July 8, 2012

+ Has God become a sports fan?

Premier League's Muamba praises God after rising from the dead ...   
and other sports "miracles"

Fabrice Muamba
Has God become a sports fan?

Not since underdog David trounced Goliath at the Philistine Meadowlands has God seemed to take such an interest in athletes.

Consider the amazing story of Fabrice Muamba, the British Premier League's midfielder who collapsed during a recent FA Cup match. He was dead for 78 minutes. That's right. No heartbeat at all.

But he started that day with what might be called an unfair advantage. Just as he does every day, he prayed for God's protection.

With each of those 4,680 lifeless seconds, "experts" concluded Muamba would not survive and, if he did, substantial brain damage would result. They were wrong on both counts.

Did God play a role? He thinks so.

Before Muamba's miracle, however, there was Tim Tebow.

Tim Tebow
Similarly, Tebow's professional football career was labelled "dead on arrival." In fact, practically every "expert" voiced an opinion on why the evangelizing quarterback was destined for failure in the NFL:

"His passing technique is wrong."

"He can't run the ball in the pros."

"He'll clash with his teammates because he's a Christian virgin!"

In fact, Tebow was widely labelled "the most controversial player in the NFL."

I wonder what makes Tim Tebow's mild-mannered life and faith drive people so crazy?

Recently, an escort service offered a million dollar bounty to anyone who can prove they had sex with the football star. Imagine that. Some people despise Tebow's virtuous image so much that they are willing to shell out a million dollars to smear it.

But just like David, the underdog athlete didn't let the skeptics get him down. In last year's NFL playoffs, with polite humility, Tim Tebow pounded an army of opposing giants as he ran up a seemingly miraculous string of come-from-behind victories.

Did God help? Tebow thinks so.

Jeremy Lin
Next, basketball point guard, Jeremy Lin, created "Linsanity" as he dazzled NBA fans. Before that, however, the evangelical Christian had been universally dismissed by the "experts."

"An Asian-American isn't tough enough for the NBA."

"He wasn't even offered athletic scholarships during college and was undrafted after."

"Harvard? You've got to be kidding!"

By the time the season ended, however, Lin had developed such a fan club that Time Magazine had listed him as one of the world's 100 most influential people. Not bad for a 23 year old with a little faith.

Bubba Watson
As the year went on, professing Christian athletes continued to rack up the sports miracles. Bubba Watson, the unlikely pro who has never taken a golf lesson, won his first major golf championship at the Master's Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. At the award ceremony, he celebrated his Easter Sunday victory by saying, "First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Likewise, Webb Simpson won his first major golf tournament at the U.S. Open in San Francisco and promptly thanked Jesus Christ for the victory.

However, the upsurge in public professions of faith is not happening with American athletes only. It seems a parade of international soccer stars have celebrated their victories, not with a party trip to Disney World, but with a Catholic retreat to Medjugorje. In fact, reports disclose that a growing reverence for Blessed Mother's assistance on the soccer field is developing. The soccer stars include Croatian Mate Bilic, Argentine Lionel Messi, and Italian Gianluigi Buffon. Though the outcome of the games may not matter to God, the outcome of a soul does matter to Him. And, sometimes, faithful soccer stars may factor into that outcome.

Nik Wallenda
Then, on America's border, even the high wire daredevil, Nik Wallenda, made history this year. He was the first to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls and he did it while praising Jesus. Typically, however, media coverage omitted his message of faith.

These stories may only represent anecdotal evidence. But there seems to be something much more profound -- more widespread -- happening in sports than the occasional running back who points at heaven from the end zone. Perhaps these sports stories are not as miraculous as Muamba's amazing revival. But each of these openly professing athletes overcame incredible, maybe even miraculous, odds.

Is God helping? They all believe it.

So, it is nice to know that each of them has inspired countless fans by the seeming miracles that a God-centered life can bring. Now, if only our politicians would give it a try.