The Olympic Gold! Isn’t it what every athlete dreams about and works towards? Pushing muscles to the max in order to have the peak performance of their lives at just the right time, so they can bow their head to have a gold medal hung around their neck!
It is their stories of sacrifice, years of training, motivation in the face of set backs and sheer grit, that have us cheering them on. BUT what happens when one who has been given the chance to represent a country in the Olympics in an event that he will surely dominate, turns the opportunity down?
His love for God and wish to honor Him got in the way of a country’s dream to bring home the gold.
But God gave him another chance.
You see, Eric Liddell, chose to put God before country and even a gold medal. He wanted to honor God and chose not to run on the Sabbath, which is the day his race would be held.
He was called a Traitor! His very principles were challenged. He was told that he was dishonoring God by not running and showing everyone the gift God had given him. He was told Country comes before God.
No amount of pressure could dissuade him. Instead, he prayed to honor the Lord with what he had been given. Then, a crazy thing happened. He was given the opportunity to represent Britain in not one race at the Olympics but two. And they didn’t fall on the Sabbath. Although he hadn’t prepared for these races but only the 100, he trusted that he would give it all he had for the first half and God would give him what he needed in the last half.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
― Eric Liddell
Eric’s style was wild and nothing like any track coach would ever recommend. He threw his head back with his mouth open. But his unconventional style didn’t slow him down. At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he had won the bronze in the 200 meters and the gold in the 400 meters along with setting a new world record. (Check out his 400 m race.)
This is where the inspiring movie that won an Oscar in 1981, Chariots of Fire, focused it’s attention. HOWEVER, there was so much more beyond the Olympic Gold he won.
(This post contains affiliate links. Read more about our disclosure policies here.)
This is the part of the story I never knew.
I was fascinated by the movie Chariots of Fire growing up. Still to this day, I get chills and am overcome with excitement and passion upon hearing the song Chariots of Fire by Vangelis Papathanassiou. So much emotion swells up within me that I am ready to get up and run and take on the world! More so now, that I know the WHOLE story behind Eric Liddell’s life beyond the Olympics!
With that Gold Medal, God opened doors for Eric to minister to others and share the gospel throughout Scotland and England. God eventually called his heart back to the place of his birth – China. In China, he carried on the missionary work that he had seen his parents do while he was a child. He used all his talents to share Christ with others and bring God glory, even if it put him in harms way. Because of major unrest in China, Eric along with other foreigners ended up in a internment camp. He spent his time there shining brightly for Christ just like he did wherever he went until his death.
“We are all missionaries. Wherever we go we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ.”
― Eric Liddell
Eric’s story is inspiring.
He bowed his head in reverence for the honor of receiving the best gift given by the King of Kings. No gold medal could touch the splendor of what Christ has to offer. That was a message he freely shared!
“It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But since I have been a young lad, I have had my eyes on a different prize. You see, each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals.”
― Eric Liddell
Digging into the Story!
His story is fascinating and there is no way I can do it justice in a simple post. Be inspired and encouraged by how Eric let God lead him and work through his life. Check out these fantastic resources including the book Eric wrote, The Disciplines of Christian life.