Somewhere in the Beijing Olympics commentary I heard mention of a British sprinter made famous by the film, Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell, a Scot, ran for Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics and was ?medalled? with a gold, using the new expression that has been struck for 2008.
Eric Liddell was picked for the 100m race, but declined to run when it was announced that it would be held on a Sunday. Eric held strong views on Sunday sport. He had no previous experience of running different lengths but offered to run them on different days of the week. He did, and he won the gold in the 400 metres and bronze in the 200 metres. Like Usain Bolt in the Beijing Olympics, Liddell raced ahead, winning by 4 metres and setting a new world record.
Liddell started his life in China having been born in the Chinese city Tianjin in 1902. His parents were engaged in missionary work at the time. Following his athletic success he left Britain to follow his parent?s vocation back in China. He was completely devoted to China and its people and gave himself to telling them about Jesus.
In 1937 Japan invaded China and in 1943 Liddell was taken prisoner and held in a Japanese internment camp in Weifeng, Shandong Province. He often organised athletes meetings to keep everyone?s spirits up. Liddell died in the camp in 1945. He was later interred in the Mausoleum of Martyrs in Shijiazhuang, China which is a great honour for a non-Chinese person. His memorial stone is inscribed with words taken from the Book of Isaiah: "They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary."
Quote from the Chariots of Fire film.
(This may be a fictional quote but it summarises much of Liddell?s messages to Scottish students as he spoke at meetings following his Olympic Gold and Bronze.)
?You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race.?
?It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job.?
?So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way.?
?And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.?
How do you react to Liddell?s challenge?