A recent phenomenon took place that emphasizes the power of the gospel. Anyone who knows anything about pro football and has followed college football at all, knows the name Tim Tebow. He played for Florida where he distinguished himself as a star quarterback and then went to the pros, playing for the Denver Broncos. In the January 8 wild card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tebow through a pass for an 80-yard touchdown in overtime to win the game and stun the opponent. The play-action fake, gave the opportunity for receiver Demaryius Thomas to make the run in for the score that won the game 29-23. It was the shortest overtime in NFL history and the longest overtime touchdown in playoff history.
As sports analysts began to look at the numbers for the game, they discovered something interesting. In this stunning upset win, Tebow had thrown for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per pass. Because Tebow’s favorite Bible verse is John 3:16, as you can tell from it’s prominent place on his face, immediately the connection was noted. This began the buzz that led millions of people to google “What is John 3:16.” To make a long story, short, through a Focus on the Family commercial aired during playoff games and a Google Ad strategically placed by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, several hundred people indicated they had received Jesus Christ as Savior through their search for the meaning of John 3:16. In this verse, Jesus is speaking…
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Next Step
This story may likely be old news to many of you. It has been pretty prominent in sports news and talked about in evangelical circles. This past Sunday, at our church, we launched the Life Book Movement with our student ministry and our students are sharing copies of the gospel in unique form with their friends at school. Out youth pastor set the stage with this story in a very effective way.
Central to the theme of this verse, which has been called “the gospel in a nutshell,” is the concept of the love of God. That is central to the entire message of the gospel. Without the love of God for mankind, there would be no Savior, there would be no hope and there would be no good news. But the question I ask is this, “How will they know?”
How will the people in the world which God loves, know that He loves them? The obvious answer is, “We must tell them.” True…we must. But is that enough? I had an experience last week that makes me think that’s only the first step.
I have been working with a young man with whom I only became acquainted three weeks ago. He is a convicted felon and has lost everything. He has experienced rejection by family and friends, he has lost his job, his ability to support himself; his health is suffering and he had come to the end of his rope…literally. It was a grandmother’s advice and the Spirit of God that prompted him to come to the church and seek help.
I listened to his story and felt the Holy Spirit confirming that what he was telling me was the truth. Thus started the process of reaching out to him…in love. I won’t go into all the details of what we are trying to do to help this young man, but it has taken several people stepping up and my working with him extensively in counseling and guidance. He said he had made a profession of faith and was baptized as a kid, but he hadn’t been in a church since he was 16 years old. “Honestly,” he said, “I don’t know if God is even there.”
Last Saturday, in a text conversation with this young man about picking him up for worship the next morning, it went like this…
Me: Ok. If you need me to bring you a clean shirt or anything, let me know. I wear medium and would be glad to drop it off in the morning as I go in…about 7:15. Either way, just let me know, I don’t mind.
Him: There’s a question that I have that has be gnawing at me. Why do you try to help me so much and you don’t really know me. I understand you’re a man of God, but I never met anybody like that. I’m just asking because I’m not used to people being nice to me like this.
I totally did not expect that question. But, since it was a text conversation, I could think for a few moments about the answer to that. (Please know that I don’t share this with any intention of bringing attention to me, or garnering praise. Frankly, if I was really being sacrificial, I would have invited this guy to stay at my house like another family in our church recently did with a young single mother and her two small children who were living on the streets. That’s another good illustration of the point I want to make.) Here was my response to his question…
Me: I believe this is what Jesus would do. When you told me your story, I believed you. I think the Holy Spirit confirmed it to me. So I am trying to let the Spirit guide me in loving and helping you. I have been in a place of spiritual need before, and others helped me. That’s pretty much it.
Him: I want to thank you for everything that you have done for me, especially for re-introducing me to Jesus.
Did you get that? He especially wanted to thank me for re-introducing him to Jesus! I rejoiced and continue to as he is getting his spiritual feet strengthened to move forward with hope.
You see…the thing God is teaching me through this is…
You can tell someone God loves them and they can believe it intellectually, but if you actually love them, even if they’re hard to love, then they’re convinced God loves them…and that’s what opens their heart to trust Him in faith.