They called him the ‘Flying Scot’ and he was Britain’s Golden Boy. If anyone could win the country a gold medal he could. But Eric Liddell went from Golden Boy to turncoat because of his refusal to compete in the 100 meter, since the finals for the event were to take place on Sunday.
Despite the opposition Liddell stuck with his decision and switched events. Instead of competing in the 100 meter he would enter the 400 meter. Many thought this an absurd decision and held very low expectations for success. The two races required vastly different strategies and technique.
But the strategy paid off for Liddell. Not only did he win the 400 meter, be he also tied the Olympic record for the event with a blistering time of 47.6 seconds.
It is hard for many of us to understand why a man who was nearer a sure thing in one race would give all that up and risk embarrassment just because of what day of the week an event’s final was scheduled to take place. Why would a man willingly face the ridicule of being called a traitor by his own countrymen all over something as petty as a day? Why would a man devote his life to a race and then shortly before the dream became a reality throw it all away only to begin a new rigorous training program in an event so foreign to him? Like the British officials who coined the ‘Flying Scot’ a traitor, other adjectives like ‘crazy’ and ‘not all there’ come to our minds.
But when you look at what was behind Liddell’s decision it makes things clearer. Eric was a devout believer in Jesus Christ. Everything he did in life he did for Jesus Christ, including running. When it came to making choices the driving force was his relationship with God through Jesus Christ and not his advancing of a talent, or gaining the applause of others. His god was God and not his giftedness.
Still for some of us this is utter insanity and flies in the face of what we consider common sense. Why would anyone do something like this and give up so much? Couldn’t he have honored God and raced in the event he had trained so hard for? What kind of God would require such a thing as giving up your dream? What we must realize is we’ve only heard half of the story, and though at this point it seems Liddell gave up so much, in reality he gained far more than he ever lost.
Liddell may have voluntarily removed himself from the 100 meter competition but his entrance into the 400 meter competition resulted in a gold medal and a share of the Olympic record that stood for several years. His exploits inspired the Academy Award-winning film, “Chariots of Fire”, and all this began because a man chose to stand on his convictions and live by them.
As a young boy I used to play a game with my friends called “What If” in which we would take the situation we were in and try to imagine all the possible outcomes. This was one of my favorite games because it stretched my imagination to all kinds of fascinating places. I realized through that game that there is no limit to the possibilities in the realm of “What If”.
I’m sure Eric Liddell played a round or two of the “What If” game as he was making his decision to not run the 100 meter. Only he knows what he thought the various outcomes would be, but I would daresay he never imagined it would end up like it did.
The ‘Flying Scot’ chose the reality of putting God before his running and the sacrifice ended up being far less than the reward.
How about we play one round of “What If” right now and you fill in the blank. What if I (insert your name) __________ put God before __________ (choose something of value to you)? Would you be willing to sacrifice all that is important to you for Him?