Someone once said, "Most athletes come to the Olympic games desiring to be great and do great. Eric Liddell came to the Paris Olympics desiring to be good, and to do good."
A Scottish missionary, Eric Liddell qualified for the 100 meter race for the Paris Olympics. However, when he found out that his final heat was scheduled for Sunday, he refused to race and decided to withdraw from his best event. Even pressure from the British royal family could not persuade Eric to run on the Sabbath. Instead, Liddell raced in the 400 meter, where little was expected of him.
As Liddell went to the starting blocks for the race, an American runner slipped a piece of paper in his hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30. "Those who honour me I will honour." Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand and not only won the race but broke the existing world record with a time of 47.6 seconds.
There is a famous line in the movie Chariots of Fire, that is about this event. When Eric's sister argues with him about going to the Paris Olympics instead of directly to the mission field in China, he responds, "God has made me to be a missionary, aye, but He has also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God's pleasure." As wonderful a story as that is, his integrity and faith did not end there.
After the Olympics, Eric returned to the country of his birth, China, where he resumed his missionary work. Because China was invaded by Japan, Liddell felt it was wise to send his family to his wife's former home in Canada. Eventually he ended up in an internment camp where he continued to pastor and minister to the needs of the suffering people there. One of the prisoners said that Liddell taught him to pray for the Japanese because the New Testament taught "pray for those who persecute you."
After Eric had been in the camp for some time, Winston Churchill was able to negotiate for his release. However, Eric decided to give his place instead to a pregnant woman and her unborn child. (This information was released shortly before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Apparently, Eric never mentioned this opportunity in his letters home, and even his family was surprised to learn about this act of sacrifice.)
Six months before liberation, Eric Liddell died. Traditionally, the Chinese do not erect monuments to foreigners on their soil. But they have made an exception for a man who called two nations his home. Today you can see the monument with an English script and a cross, honoring Eric Liddell for his kindness and goodness to the Chinese people.
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