Every rugby player’s dream is to play for his country. Surely for the rugby player, there can be no greater privilege than representing your country in the Six Nations or even the Rugby World Cup. How disappointing it must be for the players who don’t get off the bench or are not even chosen for the squad in the first place. How frustrating if you have been picked and yet through injury you miss a vital game. Do those players watch the game with exasperation, thinking ‘if I was on the field I’d make a difference’? Yet, there is one Scottish player who is often not chosen to play for Scotland – not through injury, lack of talent or fitness, but through his own choice.
Prop Euan Murray missed a vital game in the pool stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup last September. Scotland lost to Argentina by one point – a win would have earned them a place in the quarter finals. Murray also missed two games during this year’s Six Nations, against Wales and France. Scotland played well and had its chance in both games but Murray chose not to play. Would he have made a difference? Undoubtedly this Scot, chosen for the Lions 2009 squad, who has over forty caps for his country, would have but he chose not to play in each of those games because they were on a Sunday.
A serious injury
Euan Murray became a Christian in 2005. He said he had it all, cap for his country, qualified as a vet, money, popularity, fame, girls, a great life. ‘I had everything’ he said, ‘all my dreams fulfilled.’ Despite this he felt empty and incomplete. He describes his fulfilled dreams as ‘shiny floating bubbles – everyone experiences the thrill of chasing them, but as they land in your hand, they always burst and are always empty.’ He felt guilty for the life he was living and was aware that God was not happy with him; ‘I was sick of the guilt the Bible made me feel.’
Despite this, the God of the Bible was on his mind as he sat in the changing rooms before playing Munster in September 2005. He began to think about what might happen to him if he had serious injury. Murray came to a decision, if something happened during this game, God was trying to tell him something. Five minutes after the first whistle, he received a hit to the side of his head, he was unconscious, had a few seizures on the field and his team mates thought he was dying.
While lying in a hospital bed a few days later he remembered his thoughts before the game. He knew God could end his life there and then, and he had come close to that. He felt scared and guilty so he decided he needed to change. But no-one can change in his own power and Euan Murray is no exception. It was too hard to be a good guy and keep the commandments; surely it was impossible.
I need a doctor
He started to read the Bible and go to church as he had when he was a young boy in order to try and change. On his way to church one day he remembered a verse, the words of Jesus: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Mark 2:17).
He went into the church knowing that he needed a doctor, that he needed Jesus Christ to heal him, free him from the grip of sin on his life. He prayed and asked Jesus to change him. Jesus transformed his life, gave him strength to fight the temptations in his life, and gave him freedom. Jesus had died on the cross to conquer his sin. ‘The joy that filled my heart was unbelievable’ he said ‘it’s the best thing ever.’
Murray wondered if such a violent game as rugby was appropriate for a Christian to play. His answer came from the Bible, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might’ (Ecc. 9:10). Through the witness of other rugby players Murray came to the conclusion that this is what God wanted him to do. He wanted to use his God-given gifts and give the glory back to God. He acknowledges that he can’t play without God; ‘I pray to Him before I go into every scrum, not to ask Him to beat the other guy but to obey his command to do it with all my might.’
A new hope
Jesus Christ had worked in Euan Murray’s life so his attitude towards everything changed; he had a new life, new desires, new priorities and a new hope. ‘Rugby is just a game’ he admits. ‘I play for Scotland, put everything into it because I’m playing for my country; it’s an honour. If I lose I’m disappointed, but I know there is something more important in life than a result of a game. I believe the most important thing in life is where you’re going when you die.’
The Christian knows he will be with Jesus when he dies. He recognises his need for a doctor or redeemer to save him from the consequences of his sins. He trusts in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice in his place on the cross; He took our punishment so that we might live. The Christian has a new hope, surer than any rugby result. Christ now is the Lord of the Christian’s new life and demands the top spot in that life. ‘I try to play as if the Lord Jesus was my coach’ Euan says ‘as if I was doing it to serve Him because I owe everything to Him.’
So whatever hopes we have about the Six Nations 2013 and Rugby World Cup 2015 whether we are English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh, there is only one hope really that’s important. Do you recognise the need for Jesus Christ in your life? Will you run to the only One who can give life, real life in all its fullness, and put your hope in Him?
This article is a translation and adaption of the article written by Bethan Perry in Y Cylchgrawn, Hydref 2011.