Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

This afternoon while I watched the first play of overtime in the Denver Broncos-Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game, I thought of Jesus’ words to his first two disciples as recorded in John’s Gospel.

According to John 1:35-39, they had been following John the Baptist when he referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God.”

Naturally, when you’re following someone and clinging to his every word and you hear him announce that someone is vastly greater than himself, you’re going to move along to follow this greater person. That’s exactly what these two men (believed to be Andrew – as mentioned in verse 40 – and John, the author of the gospel) did.

And naturally, if you’re going about your business and two people start following you, you’re eventually going to turn around and ask what’s up. That’s exactly what Jesus did.

Jesus asks these two men what they want, and they choose to use the riddle method (never a good idea when you’re dealing with the creator of the universe, but whatever). They answer Jesus’ question with a question of their own, asking where he is staying.

Jesus’ response sums up everything I’ve come to love about his character and everything that I’ve so often fallen short of emulating as a follower of Christ. He simply says, “Come, and you will see” (v. 39).

Jesus doesn’t seek to give them the easy answer; he gives them the choice to be a part of what he was about to do. Too often we long for the simple answer and dismiss the opportunity to take part in the journey. In the end, actions will speak far louder – and have a far greater impact – than words.

Everything about Tim Tebow supports that cliche.

Really it’s more along the lines of actions grant words volume. Tebow’s entire stage for ministry is based on his success on the field. Based on his struggles with various aspects of quarterbacking, his success has seemed so improbable that people have seriously suggested divine intervention.

I have no desire to compare Tim Tebow to Jesus. That is not my intent. I simply want to point out that the formula that leads to Tim’s success and sharing is one that follows the example Jesus set nearly 2,000 years ago.

Even in other accounts of Jesus finding his first disciples, we see calls to action based on the miraculous. Later in John 1 Jesus calls Nathanael simply by knowing who he is. Jesus then tells Nathanael, “You shall see greater things than that” (v. 50). In Mark’s account, he calls to Simon and Andrew and declares that he will make them “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Jesus’ words point to his actions as testimony.

Tebow praises God in every situation, at least publicly. Our world has discovered that everyone placed on a pedestal eventually falls, so there is absolutely a reasonable amount of concern over all who want to bow to the golden statue of Tebow. But even in his words, he always deflects all praise to his savior and his teammates. Tebow reveals no desire to be on the pedestal, but he is certainly willing to use the opportunity of the stage to bring glory to God.

Now I state the obvious: if I declare that all I have is thanks to my savior Jesus Christ and state that I will forever praise and thank him in all things, it will attract the attention of oh, say, between zero and 50 people (depending on my current location). If I were to make such a declaration on a stage downtown, I would get mixed glares and jeers from people who would naturally assume I was either drunk, high or both.

If Tim Tebow continues to struggle and his team suffers, he will soon be out of a job (maybe not as soon as some people would like, but I digress). His stage all but vanishes and he goes the way of other star college athletes who fell short of professional expectations and promise.

If Tim Tebow grows into an unquestionably elite quarterback and leads his team to victory, he will receive a lot of praise. He will also see his stage shrink by the belief that he’s just another great athlete who wants to mention God. He will have an impact, but it will be limited to that of other great professional athletes professing Jesus. Think Kurt Warner.

If Tim Tebow continues to struggle at times and improbably (miraculously?) leads a team to greater success than talent would dictate reasonable, he becomes a legend. His stage is unlimited, as people flock to him for answers to how any of this is possible when everything we’ve ever known screams that it is not.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33)

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48)

These three statements, three of Jesus’ more famous quotes (even if Spiderman tried to commandeer the Luke 12:48 quote), sum up the two sides of Tim Tebow. While I am not arguing a prosperity gospel that would suggest those who are faithful are materially blessed in this life, I believe that as we seek God’s kingdom first and foremost we discover that God provides for us. Jesus promises as much.

Further, God holds accountable those to whom he gives great abilities and opportunities. In Tim Tebow’s case, it would be reasonable to expect that as Tim seeks first God’s kingdom and glory, God would provide more opportunities to share. With each increased opportunity, the expectation grows.

I cannot speak for God to suggest that this means God is interfering with the results of a football game to give Tebow a larger stage. That seems absurd.

On the other hand, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Cor. 3:19), and “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25).

It is not my place to say that God is or is not interfering with football games. But it would be ridiculous, presumptuous and overwhelmingly prideful for me to say that is simply not possible. My only suggestion is that as long as Tebow fixes his eyes on Jesus and gives all the glory to God, God will continue to give Tebow a stage.

I see and hear the way Tebow carries himself in the midst of some overly harsh criticism and vitriol and am amazed by his grace. I see him as an example of the honor and humility we should strive for in our own lives. But this is wrong.

Tebow is simply seeking to live his life in a way that emulates and honors Jesus, the way God called all of us to live. We should be thankful for Tebow’s witness, and we should likewise strive to emulate Jesus. We should be amazed by every improbable play, then remember that Jesus promised we would see greater things. Come and see.

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