Toso Viti Toso! (Go Fiji Go!)
Those three words lingered in my mind as I headed to work on Friday morning, August 12, 2016. I had watched the Rio rugby sevens semi-final match between Fiji and Japan at 5am and after Fiji’s victory against Japan, I found myself struggling to calm down after the anxiety and adrenaline rush that came from the tight match.
As spiritual athletes we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.
I was excited but nervous for our team, knowing they were through to the first Olympic rugby sevens finals, on the brink of making history. The Great Britain team was their opponent. I reached work at about 8am and for the first time I realised the traffic-filled campus where I worked was quiet on a normal school day.
But this was not just any other day.
For all Fijians this was the day we all had been waiting for. Public and private vehicles zoomed around the city flying Fiji’s noble banner blue and people from different ethnicities and backgrounds were dressed in blue in support of our favourite Fiji sevens team.
Fiji’s capital city, Suva, was literally painted blue! Fiji’s ANZ National Stadium was opened for a live free telecast of the game. Coconut wireless spread the word and people swarmed to the national stadium to catch a glimpse of the match on the biggest screen in the city.
The excitement, the hype, the pride, the spirit of everyone in Fiji that day was just indescribable.
For me personally, I’ve never been so proud being a Fijian that day as I witnessed everyone coming together, setting our differences aside, to watch and cheer for our boys.
When the game started, people screamed as the two teams came out into the ground; the cheer became louder when Rasta Rasivhenge took to the grounds as referee of the match. The game started.
It was a great start for Fiji as our team captain, Osea Kolinisau, kicked off the match with a try just two minutes into the game. Fiji led by a healthy margin in the first half of the game before securing the win with a 43 – 7 scoreline.
Fiji had never played such a flawless game of rugby as we had witnessed that day. At the end of the match, people were speechless at how incredible the Fiji sevens team was. Social media was abuzz, and people all over the world began to hunt out our little island nation online. The rest is history. Fiji as a nation was thrilled and overjoyed with the accomplishment—Fiji’s first medal in 50 years since the country began competing at the Olympics. It was Fiji’s first gold medal in the first Olympic rugby sevens tournament.
The next day was Sabbath. At most churches in the country, a thanksgiving service was held, praising God for his faithfulness. As I sat in church that Sabbath morning and listened to the testimonies shared about the game, I reflected on how our spiritual journey is similar to the experiences of the game. Paul in his letter to young Timothy, wrote: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will give on that day, and not only me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).”
Each day we are running a race. Winning the race is not determined by becoming first, second or third but a matter of reaching the tape. Relaxed as that may sound, it gets a little complicated, as behind the race the battle of good and evil plays out. Whoever wins can determine whether we reach the tape or not. However, interestingly there are witnesses that watch by the sideline “Therefore, we also since we are surrounded by so great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
The noble banner blue. [Photo courtesy: Kavula Photography]
In the words of Fiji’s sevens coach, Ben Ryan, the expectation of winning and the win itself were not on the team’s shoulders during the finals but instead the players were raised up on the shoulders of supporters, fans and witnesses. For Christians, it’s critical to understand that each day we have a great cloud of witnesses, watching us, hoping for us to reach the tape and win. Running with endurance and keeping our eyes on the prize determines whether we win or lose each day. As spiritual athletes we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.
As Ben Ryan delivered his speech during the national celebration of the win, he stated that Fiji now has 12 Olympic gold medals, which is not an end but a pathway that symbolizes responsibilities, hard work and the willingness to motivate and empower other young people to achieve just as much.
As I ponder his speech, I reflect on our spiritual race. Being triumphant for a day over sin does not guarantee a continuous win over sin; we need to continue to build with spiritual nourishment a little more than the day before.
Cakacaka Turaga, Cakacaka (hard work gentlemen, hard work) as Ben Ryan describes it to the Fijian ruggers. For our spiritual life to grow there needs to be a little extra effort, dedication and sacrifice, we need to be immersed daily in the Word, flavoured in prayer and fasting to be able to gain spiritual strength to finish the race.
The task is not so simple but with our eyes fixed on Jesus daily we can and we will “[be] overcome by the blood of the Lamb” as the victory song sung by our Pacific ruggers after the final match in Rio.
Finally, victory is sweeter when we share our experiences with others. To inspire and illustrate Jesus in your life so others can be motivated to share. As daily spiritual winners that is our responsibility—to inspire others to win. Oh such joy as heaven celebrates a winner! Fiji’s celebration is miniature compared to what God has in store for those who have overcome the race of life.
Promising is our reward, which is not of this world but the Crown of Righteous given by Jesus Himself.
Kesaia Vasutoga teaches social work at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.