Eric Liddell (1902-1945) will be on my mind often this weekend, as my path to church is deflected, delayed, and otherwise obstructed by the Chicago marathon. You might remember Liddell, a Scottish runner, as a character in “Chariots of Fire,” one of the Best Picture Oscar-winners of the 1980s. It was Liddell who, in the course of the movie “based on a true story,” refused to run on Sunday during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. He was transferred to a different race on a different day, and he won the gold medal for Great Britain. So he knew a little something about victory. He refused to gain his own victory on a Sunday morning.
During World War II, Eric Liddell served as a missionary in Japanese-occupied China. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese.
As a missionary, he wrote two pamphlets, published in China in 1937 and 1942, and a book, “A Manual of Christian Discipleship,” which was published in 1985 by Ballantine Books, copyright by the estate of Florence Liddell Hall, as “The Disciplines of the Christian Life.” (Quotations and other information are from this edition.)
The book is a manual of Bible study, written to help his fellow prisoners.
Thus it was as a prisoner himself, not as a brand-new gold medalist, that Liddell’s true attitude to victory emerged. Here it is:
“A Prayer for a Victorious Attitude at All Times”
“Father, I pray that no circumstances, however bitter or however long drawn out, may cause me to break thy law, and the law of love to thee and to my neighbor. That I may not become resentful, have hurt feelings, hate, or become embittered by life’s experiences, but that in and through all, I may see thy guiding hand and have a heart full of gratitude for thy daily mercy, daily love, daily power, and daily presence.
“Help me in the day when I need it most to remember that
“All things work together for good to them that love God. (Romans 8:28)
“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
“Thy grace is sufficient for me, for thy strength is made perfect in my weakness. (II Corinthians 12:9).
I offer this in consideration of just what a Sunday morning’s victory really means. I need this prayer, just as I need my time at church. I’ll try to remember not to have hurt feelings about the crowds of runners and the multitude of obstructions, but I usually wind up wondering what Eric Liddell would think of the hordes of people running on Sunday, the very thing he had the courage to refuse to do.
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