports commentators have ridiculed his praying. But it hasn’t changed Tim or anything about him. He has continued to be himself. And he has returned to the Philippines every year since he was 15, going about his mission work and charitable giving without fanfare or without seeking publicity.
Another young man was criticized for praying, and it brought him to a critical point in his life. In Daniel 6, we find the young Hebrew slave at the top of his game in Babylon. The king has just promoted Daniel to second in command in his kingdom, and all those in the secular world are clamoring for his position. They know bringing him down won’t be easy, because Daniel is blameless. They can’t catch him doing wrong, so they have to get him for doing something right.
After convincing Belshazzar to make it illegal to petition (pray to) anyone other than the king, Daniel’s enemies “caught” him kneeling upon his knees praying, just as he had always done three times a day. They brought him to the king who was distraught because his edict was irreversible, and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den.
We remember the outcome of that, and how the Lord shut the mouth of the lions. But do we remember what happened to Daniel’s accusers? They and their wives and children were thrown to the lions, but sadly the outcome was altogether different. The Bible says their bones were broken before they even reached the bottom of the den.
Tim Tebow has become a cult figure, and “Tebowing” has become a verb (or a gerund, to be grammatically correct). Tebow didn’t just begin bowing in prayer when the cameras began to roll. Like Daniel, it was already a practice of his life, as natural as breathing. But the world sees it as a show, and condemns him for it. I say those who criticize him do so because they feel guilty for their own lack of prayer and connection to God.
The word “Tebowing” may not officially be a part of the English language, but everyone knows it means kneeling on one knee and bowing the head while others around are going about their own activities. We see it pictured in photos on TV, on Facebook, on Sports websites, and in the newspapers. It may be viewed as mockery, or as true imitation of and respect for a godly man. However we view it, we must agree that Tebow’s life has made an impact on millions.
I can’t think of many things I’d rather be known for than praying. But for those who do it to mock his faith, I would offer a word of warning: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked…” Galatians 6:7. God also doesn’t take kindly to having his servants mocked. I seem to remember reading about 42 teen boys in the Bible who mocked Elisha the Prophet, calling him “Baldhead.” They were subsequently eaten by bears.
I cannot imagine anyone having the audacity to mock God or his servants, and yet it is done every day. Everyone, from sportscasters to those magnanimous ladies on The View, somehow seem to make Tebow’s actions their business. They think they have the right to tell him what he can and cannot do. God is patient and kind, but he will not hold his wrath forever. I also remember that Lamentations 3:22a says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed…”
Bowing to pray is something that has characterized Christians for centuries, even long before Daniel’s day. Thanks to Tim Tebow, it hasn’t gone out of style. Like it or not, one day everyone of us will be “Tebowing.” Romans 14:11 says: “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”