Does God care about football?
The Cultural Impact of Tim Tebow
By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries
The recent success of quarterback Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos has a lot of people asking questions about God and His interest, or lack thereof, in football. Interestingly, in a recent poll with the question "Does God help Tebow win?" 43% of people responded with a "yes." So, does God determine who wins football games? And if so, what criteria does He use to determine who should win a football game? Is it the number of Christians on the teams? Is it which team prays harder? Is it which team Tim Tebow is on?
First, we have to remember that God is absolutely sovereign (see Romans 9). Nothing happens unless God ordained it to happen. In that sense, yes, God determines who wins football games. God has every event in the history of the universe planned according to His sovereign will. This includes everything from wars and natural disasters all the way down to the events of a football game.
But, with the sovereignty of God in mind, we must be careful to avoid fatalism and determinism. Somehow in the mystery of God's plan, our decisions and actions play a role. Everything that happens is a part of God's plan, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility for our actions and the results thereof. While the Bible does not teach that humanity has a free will — at least not in the sense of a will that is absolutely free of God's control — the Bible does teach that we are responsible for our actions. God has incorporated our actions into His sovereign plan. We may not understand how this is possible with an absolutely sovereign God, but that is due to our own limitations. We are finite, God is infinite. Just because we cannot fully understand a concept does not negate the truth of the concept.
How does the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man relate to football? It would seem that while God knows who will win, and that ultimately God ordained who will win — God allows football games to follow their natural course. The team with the best players, and/or the most effort, and/or the best game plan, and/or the best execution, wins the game. Can God intervene and interrupt the natural course of a football game? Absolutely! Is there any biblical reason to believe God often does intervene in football games? No, there is not.
It is not necessarily a matter of which team has more players that are Christians. It is not necessarily a matter of which team prays harder. It is usually a matter of which team has the better quarterback and/or the better defense and/or the more accurate kicker. Far too often plays are deemed miraculous when they may simply be very good plays performed by very skilled athletes. Is an 80-yard touchdown pass for a game winning touchdown in overtime a miracle, or is it a good throw from a quarterback to a very fast receiver? While the former is of course a distinct possibility, the latter is very likely the reality.
In no sense am I discouraging athletes from praying or from giving God the glory for their athletic abilities and achievements. Recognize that everything we have is a gift from God. Everything that makes us unique individuals is a gift from God (Romans 11:36). By all means, Christian athletes should ask for God's help. But, as with all prayers, whether God's response is yes or no, our response should be to continue to worship Him. Biblically speaking, God is far more interested in how players conduct themselves in, and after, a football game than He is in who wins the football game.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Image credit: Jeffrey Beall; "Tim Tebow"; Creative Commons
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