Today in the office I had a conversation with a friend about Tim Tebow. This short conversation provoked further thought and led to the following post.

After a seeing an endless stream of public figures talk about Christ and then proceed to live immoral and inconsistent lives, I have a hard time trusting the sincerity of anyone who speaks publically about their faith. That is why I was skeptical when I first heard about a Florida quarterback who painted Bible verses under his eyes. To be honest, it all seemed too good to be true, his life story was too incredible, his public persona too perfect, his Christian behavior too consistent. The guy was a starting college quarterback, and a virgin for crying out loud! Over the past couple of years I have lived in a state of wincing – preparing myself for the inevitable blow of yet another high profile Christian moral failure. As of today, that blow has yet to fall, and Tim has remained vocally Christian and seemingly scandal free.

After experiencing tremendous success in high school and college Tim Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010. Despite his previous accomplishments, most football analysts questioned the quarterback’s ability to succeed in the NFL, primarily because of his faulty throwing motion. In spite of these dim predictions, however, Tebow has continued to win by using his legs. Aside from a rather lopsided loss to Detroit, Tebow has won every game he started this year. After this improbable (some would say inexplicable) winning streak, the spotlight is brighter than ever on the nation’s most outspoken Christian athlete. Fame has not thus far dimmed the light of Tim Tebow. He remains committed to using his professional stage as a means of proclaiming Christ. In nearly every interview he mentions his commitment to God, and his postgame prayerful pose has become an internet sensation. (search Tebowing)

Everyone has an opinion about this unique and surprisingly successful quarterback. The Tebow discussion has dominated the football landscape, and one sports commentator has even ridiculously declared that “Tebow already has taken over the world” Now, the magnifying glass is bigger than ever, and those who find Tebow’s devotion to Christ annoying would like nothing better than to see him fail. Truth be told, this twenty-four year old athlete walks daily on a dangerous road. Money and fame provide him at any moment with numerous opportunities to fall into sin. Moral failure is never a foregone conclusion, however, when God resides in a person, and I pray that Tim will keep his Christian character intact.

While I celebrate the consistency in Tim Tebow’s witness, and I rejoice in his personal success, new concerns have risen in my mind. As I see it, right now Tim Tebow lives between two minefields. On one side is the field of success. Tebow is a winner by all definitions, and he has proved himself capable at every level of his sport. This continuing success carries with it great danger. Prosperity can blind the best of us to the darkness in our own hearts. Pride so easily overtakes us when we reside in positions of prosperity and security. This is what caused Jesus to say: “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matt 19:24 NIV

While success will certainly test the faith Tim Tebow, there is at least an equal danger for him in the minefield of failure. While he has certainly lost games in his career, he has yet to live through sustained professional failure. It may be that failure in football will be the real test of Tim Tebow’s faith. While we may want to believe that those who serve God faithfully will be prosperous, God’s favor does not equal worldly success. In fact, some of the most outstanding saints through history have been abject failures in the eyes of the world.

Those close to the quarterback speak of him as a relentless competitor who wants badly to win. Knowing that fact, I wonder how he will respond when he consistently fails to win. Tebow eagerly gives praised to God for his victories, but I long to see him give praise to God in his losses as well. Although I hope he continues to win (except in games against the Lions), part of me wants to see him exemplify devotion to Christ in the midst of failure. I recently was reminded of something Phil Vischer said after his once thriving Christian company failed: “Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because anything I am unwilling to let go of is an idol, and I am in sin.” The one concern I have about Tim Tebow is that through his vocal Christian witness, he has somehow tied in God’s reputation with his personal success in football. I don’t believe that this is his intent, but I think it remains a danger none the less. I pray Tim and every other believer would be able to say as Job did: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” Job 15:13 NIV Whether in success or in failure, our hope should be based on the unfaltering character of God.

Before I end this post I offer one final caution. Basing ones faith on the reputation of a sinful man is dangerous, and ultimately it is idolatry. People, some of them parents desperate to give their children someone to look up to, have driven Tebow’s jersey sales to astronomical levels. In fact it has been reported that Tim Tebow has had the best selling jersey in the entire NFL every month since he became a pro. Idolatry is a big a problem in the Christian Church, and we need to be very careful here. Having an idol who is a believer is just as wrong in God’s sight as having an idol who is not a believer.

I conclude with an open letter to Tim:

I am thankful for you Tim, and I am so proud of the way you publically give praise to our God and Savior. I hear in your words a love for God that I envy. I thank God for giving you a platform to proclaim his truth, and I pray that many would listen. I pray specifically that many of your teammates would come to know Christ because of your example. I am also afraid for you. I am afraid that the incredible pressure you are under will weaken your devotion to Christ. I am afraid for you because of the temptation you face every day. I am afraid that success will cause pride in your life. I pray that God will preserve you as you work in an environment that is not conducive to a Christian lifestyle. Above all, may you continue to bow your knee in humble submission to God, whether He gives you success or failure.