Challenge SPORT

Rugby captain not ashamed to follow

DJ Forbes’ rugby career flourished from accepting the ultimate leadership

DJ Forbes
FEB 7, 2014: DJ Forbes leads the NZ Sevens team before their World Series match against France

Champion of five World Series titles, plus a Commonwealth Games and a World Cup Sevens title, New Zealand Sevens captain DJ Forbes and his team have just added silver at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to an impressive list of achievements.

It was a team effort but DJ earned the nicknames 'lynch pin' and 'Mr Dependable' for his valuable contribution to the side.

Further described as "quiet", "deeply religious" and "hugely competitive" by IRB.com, DJ keeps himself grounded by writing the names of his two children on his hand strapping, avoiding the limelight, remembering to thank his coach and pointing to Jesus Christ as the source of his strength.

Playing Sevens is physically demanding and with a coach like Gordon Tietjens pushing us to new heights in our training, we are fully prepared when we take the field," DJ shared with Planet Shakers NZ magazine. "However, as much as I prepare physically I also prepare spiritually."

That's right, the man who can lead his team to victory relies on God to lead him.

"My desire to be a professional rugby player only happened when I made a decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord over my life," he explains.

DJ remembers getting his first "taste of God" as a 16-year-old, due to the influence of his cousins. But, popularity with his teammates, girls and alcohol appeared more immediately satisfying and he soon forgot about the commitment he had made to God.

"I arrived at a crossroads in my life," he recalls of 2005. "I was at a point where I needed to make a decision for my life as I realised that I couldn't carry on living the way I was.

"My life at the time only existed to play rugby, to have a beer with the boys, chasing girls and all the other desires of my head."

Around the same time, DJ's girlfriend became a Christian and he decided to recommit his life fully to God, knowing that Jesus Christ had paid the ultimate sacrifice for him on the cross.

DJ says surrendering to Jesus as Lord of his life meant releasing his grasp on everything else and trusting God for everything he needed.

DJ Forbes laughs
JULY 25, 2014: DJ Forbes laughs with teammates in a team photo for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

""I knew that I needed God in my life the whole time, not like before. This is when things drastically started changing for me," he recalls.

He was quickly reminded of Psalm chapter 37 verse 4, which says "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

"All the desires of my heart started flowing into my life and it was only because of the decision I made to trust God for everything," he explains.

"I was a rugby player who hadn't played provincial rugby, let alone international. I was not known in international circles and all of a sudden I got the opportunity to trial for the New Zealand Sevens side."

DJ Forbes in action
MARCH 30, 2014: NZ Sevens caption DJ Forbes in action against Australia during the Hong Kong Sevens semi-final

At camp for the trials, DJ met a fellow Christian and together they prayed they would make the selection. Not only were their prayers answered but nine months later DJ was asked to captain the team.

"Everybody was probably asking, 'Who is DJ Forbes?'" he laughs.

"DJ, however, wants his fans to be asking another question, 'who is Jesus Christ?'

"As much as I take my rugby seriously, my walk with God I take more seriously. Prayer for me is a big part of my preparation, however it is something that I never push onto any of the other players in the team.

"We have Bible meetings almost every night and the boys are free to come and join in and give thanks and praise God. If there are any prayer requests we take the time to pray.

"On the night before the two day tournament we normally go into Coach Tietjens' room for the jersey presentation where we offer up a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to play in the tournament and represent our country.

"It is awesome to see the whole team and management bow our heads and give thanks – we give God thanks for the losses as well as the wins."

DJ understands that not everyone will agree with his beliefs and that some think that he is weak for relying on God. As far as he is concerned, though, if given the choice all over again he would not do anything different.

"My life changed the day I decided to follow God and make Jesus the Lord over me. Maybe you are sitting on the fence and undecided which way to go. Let me say that in a game situation there comes a time when the battle is hard and you need someone to follow, to lead the way.

"I encourage you to follow Jesus. Everyone likes to follow the crowd and to be popular, but I can assure you that if I had done that, I would not be where I am today. More so, I would not be able to receive the gift of eternal life that God has promised for those who follow Him.

"You have an opportunity right now to start to live differently. Don't follow the crowd but follow Jesus. My challenge to you is to do it now and choose to trust in God. Luck has nothing to do with it – it's all about God," DJ concludes. ?

With thanks to Promise Keepers 2011 magazine – promisekeepers.org.uk

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