Eric slowly walked toward the podium, his nervousness showing as he kept his head down, not willing to look at the congregation. There were the Sunday morning faithful, the curious onlookers, and a few reporters present, all ready to listen to what this ‘man of convictions’ would say. This man who had caused so much controversy. This athlete, who most would say, was exactly where he should not be…on a Sunday morning in Paris, 1924.
Eric walks out onto the track minutes before the start of the race. Finding his position, he assumes the runners stance, marking where his feet will be. With trowel in hand, he begins to dig. He needs good traction; wants a good start.
In the tradition of his ‘running posture,’ he looked up to heaven before he began to speak. “The Holy Scripture tells us of that we are to run the race that is set before us. The question has been asked lately why I would choose not to run. Why I risk all I have worked for…why I would embarrass myself, my family, my country.”
Satisfied that his feet will be securely set for the race ahead, Eric walks over to the other runners on the track. With a quick hello and a firm handshake to all, he offers the trowel to any who will use it. If Eric has anything to do with it, the playing field will be fair. All will have the same equal chance.
“Why did I choose not to run on Sunday?” He shook his head as he looked into the eyes of all present. “It was not simply a matter of honoring a day; it was a matter of honoring my God. A God who deserves so much more than just my Sundays…a God who deserves my entire life.”
The gun blasts, and the runners are off. Eric runs like a wild-man; arm flinging, his head facing straight up into the sky, and his knees almost hitting his chest. For the spectators in the stands, it is all very unorthodox…an unusual sight to behold.
“I need not question this God of mine, for He is a God who is in complete control. He is my all, and He allows this undeserving soul to run faster, keep my head higher, and make my faith stronger. Indeed – He gives me the strength to run,” he smiled as he let out a nervous laugh, “and as this is my first time to ever share my faith in front of a crowd like this, He gives me the strength to speak.”
He jumps to an early lead and never looks back, or forward…his eyes always looking above, into the heavens. And 47.6 seconds later, with the crowd cheering him on, the “Flying Scotsman” crosses the finish line, setting a world record in the 400m, and claiming a gold medal.
“I run. I speak. I live…for my God. For my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He has shown me that I can trust in Him no matter what. He loves me.” He leaned forward on the podium. “He loves you. And He will point us all…to the finish line.”
The story – Part Fiction
The man – All Fact
At the 1924 Paris Olympics, when the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger) was first used, Eric Liddell refused to run on a Sunday. Instead he gave his testimony at a local church. And then three days later, entering events many thought he was unqualified for, he won a bronze medal in the 200m and then even greater glory by winning gold in the 400m.
Eric went on to embody the Olympic ideals by the way that he lived his life.
He died in 1945 at a Japanese internment camp, where he served as a missionary and teacher.
Don’t miss the award winning movie “Chariots of Fire,” based on Eric Liddell’s life.
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