Running The Race
On April 6, 1923, in a small
town hall in Armadale, Scotland, Eric Liddell spoke for the first time of his faith in
Christ. Eighty people came to hear Scotland's famous runner give his testimony.
"Shyly, he stepped forward and for a few seconds surveyed his waiting audience, then he began," writes Catherine Smith in her biography, Eric Liddell..
"There was no lecturing, no fist thumping on the table, no wagging or pointing a finger to stress a point, no raised voice to impress on them what he thought they should be doing. In fact, it wasn't a speech at all. It was more of a quiet chat, and in his slow clear words, Eric for the first time in his life told the world what God meant to him.
"He spoke of the strength he felt within himself from the sure knowledge of God's love and support. Of how he never questioned anything that happened either to himself or to others. He didn't need explanations from God. He simply believed in Him and accepted whatever came."
News of Liddell's talk was reported in every newspaper in Scotland the next morning. God was preparing Liddell to honor Him, and his testimony still reverberated today.
"The Lord Guides Me"
Liddell was an unorthodox sprinter. Coming out of trowel-dug starting holes, Liddell ran with abandon, head tilted toward the skies, knees thrust upward to his chin, feet rising high from the ground. Before each race, Liddell shook hands with each competitor, offering his trowel to fellow runners who struggled to dig their starting holes in cinder tracks with their cleats.
When asked how he knew where the finish line was located, he replied in his deliberate Scottish brogue, "The Lord guides me."
As word of his faith in Christ spread through England, many wondered if he would display the same zeal on the track. Liddell silenced any skeptics in the AAA Championships in London in July 1923, by winning the 220-yard dash and the 100-yard dash. His time in the 100 stood as England's best for thirty-five years.
He won the Harvey Cup for the best performance of the meet and readied himself for the Paris Olympics in the summer of 1924.
"I'm Not Running"
Liddell waited excitedly for the posting of the Olympic heats for the 100 meters and the 4X100 and 4X400 relays, his best events. He was stunned upon learning the preliminary dashes were on Sunday. "I'm not running," he said flatly and then turned his attention to train for the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes.
He considered Sunday to be sacred, a day set apart for the Lord; and he would honor his convictions at the expense of fame.
On Sunday, July 6, Liddell preached in a Paris church as the guns sounded for the 100-meter heats. Three days later, he finished third in the 200-meter sprint, taking an unexpected bronze medal. He quietly made his way through the heats of the 400 meters but was not expected to win. Shaking hands with the other finalists, he readied for the race of his life.
Arms thrashing, head bobbing and tilted, legs dancing, Liddell ran to victory, five meters ahead of the silver medalist. "The Flying Scotsman" had a gold metal and a world record, 47.6 seconds. Most of all, Eric Liddell had kept his commitment to his convictions of faith.
"It's Complete Surrender"
The next year, Liddell returned to China, where he had been born to missionary parents, as a teacher and missionary. In 1932, he was ordained as a minister and married in 1933.
He ministered pleasantly and plainly, often traveling on bicycle, braving constant fighting between Chinese warlords and Japanese in their growing conquest of China.
His decision to share Christ in isolated communities, forcing him to leave his wife and children behind, was the result of insistent prayer. "Complete surrender" was his description of this attitude.
In March of 1943, Liddell, along with other Americans and British, entered a Japanese internment camp. He was appointed math teacher and supervised a sports program. He arose each morning to study his Bible and was the cheer of the camp.
But his health deteriorated rapidly. A brain tumor ravaged his body with severe headaches. Shortly after his forty-third birthday in January 1945, Liddell collapsed. His last words, spoken to a camp nurse, were, "It's complete surrender."
All of Scotland mourned upon learning of his death. Heaven rejoiced.
Run The Race
Eric Liddell ran, spoke, and lived with great faithfulness and solid commitment to Christ. The movie, Chariots Of Fire, chronicled his faith, influencing yet another generation for Jesus Christ.
You do not have to be famous or skilled to make a difference for Christ. God asks only that you serve Him faithfully and wholeheartedly in whatever you do.
God has "appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16).
Honor God in all you do, and He will honor your obedience with a life that counts for eternity. "Complete surrender" to Christ is total victory.