Does God really decide, and care who wins a football game?
I began asking this question myself long before Tim Tebow was even born. I was a little boy, deeply committed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I remember praying that they would beat the Oakland Raiders in an upcoming playoff game. When my prayer ended fear set in- what if there were a little boy just like me, somewhere in Oakland, praying that the Raiders would beat the Steelers? My father comforted me by explaining that no real Christian would ever pray for the Raiders.
The truth is God does decide, and He does care. He not only decides who will win the Super Bowl, He decides who will win the game of hearts I play with my children. He decides, or rather decided, everything. There are no places, let alone no playing fields, where God stays on the sidelines. We need to remember that everything that happens must have a sufficient cause. And we must remember that every sufficient cause eventually traces its way back to God before time. This happens because that happened. That happened because this other thing happened. Eventually this takes us to “God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’”
Of course God works in and through secondary means. He gives the gifts. He creates the weather. The one who numbers the hairs on our heads softens the ground where a defensive back slips, and a playoff game ends on an eighty yard touchdown pass. There is no thing, no cause, over which He is not sovereign.
Isn’t it, though, somehow beneath His dignity to be concerned with such things? Yes, of course it is. God has only one concern- the manifestation of His glory. And that is how He determines what will happen in a football game, and what will happen in an election, and what will happen in a cancer ward. His goal isn’t ultimately to make little boys in Pittsburgh happy, or little boys in Denver happy. His goal, which cannot be thwarted, is to show forth who He is.
Does that mean He plays favorites for the likes of outspoken Christians like Tim Tebow or Drew Brees? Of course. Because God loves those who are His, even as He loves His own Son, God is certain to favor them. That favor, however, isn’t a path to winning a football game, but is instead the path to true victory, becoming more like Jesus. God isn’t glorified in giving Tim Tebow unlikely victories that somehow redound to God’s glory. No, God is glorified in making His children, including Tim Tebow, more like His Son. Sometimes that means leading them to the thrill of victory. Sometimes it means leading them through the agony of defeat.
The more difficult and pertinent question for me isn’t does God care, but should I? I don’t pray for Steeler victories. I do pray that I, along with my parents and my children, will make memories together. And I pray that we would have grace to accept His providence, even when the Steelers lose.