A standout performer in Dutch cricket, South African born Stephan Myburgh says he might have never begun playing international cricket if he had not taken the Bible seriously. His brother Johann is also certain that trusting God is the key to his long career in South Africa and New Zealand, and current contract with Durham in England.
In 2003, Stephan had a disappointing year, unable to make the South African under-19 team that his brother Johann had been on for four years.
“I was always told that I am a better player but every national week I just couldnt score a run,” Stephan says.
It was only after he read a book on a prayer of the Biblical character named Jabez, and began to practise this prayer daily that his career turned for the better.
“In this prayer I declared my belief that God wants to bless His children in abundance, He wants to enlarge our territory, He will keep His hands on us, He will keep us from evil and He will help us not to cause pain to others and treat them the way we want to be treated.
“A week after I started saying that prayer every day I got a call to represent South Africa as the mandated u/19 player at the Samsung Super Skills event in the UK.”
Playing alongside South African stars like André Nel, Lance Klusener and Justin Kemp in the televised event, Stephan was not only playing well, but his career was about to take off.
“Winning the fielding competition against Kieren Pieterson, R. Sarwan, Simon Katich and other stars will be my most memorable moment,” Stephan says.
Within a year, Stephan was playing for Holland courtesy of his parents’ citizenship, made 51 on his one-day debut, and then made his highest score, 219 runs, in England in 2004. More recently, in 2012, he played for Holland in their unsuccessful tilt for World Twenty20 qualification, plus several matches against English county teams.
Growing up with Johann in a strongly Christian family, Stephan says he always believed that God exists but did not have a personal relationship with Jesus until he moved churches in 2003 when he was 19.
“I never felt that love of God, I lived like a Christian in the sense that I read my Bible and said my prayers but I dont think or did not feel like I had a relationship with God. I never felt bad about telling little lies.
“When I went to the new church my heart just felt different, I could feel the Holy Spirit working in me, and I felt worthy of God’s grace and love. I felt wanted by God and I didnt feel like He wanted to punish me all the time.”
At age 19, Stephan submitted his life to Jesus, believing that He took the punishment for his rebellion against God. After this, he says “I just prayed that I would be true in what I do and what I say.
“I decided that if I want to live a godly life and make a difference in this world that I would need to do what Jesus would have done.”
Following this decision, he recalls that the presence of God in his heart meant that he “could not say even the smallest lie anymore.”
“Once you are a genuine believer, I feel you know the difference between right and wrong. I never felt bad about telling little lies before then.”
Stephan’s brother Johann points to attending church and Sunday school, and his mother, as the greatest influences in his decision to trust in Jesus Christ.
“I promised my heart to Jesus Christ when I was 11 and it has been a great journey since then,” says Johann.
Now as Christians on the sporting field, the brothers admit it is not easy to be pro sportsmen and honour Jesus Christ, but they both firmly believe that God has carried them through.
“When times have been tough,” says Johann, “I’ve turned around and seen one pair of footsteps in the sand, and it’s then that I realise that God has carried me through once again.”
Stephan adds, “God has blessed me in abundance. And even when things have gone against me, it has always turned out for the better. I realised that I need to trust God and that His will is actually better for me than my will.
“The truth about the love of God and the feeling I get from praying and worshipping is a massive reason that I want to follow God. I just feel so much peace and love in my heart.”
When tempted to turn away from God and act selfishly, Stephan says he relies on God to reveal truth and keep him trusting God’s Word.
“God just opens up your eyes and He gives you a conscience for whenever you are tempted and that helps you to not fall into temptation,” he explains.
“The best thing to do when you are tempted, is to say a little prayer. God helps when you ask Him to help.”