This story leads to a personal question: when should we give God credit, personally or publicly? If you have a different view, please feel free to comment on this blog. Please forward this bedtime blog to someone you know who might appreciate this.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog on Tim Tebow. It was right after his first full game of the season, and the Denver Broncos were 1 and 4. In the final 5 minutes, down 15-0, Tebow and the Broncos came alive and won the game. To me, it looked like a miracle finish.
On Sunday December 11, as I was getting on a plane at DFW, Dewey called me from Houston.
“Are you watching the game?” he asked.
“No, what’s happening?” I responded.
“Well the Chicago Bears made a couple mistakes, in the final minutes, and Denver kicked a 59-yard goal (which in the NFL is a very long kick) to tie the game. In overtime, Denver won the game with another long kick. It was like a miracle!”
The football commentators on TV choose their words carefully. While discussing the Dec 11 game, yet another fourth quarter comeback by Tebow and the Denver team (Tebow has engineered four such, and only one other team has ever matched this), I heard the words “inexplicable”, “magical”, and “a miracle”. Under Tebow, Denver has won 6 of the last 7 games as I write, and the team is now leading the AFC Western Division. But it surprised me that none of the commentators used the word “God”.
Dewey called it a miracle because he is an avowed Christian, and for most of his life has circulated amongst people who believe in miracles in the Biblical record, as well as in this century. He was just being candid.
I think folks are reluctant to ascribe events like this to God, because the neighbors would quickly point out that (1) there are good Christians on the opposing team, and (2) if God does stuff like this, why doesn’t he clean up the crime in Houston, or feed the dying children (25,000 people around the world die each day of preventable causes related to their poverty**)? It’s a fair question. Why did God allow the Hebrew tribes to suffer as slaves for hundreds of years, before helping them escape by imposing a dozen dramatic supernatural disasters on their Egyptian masters?
The journalist Christopher Hitchens died this week at 61. A strict atheist, he forcefully claimed during an interview before his death by cancer that he would never come to God. This is one extreme of pride. At the other extreme, we have Tim Tebow who is willing to give thanks and credit to God, even when he throws a touchdown.
God certainly allowed lots of miracles in Bible times. An assistant lost an axehead in a waterhole, so the prophet threw a stick in the water, and the axehead floated to the surface. Shadrach and his buddies, bound with ropes, should have been incinerated, but instead were seen walking around the furnace with a fourth man, and their robes didn’t even smell of smoke when they were extricated. And at the edge of Jerusalem, Peter and John healed a man who had been crippled since birth. God can intervene, no question. But does he always? No. Even when we don’t understand (surprise!) why God doesn’t intervene, maybe this is all the more reason to thank him when we do think we see his hand moving.
So when, personally or publicly, should we give thanks and credit to God? Tebow offers an answer in terms of pride and balance. First, he is a man of strong character, but humble, and he always gives credit to the rest of the Denver team. No arrogance in him. Second, he is raising money to build a hospital in the Philippines, where his parents have long done missionary work. If we are willing to give thanks to God for personal help, we better also be helping others. Looking inward and looking outward. Helping someone to hope***. Trying to be salt and light.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up”. Daniel 3:17-18
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers….
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** “The Hole in Our Gospel”, by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision (Thomas Nelson, 2009).
*** “Hiking Toward Heaven”, by Ian Palmer (Authorhouse, 2010).