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.
However, as much as I prepare physically I also prepare spiritually. Earlier in my life when I was about sixteen years old, I had a "taste" of God.
This was largely because of my cousins' positive influence on me. They are also well-known rugby players, the brothers, Kevin and John Senio.
Sadly, my earlier commitment didn't last long as I became your typical teenager who was into worldly things — frequenting nightclubs and doing other stuff that never honoured God or lived up to the decision I had made to follow Him. I was what some may call a "backslider" — someone who had committed their life to Jesus but for whatever reasons had "slid back" into their worldly ways, not following Him as the Bible says.
About six years ago I arrived at a crossroads in my life. I was at a point where I needed to make a decision for my life as I realised that I couldn't carry on
"Now that I am a father to my son, Titus, Lisa and I are trying to honour God by bringing him up in God's way."
Living the way I was, 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. But this all changed when I asked Jesus into my heart about six years ago. My wife Lisa my girlfriend at the time, gave her heart to God and I guess this made it easier for me to get back to God.
Before I played for the New Zealand Sevens my desire to play professional rugby of any sort was unfulfilled. My desire to be a professional rugby player only happened when I made a decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord over my life. There is a verse in the Bible that captures this very well:
Delight thyself in the ways of the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
This time around I purposed in my heart that it was going to be different.
I knew that I needed God in my life the whole time, not like before. This is when things drastically started happening for me. 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.
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.
At the camp for the trials I met a strong Christian guy, Onaisi. Having him beside me in that environment where there were not too many believers helped me a lot.
Around the selection time the other boys were crossing their fingers, but Onaisi and I were praying in the corner and trusting God for our name to be called out. God answered our prayers in 2006 when we were both selected.
In the same year, about nine months later I got asked to captain the side, which had to be God. It was the first time that I was playing sevens and now all of a sudden I had been asked to captain our national team! Everybody was probably asking, "Who is DJ Forbes?"
I knew that God had some big plans still for me, so I accepted the offer to captain the New Zealand Sevens team. As much as I take my rugby seriously, my walk with God I take even more seriously.
More than just praying and having my quiet times with my Bible, some of my build-up before games sees me fasting.
Even when we play in the desert of Dubai in 40oC heat and draining humidity I still maintain my fast. Despite this being unbearable, by God's strength I have managed to go a couple of days without food.
My teammates would ask why I was not eating and I would reply and say that I was not hungry and not try to make a big deal about it. After all, it is between me and God, and the Bible teaches us not to make a big fuss or scene about it.
God reminds us that our sustenance is not just in physical food but we are to also focus on spiritual food:
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4
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.
On game day I go through the Scriptures and the promises that God has made in His Word. I usually write one down on my wrist with the cross and my son's name. Having that Bible verse on my arm helps me when the going gets tough, as I can look at my arm and rely on His Word. When the jerseys are placed out we again pray over before we put them on to give God glory. Our coach says his bit and then while we are preparing we turn on our worship music.
The team favourite is Hallelujah by Hillsong, which has been playing for the last two years and symbolises what the team is all about. Not many would think it is a worship song that is soft, deep and meaningful that motivates and gets us up to play.
It's certainly not your typical song to pick up a team and prepare them for battle — but isn't that what King Jehoshaphat did in 2 Chronicles 20 he sent forth the musicians and worshippers in front of the battle and the Bible says God set ambushes for the enemy and gave them the victory!
This is the last sound we hear, a worship song, before we step onto the field. It symbolises where our faith is and where we put our trust. After a win or loss we still bow our heads in the midst of all the euphoria.
We could choose to run around and meet the fans but we choose to "take a knee". After the Commonwealth Games victory we even sang a worship song on the field. We do this not as a "show" but to give thanks and honour to Him who makes it all possible!
My life changed the day I decided to follow God and make Jesus the Lord over me.
I encourage you to follow Jesus. Everyone likes to follow the crowd and to be popular, but I can assure you that had I 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 it — it's all about God.