Profile In Faith: Eric Liddell - page 3


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From the Summer 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

PROFILE IN FAITH
Eric Liddell: Muscular Disciple and Olympic Champion

by Joel S. Woodruff Ed.D.
Vice President of Discipleship & Outreach, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

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The Decision

  Eric’s status as a Scottish national team rugby player and Scottish sprint champion gave him the platform that he would soon use to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the spring of 1923, one of Robert’s friends, D.P. Thomsen, was struggling to find a way to reach the working class men and miners of Scotland. Noticing the men’s passion for rugby, he thought to ask Eric if he would be willing to come to a meeting hall in Armadale and speak of his faith, though he knew that introverted Eric rarely talked openly about his Christian faith.
   D.P. traveled to Edinburgh and went straight to the Liddells’ home. He was greeted by Robert; when asked if Eric would speak at an evangelistic meeting, Robert said, “I think you’d better ask him yourself.” A few minutes later, when Eric came in from a run, D.P. shared his vision. Would Eric address the men? Eric dropped his head for a time, reflected upon the question, and then replied, “All right—I’ll do it.”5 That response was to change the course of Eric’s life. In fact, the next morning, before he could second-guess himself, he received a letter from his sister sent from China weeks before; it ended with Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” This confirmed his decision to use the platform of sports fame to share his faith openly. He would never look back and would proclaim his love for Jesus with enthusiasm and boldness in the days to come.
  Liddell would write later about this moment of saying yes to D.P.’s request,

My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ—after all if He called me to do it, then He would have to supply the necessary power. In going forward the power was given me. Since then the consciousness of being an active member of the Kingdom of heaven has been very real.6

  In the next year, as Eric trained to qualify for the British Olympic team as a sprinter and finished his university degree, he also began speaking nearly every weekend at evangelistic rallies and churches. The more time Eric gave to sharing his faith, the faster he seemed to run. At the British Olympic Trials, in July 1923, he set a new British record of 9.7 seconds at 100 yards and also won the 220-yard distance in 21.6 seconds. Thus he had qualified for the 100-meter and 220-meter events at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
   The week after the Olympic trials, his fame grew at a quarter-mile race at Stoke-on-Trent. He was knocked down at the beginning of the race and managed to come from 30 yards behind the field to win the race in dramatic fashion. The Scotsman wrote,

The circumstances in which Liddell won the event made it a performance bordering on the miraculous. Veterans, whose memories take them back 35 years, and in some cases even longer, in the history of athletics, were unanimous in the opinion that Liddell’s win in the quarter-mile was the greatest ever track performance that they had ever seen.7

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