By Michael Foust
When outspoken Christian quarterback Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards to help Denver upset favored Pittsburgh in the playoffs, millions flocked to the Internet to search for John 3:16 — so much so that the day after the game, that Bible verse was the No. 1 search on Google.
As it turns out, some of those Google searches were of eternal significance.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reports that more than 150 people have made a decision to accept Christ as their Savior as a result of searching for “John 3:16” in Google and then clicking on an advertisement for the BGEA’s PeacewithGod.net website.
BGEA can track that data because it began advertising on Google on Monday so that people who searched for “John 3:16” saw an ad for PeacewithGod.net. All total, 8,000 people searching for the verse clicked on PeacewithGod.net.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association often uses Google ads to advertise its website. Some examples include searches for “What happens when I die?” and “Does God exist?” The website has tallied more than 1 million visitors since it launched in May.
“We can respond to exactly what people are searching for at that moment — and it’s often a very simple next-step to the Gospel,” John Cass, BGEA’s director of internet evangelism, was quoted as saying in a BGEA article.
The fact that an outspoken Christian quarterback threw for 316 yards was, some said, not coincidental. Tebow has been known to write “John 3:16” on his eye black. There were other 3:16 curiosities:
— Tebow’s average for his 10 passes was 31.6 yards.
— The overtime drew a 31.6 television rating.
— Pittsburgh’s time of possession was 31 minutes, 6 seconds.
The Broncos travel to New England Saturday to play the heavily favored Patriots. Tebow’s unorthodox quarterback style and his last-minute heroics during the regular season and playoffs have led to a debate over whether God’s hand is directly involved in the Broncos’ wins. One of the more in-depth treatments to that question was written by Boyce College professor Owen Strachan in The Atlantic. The answer is neither “yes” nor “no,” Strachan wrote.
“The Bible says that God oversees everything that happens in this world,” Strachan wrote, quoting Jesus in Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny. And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
Strachan, who serves at the Louisville, Ky., school, continued, “But is God directly intervening on the football field in the same way that, for example, he did to cause the virgin birth of Luke 2 (in what is called ‘primary causation’)? That I don’t know. It’s not clear to my human eyes how this all shakes out. I do know that the Lord is working everything out according to his wise and mysterious counsel which, try as we might, we cannot fully understand.”
Even if Tebow has the worst game of his career Saturday and loses, Strachan said, nothing about Tebow’s faith — or God’s providence — changes.
“Sometimes God grants believers great victories, and sometimes he asks them to walk through the fire,” Strachan wrote. “This is true whether it is experienced on the football field, in the office, or in a country that rewards outspoken Christianity with a sword to the throat.”
Strachan’s column is available online at http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/01/does-god-care-whether-tim-tebow-wins-on-saturday/251273/.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).