I must confess that I had never read or heard Pierre’s story or testimony before until looking for something to write for this month’s column. I was really moved by his story and have decided to make this the focus this month.
Pierre is an impressively built athlete. He looks strong. He astonishingly power cleans 135kg, dead lifts 240kg and bench presses 165kg. As impressive as all this is – to my mind the fact that he is able to do pull-ups with the added weight of 50kg strapped to his waist is truly incredible. I think it’s an achievement if I can get to complete 3 or 4 in my gym work out! He is able to launch his 108kg frame 1.4m onto a raised platform and has a body-fat percentage of 6.5.
Many revere his physique, strength and talent. However, after reading his “story” of unwavering faith, perseverance and trust in God, I realise that there is so much more to admire and respect about him. Pierre, who is only 27 years old, has a testimony that is an inspiration and encouragement to many people. It’s a testimony of hope and faith and shows that great achievements are possible on the back of great trials and challenges.
Pierre grew up in a loving Christian home and shares that at a young age he was able to grasp the Father’s heart for His children – and most especially for himself.
His parents played a crucial role in his life and Pierre is on record saying: “My father instilled a strong champion spirit within us, teaching us to believe that we are winners and always motivating us by saying: “The best is yet to come. That is what God wants for you – the BEST, to PROSPER.”
He attributes his survival skills to his mom: “She taught us diligence and nurtured a fighter’s spirit within us – never to give up in challenging times and to have patience and perseverance.”
When he was 15 his parents got divorced and this was a big blow to him.
On his website Pierre shares that he only realised much later that this wasn’t God’s plan, but that we live and die by the choices and decisions we make. He quotes from Deuteronomy 30 where God says: “I lay before you life and death, blessing and cursing, so choose life.” Pierre goes on to say, “So many times we blame God for the poor decisions we make.”
He shares that instead of seeking God during this time of trial, he found consolation in his friends and became more and more influenced by the group, resulting in a lifestyle of self-centeredness.
Honour of man
After high school he signed a contract with the Blue Bulls and began to experience firsthand the honour of man. He was riding the wave of glory. However, at the World Championships the unexpected happened – Pierre broke his arm. The break was bad and where the injury was initially meant to keep him sidelined for two months, he ended up not playing for 10 months.
By the end of 2004 Pierre confesses that he had no goals and no motivation, and was totally unfocussed. At this stage he did not believe things could get worse, but they did when his dad suffered a fatal heart attack and died at the age of 53. Pierre shares how sudden this was and how it raised all the questions within him of how could this be? Lord this is too much! Why now? I need my dad, my father, my mentor… but in the midst of this God had a divine plan…
Pierre shares how God started sending people into his life, who shared God’s love with him and related their life stories. He realised it was time to make a choice and so he made the heart decision to give his life back to God.
He shares with excitement “God makes you a new creation and wipes away your past! I wanted to be different. I no longer wanted to live the lie. To be lukewarm and live proclaiming to be a Christian but not really living like one.”
It was shortly after this that his rugby career started to soar and Pierre was chosen to play for the Springboks in 2006. The World Cup year was 2007 and the excitement was building. Pierre was selected for the World Cup squad, and was also touted as a favourite to win the Player of the Tournament by respected rugby men.
However, just two weeks after the squad announcement Pierre started to cough up blood, had chest and breathing pains and was diagnosed as having blood clots in his lungs!
RWC dream shattered
His dream of playing in the Rugby World Cup was shattered, yet now his reaction was vastly different. He shares how he immediately knew God was in control. “I didn’t know exactly how but His word says He has great plans for our futures and that we’ve been healed by his wounds. My faith was tested, but I made a decision to praise God even if I stayed sick or got healed because I knew God’s plan is bigger than mine and I had to submit to His will. I was going to praise God because HE IS GOOD. You keep with your decision… you keep on keeping on.”
Man has limitations, but with God all things are possible and after just six months of medication a miracle happened. GOD HEALED HIM. The doctors all said it was impossible. They said he would never play again.
Pierre’s message is simple yet powerful, “God has a plan for your life. He has a passion for YOU. He speaks to you every day through that small voice inside you. Yes, you probably know it. Once you have decided to follow Him and live for Him, He will do more for you than you ever could have imagined. Take His hand, He will do the rest.”
Pierre Johan Spies is a truly remarkable athlete, who despite his physical strength and stamina counts that all nothing in comparison to the unsurpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ.
May we scrum down today and hear the heart of this gentle giant’s life story.
As Pierre Spies is currently injured and not able to tour Australasia with the Springboks I wish him well and a speedy recovery. Thank you for the many memories! We look forward to many, many more!