Posted by: cindybythesea | November 7, 2011

The Altar of Success

    Tim Tebow

Sports fans.  They’ve been around as long as there has been a ball to toss, kick, dribble or shoot and, we love the guys (and gals) who, do it best.  We root and cheer for our favorite teams and players with an enthusiasm unmatched by just about anything else.  As Americans, we love competition and we love to WIN! 

American sports fans are among the best in the world. With a dogged loyalty, we stay true to teams, who haven’t won a pennant or championship in years and show an amazing amount of grace towards players who struggle with personal issues such as drug and alcohol addition. We forgive personal failures and infidelities and tolerate any number of peculiarities and vices – all for the love of the game – and the win! 

So, why, when a player kneels to pray and thank Jesus Christ for help and strength in the game he loves, are his actions met with mockery and contempt?

I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days and I think I found a clue through some reading I’ve been doing.

For the last few months, I’ve been trying to work my way through the Bonhoeffer book. For those of you who have read it, you know it’s a massive and challenging read, but, one that is well worth the effort.  The other night, I picked it up to continue where I had left off and I was struck by an observation that Bonhoeffer had made in some of his writings. (Bonhoeffer, for those of you who may not know, is the German theologian, who was executed by the Nazi’s for his part in a plot against Hitler).

From his works, titled Ethics, he writes:

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success.  It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done… With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means … The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success as its standard.

In other words, there is no higher altar at which to worship than the altar of success.  Therefore, Tim Tebow is not hated for what he has achieved, but, in spite of it. The world loathes him because he does not and will not worship at the altar to which all others have aspired; the altar of Success.

Bonhoeffer goes on to point out that Germans, who were previously on the fence about Hitler, were in the end swayed by his success. German national image and pride which had been badly broken by their defeat in WWI, had now been healed.  And, success, as they say, is a hard thing to argue with.

A dangerous and insidious “doctrine” of sorts, that has infiltrated not only politics and “pop” culture today, but, the church itself –

God wants you a winner!   Live Your Best Life Now!  (Which causes me to think, if your best life is now, you might want to consider where it is you are going!!!)  Prosperity is a choice and God wants you rich  …. and on and on. 

As if prosperity, winning and success were the goals for which Christ died. And, it is this same sentiment that will lead a world in chaos to the waiting arms of Mr. Success himself, the anti-Christ.

I like how the author of  Bonhoeffer; Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy summarizes Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on success:

“God was interested not in success, but obedience. If one obeyed God and was willing to suffer defeat and whatever else came one’s way. God would show a kind of success  that the world couldn’t imagine. But, this was the narrow path, and few would find it.”

In conclusion, I would say, that there are many kinds of success. And, most of us will never endure the public spot light on our faith. But, whether we are Tim Tebow in front of thousands of sports fans or a simple grandmother, whose knees  are worn in prayer, may there never be any doubt, in the lives of you and me, who it is we worship and which altar it is, we worship at.

Thank you, Tim Tebow, you bring honor to the name of Jesus. May God bless you and keep you always!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6  Watching  and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!  Cindy



  1. “God was interested not in success, but obedience.” That so important!

    The tree of (eternal) life was accessible in paradise as long as Adam and Eve obeyed. After they disobeyed, they were kicked out of Eden to make sure that they don’t eat from the tree of life (because eternal life without obedience towards God would have been a disaster for God and men).

    Today the tree of (eternal) life is Jesus. We truly obey God (the father) if we accept his begotten son Jesus as the ultimate and only sacrifice for our sins!

  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Who Am I” just one month before he was executed. This is an English translation of the famous text:

    Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.

    Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

    Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

    Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

    Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

    Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

    Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

    • Oh, gosh, Mike, this brought tears to my eyes. So well said. So many times I wonder who I really am. How comforting and also discomforting to know that only God really knows who I am.

      I read the the biography about Bonhoeffer, and for one who was so certain at the end of his life about Christ, he certainly seemed very un-convinced and un-committed at the beginning. Did you get that sense, too, Cindy? If so, then I know that there is hope that I will be more than I am someday if I allow the author and finisher of my faith to continue to work in me and do not put roadblocks in His way.


      • Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an academic genius, who became a great theologian. He once described his conversion from academia to Christian community as “when he fell in love with Jesus.” Later when he tried to share this concept with his students at Finkenwalde, they had no idea what he was talking about.

        I live in Germany and have observed this facet of German culture that can only be described as stoic, humorless, rule oriented orthodoxy.

        Some people still don’t get it; a relationship exists in personal experience, and they are not the one who is standing at the door knocking. -Mike

  3. This post was filled with the wisdom and understanding I have gotten from His Word, and the mention of one of favorite books, Bonhoeffer. With the rise of antisemitism, I wish it was required reading for all. It is a shame so many lack understanding, for it is valued more than wisdom. The changed sabbath day, “Sun”day, is full of the worlds lusts and pleasures now. It is refreshing to see a man humbly kneel before God in prayer, though for me it remains a bit confusing given the game he plays and the day it has become the “church”. Perhaps he keeps another day sacred, but it is not for me to judge. Our God sees, even those of us who seek Him in secret ~ John 1:50

  4. King James Version (KJV)

    Jeremiah 35

    1The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,

    2Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.

    3Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;

    4And I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:

    5And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.

    6But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

    7Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.

    8Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;

    9Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:

    10But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.

    11But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem.

    12Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,

    13Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.

    14The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.

    15I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.

    16Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:

    17Therefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.

    18And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:

    19Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.

  5. […]  The Altar of Success […]

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