Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Weekday Devotion With Pastor Chris

In the early 1920’s, Eric Liddell was Scotland’s greatest and best-loved athlete.  He had been born in China in 1902, the son of missionaries, and at six years old had been sent (along with his older brother) to Eltham College in South London for his education.  At Eltham he had excelled, becoming captain of both its cricket and rugby teams, and he went on to the University of Edinburgh.

     It was at Edinburgh that Liddell became known as the fastest runner in Scotland.  Newspapers carried stories of his feats.  At the same time he gained a starting spot on Scotland’s national rugby team.  He was beloved, and became known as “The Flying Scotsman.”

     Liddell was chosen to compete in the 1924 Olympics, but he shocked the world when he withdrew from the 100 meter event (his strongest) because it would require running on a Sunday.  He decided instead to train for the 400 meter.  In the finals of that event, he faced two men who had both broken world records, a Swiss and a Swede.  Just before the race a man came up to to Liddell and placed a piece of paper in his hand.  On it was written, “He that honours me will I honour” – a quote from 1 Samuel 2:30.  Liddell went on to win, setting a new world record and beating his previous best by an astonishing two full seconds.

     After graduating from Edinburgh with a Bachelor of Science degree, Liddell returned to China in 1925.  Seven years later he was ordained while on furlough, and two years after that married the daughter of Canadian missionaries.  Together, he and his wife had three daughters, the last of which he would never see.

     By 1941 life had become so dangerous because of the war, Liddell’s wife and children left to stay with her family in Canada.  Liddell stayed behind, and accepted a position at a mission in a poor, rural area.  There he relieved his brother who was ill and needed to go on furlough.  Two years later the Japanese took over, and Liddell was placed in an internment camp.  There, by all accounts, he took on a leading role: helping the elderly; teaching Bible classes; arranging games and teaching science to the children.

     One of the survivors of the camp, a man named Langdon Gilkey who went on to become a prominent theologian, later said of Liddell, "Often in an evening I would see him bent over a chessboard or a model boat, or directing some sort of square dance – absorbed, weary and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the imagination of these penned-up youths. He was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known."

     Eric Liddell died of an inoperable brain tumor on February 21, 1945, just five months before his camp was liberated.  According to a fellow missionary his last words were, "It's complete surrender." He died as he had lived, offering the whole of himself to the Lord.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1)

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