It was in my junior year at school that I joined the cricket team. That same year, my father passed away, and my brother and I soon realized our mother was no longer able to pay the expenses for the game. With cricket out of the picture, one of my friends eventually invited me to join his rugby team, and as I did, I discovered I was pretty good at it.
My mother took my brother and me to Sunday school every week without fail, but I knew that wasn’t what made me a child of God. It was by observing the lifestyle of others that made me think there was something more. That something is knowing Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.
Since my early childhood years, I was brought up to believe that hard work pays off and failure is being lazy, incompetent and full of excuses. The person who most encouraged me to find Christ is my mother. Her faith in God, as a single parent with the struggle of bringing us up, was incredible.
As a family, we never failed to pray daily — a prayer my mom believed was powerful. One day, we were hungry and without any money, so my mom told us to come pray that God would provide us with food. As we were praying, there was a loud tap on the door and, to our amazement, a lady was standing there with many bags of rations. That day, I believed God is living and that He hears our prayers.
As a professional rugby player, I face challenges every day, both in the game and outside of it. There are certain things, like using the language my teammates and opponents do, that I’m forced to refuse for the sake of God. This is an everyday battle as a sportsperson. But I believe that whatever you do, you should be doing it to glorify God. Without Jesus in our lives, our lives are futile. Any success without God is no success. Yes, I want to be remembered as a great sportsperson, but I want to be remembered as a great sportsperson who is saved by the grace of God.
I don’t think I can change anything in my sport or future, but I very much believe I can daily transform as a child of God, and that may change others as well. In the Bible, Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Without Christ, nothing is possible, and whether you like it or not, God is the one who grants you the strength to do anything.
—Joel Perera, Sri Lanka rugby player