What do these 4 names have in common? Well if you are a Christian and a sports fan, you probably already know the answer. They are all successful athletes who openly profess faith in Christ.
If for some reason sports are not your arena, here's a brief 4-1-1 on these Christian competitors. Jeremy Lin lit the NBA on fire this past season for the New York Knicks. Gabby Douglas won multiple gold medals in gymnastics for the USA at the London Olympics. Hamilton is a Major League baseball MVP who plays in the outfield for the Texas Rangers. And Tim Tebow ignited the sports world last season by leading the NFL's Denver Broncos to a first-round playoff win.
What, if anything, do these athletes have in common with these names?
Well, I propose that both sets of names are heroes of the faith. Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Moses are all Old Testament men who lived for God. Not only are their stories told in the Old Testament but they are mentioned again in Hebrews 11 as examples of people who pleased God with their faith. Hebrews 11 is a famous New Testament chapter in the Bible that celebrates numerous men and women who endured hardship but stayed faithful to their Creator.
If Hebrews 11 were still being written today, I believe the first list of four names would also qualify as heroes of the faith. Jeremy Lin is open about his faith and reminds his millions of fans that he desires to be a pastor. After her gymnastics victories Gabby Douglas gave all the glory to God and rattled the liberal media in the process. Josh Hamilton is a recovering addict who has had some high profile relapses. Our Old Testament heroes had plenty of sinful lapses in judgment. Moses was a murderer. Noah got drunk and naked in public. Hamilton fits right in with this biblical group as one who continues to strive for humility and to confess his sins before God.
Tebow is my personal favorite on the list. This quarterback with the quiet personality is decidedly not quiet about sharing his faith. He travels around the world in the off-season to preach the gospel and bring hope and help to the poor and the sick. Tim and his family also publicly support the pro-life movement. As missionaries in the Philippines his parents were urged to abort Tim after his mom's health was compromised by the pregnancy. She chose to keep her baby and they dedicated his life to God. He remains humble and committed to Christ despite the persecution the world endlessly pours upon him for his professed faith, virginity and pro-life views.
Why pick current sports heroes as heroes of the faith? Certainly non-athletes like evangelist Luis Palau and Christian author Max Lucado have also inspired millions to follow Christ. It's not that you have to be an athlete to do so. But you can't deny that with the media coverage garnered by these successful sports stars they have a unique opportunity to represent Christ to millions of people.
Even the writer of this classic section of Hebrews establishes a connection between sports and faith. He brings the heroes of the faith discussion to a close with a sporting challenge for the rest of us.
"Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).
We are reminded to "throw off" our sinful behavior like a football player throws off a tackler. And we are admonished to "run the race" of our life of faith like a base runner rounding third and heading for home.
The challenge to be a hero of the Christian faith applies to all of us regardless of whether or not we ever vault ourselves into the Olympic record books or shoot our way into NBA super stardom. But to help us cross the finish line of faith it might not hurt to emulate the Old Testament heroes of Hebrews and the godly sports heroes of today.