In 1996 there were thirty six players brought from all over South Africa to start up a professional rugby team, The Eagles in a town called George in the Cape Province of South Africa. I was one of them and through God’s plan for my life – I believe I was the last out of this group of players to remain.
I was a professional rugby player who ‘ate, drank and slept’ rugby, and saw it as being ‘everything’, with my whole life revolving around it. I was brought up in a Christian home with loving, godly parents but sadly I chose sport over a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. I did love God however wat not ‘in love’ with Him or in a daily relationship. I thought I did because I went to church and did all the ‘Christian things’, focussing on my ‘works’ rather than being obedient to His voice and plan for my life.
But this idea I had of being a follower of Jesus Christ was about to change drastically. It began after we lost terribly to the Pumas by a mammoth 114 - 13 in Witbank. That night after our humiliating loss Frans Ludeke who at that time was the coach of The Lions came over to our hotel, and offered some comforting word to me.
Frans is a man who loves God and has a real heart for people. His philosophy has always been that ‘the player is more important than the game’. When Frans offered to pray for me that night I refused and said, “I don’t think that will help!” Such was my pride.
It is very clear to me now through the luxury of hindsight, that the Lord Jesus used this very sore point of my career to humble and bring me down to reality.
I was at a state where I was blaming my team mates for the loss and didn’t think that I played a role in it. The problem was that I was so full of myself that there was no room for The Lord Jesus!
On the night of the 21st August 2001 I know for sure that I ‘died’ – not physically but spiritually. It was the night when the old Manie du Toit was laid to rest, and the new Manie du Toit was born again. It happened when I was in bed busy writing the response to our humiliating loss that I was going to present to the team the next day.
My wife was asleep alongside me, when I experienced a supernatural encounter with God Almighty.
There was an overwhelming presence of God that came into my room and touched me. Today I know that it was the Holy Spirit, as I felt this incredible amount of love and peace radiating all around and within me. It was a totally amazing experience that left me feeling so ‘light’.
It was as if I was walking in the clouds. Prior to this encounter I was quite consumed with myself and my personal ambitions, because of my pride and self-righteous, but the Lord Jesus clearly spoke these words to my heart,
Manie, this life you are living is not about you, It’s all about Me!
Jesus spoke directly into my heart and spoke this very important truth that I had conveniently overlooked. In all the busyness in our lives today it can become so easy to forget this.
At that time in the rugby world I was consumed by, as a player it was all about your ego, and nobody mattered more than yourself.
You were ‘Number 1’, and basically everything revolved around you and your needs. Being a professional environment it had become more about the money than playing the sport that I had so much loved as a child.
The reality was that playing sport had become my idol that had separated me from receiving the fullness of the love of Jesus.
But God loves us all too much, and that night in my bedroom, His unconditional love overflowed all over me.
So much so that I had a burning desire and felt compelled to want to go out and tell others about this loving God that I had just encountered.
That night I had written down my match analysis and had everything on paper ready to hand out to the rest of the team for the next day. I had highlighted the areas that they needed to change in and where there faults and mistakes were.
But Jesus had the final say and overrode my pride when He said to me,
“No. You don’t try to change anything. If they want to change then let it come from them and not you.”
The next day at the team meeting the coach gave each team member a page to write down their views on the game. Everyone was writing except me, which caused the coach to come up to me and enquire as to why I was not writing. My response was that it was not about me and more about team. After one and half hour they had all completed writing, and we began to talk about the game we had lost.
When they had all finished I said that was the mistake I has also made. I explained that when I had begun writing last night, Jesus came and personally told me to stop and hand it all over to Him.
I shared with the team about my amazing experience with Jesus and how He had filled me with His incredible love. He had also revealed to me that I was living a self-centred life that did not please Him. The team could see that this was a ‘new’ Manie that was speaking to them and responded positively to the message I was sharing with them.
They admitted that we all were not playing for each other but were doing our ‘own things’ on the field. Thankfully this bad attitude that we had picked up was to change for the better.