WASHINGTON, December 3, 2011—Tim Tebow has been a hot topic on the sports channels, around dinner tables, at bars, and now that I’m a football fan, even in my own home. Sports commentators argue over his athletic ability on the field; players have even criticized his public stance of faith. All the while, Tim Tebow has stayed focused on playing to the best of his ability, leading his team to victory, and giving glory to God.
It’s this last part… giving glory to God … that seems to have a lot of people on edge. Many say Tebow should leave his faith off the field. Many believe he should focus solely on the game and keep his praying in his closet. Many believe that faith in God doesn’t belong on the football field, or in any game, for that matter.
The problem is, for a man who’s life is centered on God, that’s impossible. Talking to God, thanking God, carrying his concerns, fears and burdens to God are just as natural to Tebow as breathing. For a man filled to the brim with faith, it’s impossible for a little of that faith not to spill out onto the field and into the lives of his teammates, coaches and fans. Faith and Tim Tebow go together. You cannot separate the two.
To those who believe Tebow is too vocal about his faith in God, I challenge them to look and listen a little closer. He isn’t running in front of the cameras making a show of his faith. He’s kneeling quietly, staying focused during a high pressure situation by keeping his focus on the Source of his strength. The television networks choose to zoom in on Tebow during these quiet moments. During an interview, yes, Tebow gives thanks to God, but then he thanks his team and goes on with the interview. He doesn’t give a sermon.
While we are on the subject of giving thanks in an interview, I am sure many people wonder why athletes feel the need to give thanks to God after a win. I was blessed to win 80 professional titles in the sport of water skiing, all of which, if given the opportunity, I thanked God publicly.
As I look back over my career, I gave thanks to God publicly for many reasons. First of all, I knew my very life and talents came from One source… God. If anyone deserved praise, it was Him, not me. Giving God the glory for the win was my way of passing on any praise I was receiving, and may be tempted to hang onto for myself, to the One truly worthy of praise.
When I would say, “First of all, I want to thank God for this win,” I wasn’t necessarily thanking Him for the “gold”, rather I was thanking Him for what the “gold” represented. A lot of hard work, time, discipline, falls, failures, and of course, physical pain had been experienced prior to my stepping on to the top of the podium. As I thanked God for the win, I was thanking Him for being with me on the journey that led me to the victory. Victories are easy in comparison to the daily battle of preparing for “game” day. God was my source of strength on the journey, He was the One who helped me overcome my “giants” and kept me going, for that I was thankful.
In 1999, as I stood at the top of the podium in Milan, Italy, at the World Championships, tears of gratitude rolled down my checks as the national anthem played. During that moment, I thanked God for the opportunities to represent my country, and for the opportunity to travel the world and meet such wonderful people.
It’s not only during a victory that Christian athletes give God thanks. In 2007, I thanked God as I floated in the water after an early fall, not because of a victory, but rather for the opportunity to ski again. Five years earlier I had undergone major pelvic reconstruction that had ended my professional career. At that moment, I was simply thanking God for the opportunity to compete on the waters of the world one more time.
It may sound strange, but I’ve even thanked God for the losses and challenges in life. Losses stink to be honest, but it was during those tough times that God was able to develop my character, teach me valuable life lessons and equip me for the game of life.
Although thanking God publicly may seem like something athletes should leave out of the “game”, for a Christian athlete who loves the Lord and is thankful to Him, that is a hard thing to ask.
Like me, Tim Tebow is a thankful person. From the time of his birth, a birth doctors suggested should have never happened due to medical concerns for his mother, to his amazing “odds” defying football career, Tim Tebow has seen firsthand what faith in Jesus Christ combined with his own hard work and dedication can do. His heart is filled with gratitude to the One who has been with his family every step of the way. Out of his gratitude to God, he gives thanks.
What a shame this offends so many.
Kristi Overton Johnson is a wife, mother and World Record Holder in women’s slalom in the sport of waterskiing from 1992-2010. Having retired from professional sports, Kristi now helps others fulfill their God-given destiny.
She is the founder of Champion’s Heart and In His Wakes, divisions of KOJ Ministries. Kristi currently resides in Florida with her husband, Tim, and their three children.
To read more by Kristi go to http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/his-wakes
To learn about her mission and work visit Kristi Overton Johnson Ministries.
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