I have been following up the performance of the Kenya National Rugby Sevens Team for some years. I have also tried to follow its history, and that is how names such as Edward Rombo, John Muhato, Peter Akatsa and the most recent Benjamin Ayimba, Oscar Osir and Bill Odongo, are not new to me. I have followed their highs and lows, excitements and anxiety.
When one mentions the Rugby Sevens in the current dispensation, names such as Dennis Mwanja aka ‘The Iron Man’, Innocent Simiyu, Humphrey Kayange, Lavin Asego, Horace Otieno and Collins Injera crop up. Actually, there are so many big names in Kenya rugby that I cannot name them all. Why would I choose Rugby as a case point for the case I want to build? Because it is the only sport, apart from Athletics and Cricket, that lifts the Kenyan flag above Mount Kenya. Cricket has always been represented well by people like Maurice Odumbe, Steve Tikolo and Hitesh Modi. I don’t want to write about Athletics, not because there is very little to write about it, but that there is so much to write about it that I can’t manage it here.
The Hong Kong Sevens 2018 ended with the Kenyan team taking the second position after a spirited fight against perennial rivals Fiji.
The team has managed to take Kenya to unprecedented heights and I would dare say that the next circuit might see them sitting pretty in the company of the top five.
Strength for the soldier
All these sports require serious preparations. The preparations would involve building strength and stamina, both physical and mental. The players wake up early and follow through a regimen of workouts that develops them into world beaters.
Apart from this, proper nutrition is a must. Their diet is professionally selected so as to help their bodies build up into what they require in the field events.
This reminds me of a Bible lesson we had with children. It was the first lesson in a serious of lessons on the Armour of God. We drew this from the Book of Ephesians 6:10-18. As we started from verse 10, we discovered that being strong is not only the end product of having the full armour of God but also the starting point. It is the launching pad that shoots us into the armoury and finally the battlefield.
‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.’
No emaciated and weak player can be allowed on the pitch by the coach. No weakling soldier can be allowed by a commander to be in the field.
The Roman army was something to marvel at because of their ability to take on and decimate an enemy. Their adaptableness was astonishing. They were as flexible as figures in the hand of a statistician and as stable as a rock. They were well rounded and yet specialized. The kind of exercises they underwent prepared them to shoot above average. These are soldiers who could develop both circumvallation and counter-circumvallation during the Siege of Alesia.
Thus it is not surprising that Paul mentions strength before he goes ahead to elaborate the units of the whole armour. In fact, in verse 14, it says, ‘stand firm…..’. We cannot stand firm unless we are strong. A weak person will obviously be physically wobbly and mentally woollily.
That is why we must be strong and stand firm.
The next question we addressed with the children was this, ‘How do we become strong?’
This question takes me back to sports – rugby, football, cricket, athletics…..name them. It also drives me back into history – the time when Paul was inspired to write this. How did the Roman soldiers manage to become the sharpest knife in the kitchen?
Back and forth we go! We must eat plenty of good food, breathe fresh air, exercise, and have adequate rest.
We must eat the portion of our daily sustenance as provided for in His word. Eating is a daily activity. No rugby player can skip meals in a day and go to face up with the All Blacks. This means that we need fresh supply every morning (Exodus 16:21; Lamentations 3:22-23; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 4:4; Joshua 1:8-9 and 2 Timothy 2:15).
Although Jesus was physically weak, after fasting for 40 days and nights, he displayed spiritual strength in deflecting Satan’s charms offensive. He did this by saying, ‘It is written’.
In the Gospels we find Jesus withdrawing from the crowd regularly to go and get fresh air – prayer. We cannot be strong unless we learn to withdraw and get fresh breath. Cooperate prayers are very important and so are private, personal communion with the Creator. It is during this time that we get regenerated and reenergized.
Paul exercised as a soldier by being a servant of Christ. He did the work of an apostle without noise or nonsense. That is what we are supposed to do; work out in the Kingdom of God. We were called into a kingdom that is active. In fact, the Kingdom has suffered violence since the times of John the Baptist. It is not a kingdom of passivity. The gifts and talents that are not actively utilized finally become vestigial.
Rest follows activity. God did not rest at the start of creation; He rested when he had completed the creation. Resting is not tantamount to laziness. It is what we must do always. We must rest in anxiety, fear and worry. We must rest in turmoil and tangles.
Peter never understood rest until Jesus had departed to heaven. At this point, Peter, instead of fighting with soldiers, he slept and rested between them.
‘The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.’
Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns in the prison. What was happening in the external environment did not affect their inner atmosphere. They remained steadfast even in face of imminent death.
In summary, we concluded that we can only be able to buckle the belt of truth, carry the breastplate of righteousness, be ready on our feet with the gospel of peace, take up the shield of faith, put on the helmet of salvation, and swing the sword of the Spirit, by being strong first. And when we are strong, then we can stand strong again because we have the armour of God.