Eric Liddell

by | Oct 13, 2022 | Perseverance, Persistence, Service

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called…” (Eph. 4:1-4 NIV)

If ever there was someone in the modern world who lived out this text, it was Eric Liddell.

Most of us have heard of the famous film, “Chariots of Fire”, a movie based on the early life and Olympic successes of Scottish runner, Eric Liddell. He was also a committed Christian, and his devotion to God over everything else is inspiring to say the least.

My family and I watched Chariots of Fire years and years ago, back when our boys were quite young; but memory being as poor as it is getting to be, many of the details of Liddell’s life had escaped me. Therefore, when the opportunity came to watch another short video on his life, we grabbed it.

And just in case you are like us and know of Chariots of Fire but have forgotten the details; or just in case you have perhaps never even heard of Eric Liddell, here is a brief synopsis:

Eric was born in China to missionary parents. Although separated from his parents by the fact that he was sent to Scotland for education at a young age, his relationship with God deepened and grew.

Eric was also very fast. He loved to run, and won almost every competition he ran in. His specialty was the 100 metre run, and it was a surprise to no one that he was endorsed to run in the 100 metre race for Scotland in the summer Olympics of 1924, hosted in Paris.

Unfortunately, his race was scheduled on a Sunday, and Eric’s ardent commitment to God and to keeping his Sabbath day holy prohibited him from running. He was heavily criticized for withdrawing; but in the end, he received endorsement to run in the 400 metre run instead, which was held on a different day of the week.

Now Eric had no experience running longer races, but he decided to do what he did in every race: Run as fast as he could for the first half, and leave the rest to God.

Any surprises that he took the gold medal for the 400 metre race?

And any surprises at all that he gave all the glory to God?

But the story of Eric’s commitment to the Lord doesn’t end with his one event. Rather, he felt God calling him back to China, and he returned there with his family to serve the Chinese people as a missionary. His work amongst the Chinese people flourished — until the onset of WWII, that is, when Japan began to try and conquer China. Although his family was eventually sent back to England, Eric felt God was calling him to stay in China; and here his speed once again was used for God’s glory. He began to go out into the destruction zones, towns/villages/fields, all decimated by the Japanese airstrikes. He would search for survivors, and then putting them on a two wheeled cart, he would proceed to run them to the hospital where they could receive medical care. He would often be running down the road in the midst of Japanese airstrikes, and only God’s protection and Eric’s God-given speed and agility got him, as well as his patients, through unscathed. Many physical lives were saved as a result of his new ministry; and when the recovering victims began to learn of Eric’s God, many of these received spiritual healing as well.

Unfortunately the Japanese forced Eric into a civilian internment camp in 1945. Here he continued to share God’s love and the good news of the gospel right up until his death of a brain tumor later that same year.

Eric’s early life is an inspiration to us all to hold tight to our convictions, ever knowing that when God closes a door of opportunity, He opens a window. I am pretty sure that his training for the longer 400 metre race worked to build his endurance for the long hospital runs he would later be required to do.

But it is perhaps Eric’s later life that can serve as the real inspiration to all of us. When God has placed a calling on our lives, we must follow the example of Eric Liddell! We must let NOTHING — not even a foreign invasion and imprisonment — deter us from putting our heart and soul into the work God has called each of us to do. True, we may not all be called to be missionaries to China in the midst of a world war, but we all have a calling nonetheless. Our job is to seek the Lord and ask Him to show us our calling, and then, with the same zeal as Eric Liddell, we need to be about fulfilling what God has called us to do.

Let’s don’t forget this excellent advice from the world’s wisest man: “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might…” (Eccl. 9:10 NIV)

Eric Liddell: Nobody could run better, all thanks to Jesus!

In His love,
Rob Chaffart
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries


Eric Liddell