ESPN Theology

Last night at Sola we talked about the idea that “God has a perfect plan for your life” and Jeremiah 29:11 in a series called Coffee Cup Christianity. The idea of this series is to look at popular Christian slogans with new lenses in order to recover the truth found in Scripture when it comes to certain topics such as this one. I quoted one of my seminary professors, Roger Olson, when he says, “All trite little clichés have some truth. The problem is that they pretend to be the whole truth and people take them too literally.” This is, in fact, the case when it comes to people believing in the blueprint model of God’s will for their life. The place where God’s sovereignty intersects man’s freewill is a subject that almost everyone wrestles with from time to time, and is one that even came up in an unexpected place on the Internet: ESPN.com.

There is a new article for ESPN The Magazine where Kenny Mayne was interviewing Tim Tebow. If you know anything about Kenny Mayne you know that he is part comedian, part sportscaster and is rarely serious. He is the king of parodies and wisecracks on ESPN, and has even done less and less broadcasting in lieu of a comedy sketch called Mayne Street on ESPN’s website. That’s why it was surprising to see Mayne get serious with Tebow about his faith in Christ in the middle of the interview in this article (you can see it here if you are an ESPN Insider). This is how it played out:

Kenny Mayne: Do you believe God controls every detail? Or did He set things up perfectly and give the world a spin, and now we’re on our own?

Tim Tebow: The way I figure is if nothing bad ever ­happened, there wouldn’t be a need for faith. The Bible says we’re tested and made stronger through trials and tribulations. But He’s here, helping us out.

Kenny Mayne: What I mean is that there could be a person in the hospital who is going to die of cancer, and down the hall, someone who is going to beat it. I find it hard to believe that God would say, “All right, you, you get to die. And you, you get to live.” Do you think that’s true?

You’ll have to access the article online or wait for this week’s ESPN the magazine to see where it went from there, but I thought it was fascinating that Mayne questioned Tebow on such a subject, and I personally loved Tebow’s response. His response quoted above goes exactly with what we talked about last night when putting Jeremiah 29:11 in context. The context of this passage is that it was spoken to a group of people in exile in Babylon (modern day Iraq). The context is also to a people that are filled with uncertainty, doubt and anxiety. And this foundational chapter gives us great advice when it comes to God’s will.

In verses 5-7, Jeremiah tells the people to plant down in exile and pray for the prosperity of their enemies. In short, he tells them to not only stick it out, but also to thrive, when life puts you in a tough situation. In verses 8-9 he basically tells them, “Do not be deceived by people that preach a different message.” Our world flocks to people today that will give trite answers to tough situations posed by Kenny Mayne, and those answers are not the same answers that Scripture gives. In verse 10 Jeremiah tells the people that they may get what they want, but it will be long after they can enjoy it (70 years later). And finally, on the other side of Jeremiah 29:11, he tells them that God’s plan is revealed when you seek Him with ALL of your heart (verses 12-13).

Tim Tebow said in the interview, “The Bible says we’re tested and made stronger through trials and tribulations. But He’s here, helping us out.” In my opinion, that is correct theology and is exactly the idea that the Bible puts forth. Kenny Mayne wants to know if God causes people to get cancer and die, and the answer is, “No, that is something that came from our choice of freewill and sin entering into the world.” Scripture says that God desires that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). But even though we will die as a result of living in a world marred by sin, God is here helping us out through all of our pain and suffering.

This is undoubtedly a subject that continues to raise more questions than answers, but ultimately we can know that God’s has a “plan to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) And for those grey areas of God’s will that are difficult to discern, we have is principles from Scripture, guidance from the Holy Spirit, a community of believers, and sometimes specific instructions from God to help us on our journey.

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