The answers are, “no” and “no.”
God doesn’t favor any sporting team any more than He favors America over other nations (sorry über-patriots). He does honor the faith of individuals and groups, and He honors His Word – as He esteems it above His Name (Psalms 138:2).
Contrary to popular belief, the outcome of sporting events – even when won by teams with significant populations of Christians – do not bestow upon God any additional Glory. God is not a Cowboys fan. Or a Ravens or 49ers fan, for that matter. God is a fan of righteousness and holiness…the only ones that count: His!
That said, let’s juxtapose two players, Ray Lewis and Tim Tebow.
Before I go any further, I must confess that I am a fan of the boldness of both men’s faith. Tebow, with his famous pose, brought expressions of faith in sports to a new level. Tebow was unabashed and unashamed in displaying and confessing his faith. He inspired millions of Christian athletes to publicly confess Christ in the public forum. Tebow had to overcome adversity from conception – his parents were told that he would be born severely deformed and handicapped, prompting doctors to recommend he be aborted. A lifelong disciple of Christ, Tim is the archetypal “good boy” who went on to do great things.
Ray Lewis, on the other hand, is a symbol of redemption. Raised by a single mother in relative poverty, Lewis’ prevailing means of escaping his circumstances was his athletic ability. A ferocious competitor, Ray Lewis plied his trade by intimidating his opponents. Acquitted of first-degree murder charges, he was rescued from the specter of a life of incarceration, stemming from his alleged implication in the tragic murder of two young men. After his trial, Ray gave his life to Jesus and set about seeking the order his life never had. Since his conversion, Ray has been both public and vocal about his faith but this season his expression of faith has elevated to a resounding crescendo.
Now, folks treated Tim Tebow’s faith as a passing fad or a punchline. Folks seemed to think Tebow’s kneeling in prayer was contrived and insincere. Others were offended by the man’s public acknowledgement and honoring of Jesus Christ. Conversely, many of the same folks see Ray Lewis’ expression of faith as transparent and sincere and, yes, the opponents of Christianity still deride the public confession of Jesus. My personal opinion is that both men are sincere, just different in expression.
As a side note, I think that many folks are just a little intimidated by Ray Lewis and, thus, are less likely to be confrontational. But I digress…
Ray Lewis had a very interesting post-game interview, where he said something extremely profound: “When you sacrifice something for God, He will give you anything your heart desires if it aligns with His will…” The key words here are “if it aligns with His will…” Therein lies the answer to the opening question – God gets the glory because of the praises of them who love him. A true disciple of Christ sacrifices of himself for the good of fellow believers; indeed a true disciple of Christ lives a consecrated and sacrificial life.
In 2000, Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams to a Superbowl victory. After the game, Warner publicly shared his love for Jesus with the world. As the result , some were inclined to believe God honored the Rams with victory. In truth, God was honoring the faith of Kurt Warner, because He knew what Warner would do with such a platform. Kurt Warner sacrificed what people thought of him and aligned his desires with God’s will and, as a result, God honored him with victory.
So, as we approach another NFL championship game, remember your prayers for your team’s victory will avail naught. However, the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous will not only avail, but they will also prevail. Ray Lewis has a ridiculous, unconventional, sincere praise on his lips; one that I, personally, believe is world-changing. He is a man who truly knows what it means to be delivered and has a compelling testimony. All he’s missing is an international pulpit from which to preach it.
If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against him.
© 2013 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)