Knowing that Jesus is with me makes me a stronger person. Not arrogant, but stronger. I know that whatever I try to do, even if it doesn’t work out, I’ll always have God. I’ll always have Jesus to lean back on and I know there must be a reason for everything that happens. You can’t win every game, and that can be tough, but my faith helps me because I know there is more to life than winning and losing rugby games.
When my teams have lost games or failed to win titles, I used to ask myself, “Why don’t I ever win anything?” I prayed about it a lot and talked to my mother, who is a minister, and she said that if we become driven by trophies and winning, our whole life will change. They become our idols. That’s not what God wants. He doesn’t want us to follow things instead of Him. This really opened up my eyes. But setbacks are really tough, especially with England because the media will be on my back. I find myself wondering why it seems like they blame me when there are 15 other players.
But there’s a bigger picture here. I came back stronger, not because I became more fit, not because I became stronger, but because I went back to my faith. I went back to what I had been taught all my life about Jesus: Whatever we do, whether we are playing rugby or we’ve just woken up, we say thank you to God. Everything is a gift. Everything I have has been given to me; even my talent is a gift from God. I’m thankful for this gift, and I know I have to work on it.
Before I compete, I never pray for a win or that we’ll play well, but I’ll pray and ask for protection. I pray that I’ll have strength and energy to not only do myself proud, but do my family and everyone else proud. Then I’m able to freely play the game.
My faith in God helps me control my emotions on the field. The way you talk to someone else has a massive effect on them. In reading all of Jesus’ teachings and stories in the Bible, I can’t help but notice He’s very mild-mannered. Whenever others would try to trick Him with their questions, He would answer in a very calm way. This is a great example for us to do the same.
I’d like people to remember me to be a cool guy, but humble enough to take criticism and to give attention to other people’s ideas. I want people to see me as a man of God. Obviously, rugby is a big part of my life, but I also have my whole life to live after my athletic career.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Psalm 91, which talks about God being our protector and shield. When the big game is on, that’s all we care about — that God looks after us and protects us. Another key verse for me is Corinthians 13:4, which says, “Love is patient, love is kind…” This is what I want to be. You can be a good person, giving away money and all that stuff, but if you’re not doing it with love, then you might as well not do it, because then it’s not for the right purpose.
Everything must be backed up by the love of Christ.
—Billy Vunipola, English rugby player