Lifelong commitment: Eric Liddell
That Eric Liddell is still remembered today bears testimony to the witness of a man who desired to put God first in all he did; though for me his greatest achievement was not winning the Gold at the Olympic Games in 1924.
Although remembered in Chariots of Fire for not running on a Sunday, this attitude is not unique either to Liddell, nor to Christianity. It is a common discussion amongst certain Jews, who will not drive to the stadium on Shabbat and this year’s Olympics are being held during the festival of Ramadan, something that different Muslims are responding to in different ways. It is not in public or sensational acts that we show our commitment and live out our faith, it is in how we live out our lives in every situation.
For Eric, sport, competing and running were never his purpose in life, it was always serving the Lord. That is why he was able to walk away from the Olympics and go to China and serve as a missionary. He served the Lord in every situation until the day he died, whether it was as a public sportsman, a teacher, a missionary and even as a prisoner of war in China.
Whilst in the prison camp his reputation amongst the prisoners was such that he was asked to referee games as everyone trusted him not to take sides. He was popular amongst the children and young men because he not only maintained education, he organised activities and games for them. He encouraged sharing amongst the wealthier prisoners with the poorer ones. He is even remembered by the prostitutes in the prison, because he would happily help them as much as anyone else, but never expected anything in return. Many men would help for ‘favours’.
Eric’s devotional The Disciplines of the Christian Life, which he wrote whilst in prison reveals a man who meditated daily on the scriptures, rather than just read them. His reasons for writing them included
To develop the devotional life so as to create basic Christian thinking on subjects of conduct, action, outlook and attitudes.
Prior to his imprisonment, Eric Liddell had risked his own life in assisting the wounded and victims from the war that raged in China. He could have left with his family and it has also been revealed that he could have been freed from the prison prior to his death, but gave up his place to a pregnant woman.
Although Eric was never to see his family again, there are many who received salvation and were encouraged by the actions and life of Eric Liddell. When he was on his way to rescue an severely injured man, who the locals would not help for fear of the Japanese Liddell felt encouraged by the Lord in the verse from Luke 16:10
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.
Eric Liddell’s faithfulness in all things and every situation is what remains his lasting example and why decades later we are still talking about him when many other great sportsmen have come and gone.