Eric Liddell…The Flying Scotsman

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The Creator of the Universe makes no mistakes.. His Plan and His Creations are always accomplished with a specific plan and purpose in mind.  There are no accidents.  And so it was with the main character of this true story.

In Tientsin, China in 1902 a baby boy was born to Scottish missionaries, James and Mary Liddell.  The new parents named their second child, a boy, Eric.

When Eric turned four years old, his father read in the newspaper of how a Scotsman, Wyndham Halswelle, had won second place in the four hundred meter race in the Olympics.  Halswelle was the very first Scot in history to ever win an Olympic medal in a track and field event.  When his father tried to explain this to Eric and his older brother, Eric asked whether that meant that no Scotsman had ever finished first.  The father had answered “yes.”

Eric’s parents took him and his older brother to a boarding school in England, and then they returned to China.  At school the boys excelled in rugby, cricket, and track.  Eric set a school record of 10.2 seconds in the one hundred meter dash.

Eric completed his boarding schooling and went on to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he continued to excel in track.  He quickly emerged as the fastest sprinter in Scotland and became a national hero.

In college his older brother was active with other Christian college students in holding evangelistic meetings throughout Scotland.  When Eric was invited to speak at one of those rallies in 1923, he eagerly accepted.  The next morning every newspaper in Scotland announced that Eric Liddell had preached at an evangelistic service.  The rousing experience stirred Eric’s soul.  It gave him a desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with whomever would listen.  Over the following two years, Eric spoke to thousands of men and women throughout the British Isles.  Multitudes of people would come to the first of two daily meetings to hear the famous athlete discus his track and field accomplishments.  But they all began to return in the evening to hear Eric’s message of salvation…..The Good News of the Gospel of Christ.  All of this publicity caused the newspapers to begin questioning Eric’s commitment to running track since he was spending so much time preaching the Word of God.

The next Olympic Games were to be held in Paris in 1924, and the best hopes of England were now pinned on the young Scot as the nation’s champion sprinter.  Eric Liddell’s best event was the one hundred-meter dash, but when the schedule for the Olympic races was published, the first heats for the one hundred meters were on a Sunday….the Christian Sabbath.  Eric held the conviction that he was never to race on Sunday and he refused to do so.  The English Olympic Committee tried to have the date for the first heats changed but to no avail.

As a result, Eric was entered in the two hundred and the four hundred meter races, events in which he was not at all as dominant as he was in the one hundred meters.  Somewhat shockingly, the British press attacked him mercilessly… “ A traitor to Scottish sporting, to all that Wyndham Halswelle stood for! ” announced one newspaper.

On the Sunday of the one hundred meter trials in Paris, Eric preached in the Scots Kirk, the Scottish Presbyterian Church in Paris.  In the one hundred meter trials, Harold Abrahams was the English sprinter to qualify for the finals the next day. 

Harold Abrahams won the hundred meter race, and became the first British runner to win a gold medal in an Olympic Games.  Eric saw that this was just part of God’s plan for his life.

On Wednesday Eric finished second in the two hundred meter dash, the first Scot ever to win a medal in the 200 meters.  But there was still one race to be run.

Eric qualified on Thursday for the four hundred meter finals.  But he was far from being the favorite.  The finals were held on Friday July 11, 1924.  As he prepared to go to the stadium, the team masseur handed Eric a small folded piece of paper.  It read…”He that honors me I will honor,” quoting the Word of God out of the Book of 1 SAMUEL 2 : 30.  

Eric Liddell ran and won the four hundred meter race, setting a new world record of 47.6 seconds.  He was the first Scot to win Olympic gold in track!

The next year Eric Liddell returned to China as a missionary and during World War II died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.   The Hollywood Production “Chariots of Fire” was a movie about his athletic career.  It won the Academy Award for the Best Picture in 1981.

Thoughts To Ponder and Reflect:

Eric Liddell stood up for his conviction even though all England opposed him….their own national son.  Have you ever had to take a public stand for your convictions?  When you take a stand for God, you are never alone.

“No one will be able to stand their ground against you as long as you live.  For I will be with you as I was with Moses.  I will not fail you or abandon you.”

                                                                Joshua  1 : 5

Learn Well The Lessons Of History………….


A Sample of Great Men & Women of History Section


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