Typically, there are numerous sports offerings on Sunday afternoon television. On Easter Sunday, if you chose not to watch the Masters on CBS or a game from the fledgling XFL, you might have come across something unique on the FS1 network. It was the Bristol Motor Speedway Easter Celebration, which preceded the NASCAR dirt race at Bristol.
I tuned in shortly before drivers Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse, along with Stenhouse’s wife, Madyson, appeared on the outdoor stage. Then, it was Phil Wickham leading worship, followed by a message from Tim Tebow.
I have always liked Tim Tebow, but as I recall, had never heard him speak in a non-interview format. Tebow instantly made the NASCAR connection, telling the story of his interaction with Richard Petty. The Johnson City Press shared this description:
Tebow, the sports icon and evangelist, opened with a personal story of how seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty heard the story of how Tebow, as a college student at the University of Florida, had an old beat-up Ford Thunderbird. Unbeknownst to Tebow, the NASCAR legend had the car picked up and brought back to the race shops in North Carolina.
The article says that Petty “…brought Tebow to the shop where Petty surprised him with a car that had not only been restored, but was in better shape than ever before. He compared it to when a person accepts Christ…”
The article quotes Tebow: “The King of NASCAR did something for me that I couldn’t do myself,” adding, “That car was on its way to destruction. We’re also on the way to destruction because of sin, but the gift of life is eternal through Jesus. God did something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves.”
Following the service, Tebow said, “I’ve been telling that story about Mr. Petty many times, how his kindness impacted me,” adding, “He was just so awesome and to…share that here with a fan base that loves him so much. It was such a unique perspective of what he did.” And, regarding the event itself, the former Heisman Trophy winner and television host said, “It’s exciting to celebrate Easter in a way that so many people are involved…Sports have always been so big in my life, but we have to remember the greatest thing we get to do is not win or score. It’s to celebrate Jesus and to be able to do it with some of these amazing friends we have.”
There’s actually more to the story – the Tim Tebow Foundation had planned to auction the car off in order to raise money. A Christian Post article from 2013 reported:
The ‘95 Thunderbird was brought into Petty’s car restoration shop rusty and covered in cat prints, according to Tim Tebow Foundation Executive Director Erik Dellenback, as reported by Sporting News.
“We’re excited because obviously the legendary status of Richard Petty is a great tie to us,” Dellenback said. “Originally our goal was just to auction it off and as we started seeing what this was going to look like and the interest of people wanting to see it, we decided to use it for a year on [a] promotional tour. The dollars we can raise off that could literally affect thousands of children.”
Richard Petty’s charity, Petty’s Garage, also used the car in some of its fundraising events, according to the article, which said:
“It was not your typical college football player’s car by no means,” Petty’s Garage CEO Jeff Whaley said.
“We found a list (of numbers) of when he was being courted to go to school, but there were no beer can lids, no cigarette ashes.”
I would not have expected anything different. Tim Tebow was bold enough to go on national television on Easter Sunday and boldly proclaim who he is in Christ. We can examine our own “boldness meter” and ask the Holy Spirit to give us the willingness to share and the words to speak.
Tim Tebow was given a gift – a refurbished car. It’s been reported that he paid $500 for it in college. That car was transformed by Richard Petty and his team and used for charitable purposes – a good investment for a comparative mustard seed of money to buy a car for a college student. God will use what we surrender to Him for His glory.
We can recognize who the true King is and what he’s done for us. Tim Tebow used the analogy to encourage attendees at and viewers of the Bristol event to talk about the King who has transformed our lives. We can be saved through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We are invited to surrender to Jesus and acknowledge Him as King of our lives.