How 94 Million People Heard about Jesus from Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow made his faith in Christ known by writing “Phil. 4:13” on the eye black he wore during games.  Here’s the story behind that visible declaration of his allegiance to Jesus.

Tebow told the story at this year’s Passion 2018 conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  He told Louie Giglio, the conference founder, that in 2008, his junior year at the University of Florida, he was in the locker room getting ready to take the field against Tennessee and he noticed that other players were writing their zip code or their mother’s name on their eye black.  He decided to write Phil 4:13 on his as a way to encourage those sitting in the stands who might notice it watching through binoculars.  

The verse reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He called it the perfect verse for a football player.

The media quickly picked up on the unique message and it caught on not only in Gainesville but nationwide as Tebow wore the eye black with the Bible message on it during every game.  

The Gators went on to play in the national championship that year against the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.  Before the game Tebow said he felt God telling him to change the verse. He decided on John 3:16, which he calls “the essence of every Christian’s hope.”

Tebow told his coach, Urban Meyer, of his decision to change the message but Meyer didn’t take the news well.  Meyer is a coach who doesn’t like to mess with what works and told Tebow, “No, Philippians 4:13 is what got us here!”  

Tebow reminded him that it wasn’t a Bible verse that got the Gators to the national championship and said “he talked him off the ledge” about his planned change and Meyer agreed.

The Gators went on to win the national championship game with Tebow throwing two touchdown passes.

Shortly after the game Tebow was having dinner with his parents and Meyer when the Gator’s coach got a phone call from the team’s public relations staff telling him that during the game 94 million people googled John 3:16.  

Tebow said he was humbled by the news that demonstrated “how big God is.”  He said he only intended the Bible message to be an encouragement and God turned it into a way to reach millions with his message of love and salvation.

Tebow says the story is also a reminder to every Christian of what God can do when his children step out in faith and are obedient to his leading.

But there’s more to the story. Exactly three years after that national championship game Tebow found himself in an NFL playoff game as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos won.

Tebow again wrote “Jn. 3:16” on his eye black.  During that game 90 million people googled the iconic Bible verse.

The lesson for Tebow was clear, God can take games, jobs and our lives and transcend them into something that is so much bigger, if we’ll only let him.


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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.