Eric Liddell is famous for his 1924 Olympic race as depicted in “Chariots of Fire” and his refusal to run on Sunday because of his faith. Yet, much of what made his life significant happened after the movie.
Eric Liddell’s Birth and School Years
Eric Liddell was born in 1902 to a missionary family in China. On a furlough, Liddell was enrolled into a missionary boarding school. Here he started participating in athletic events including rugby and track.
In college, Liddell earned a Bachelor in Sciences. At first, he was competed in both rugby and track, but he decided to pursue only track in the 100 meters. He was the one of fastest runners and many times won the event many time. His growing fame opened up opportunities to share the Gospel with others in England who otherwise would never go into a church.
Refusing to Run on Sunday and Losing the Race
In 1924, Eric Liddell was given the honor of running for the 100 meters in the Olympics, but when found out it was scheduled for Sunday, he refused to run believing Sunday to be the Lord’s Day and a day of rest. Scotland criticized him for this decision, calling him a traitor. He was put into the 400 meter race which happened later that week. He won the race and broke the world record at the time in 47.6 seconds despite the fact he was not expected to win it.
Giving Up Everything for China
In 1925, Eric Liddell gave up and the fame that comes with it for the sake of Christ. Liddell set sail for China to be a missionary. His first assignment was to teach at an Anglo Chinese school. During his time at the school, Eric Liddell taught Chemistry and coached track and rugby. Liddell also taught Sunday school during this time.
One of Eric Liddell’s brothers was a doctor. Liddell decided to go help his brother in 1941.One year later, war began in China. Different groups including the nationalists and communists began fighting each other. In addition, the Japanese tried to take over the country.
Liddell’s to pick up injured people, regardless of position in the war, and to deliver them back to health.
Running the Race Well
In 1943, all foreigners were interned in a prison camp. With beds pressed together, disease spread rapidly, and inmates only received one meal a day: a piece of bread and a bowl of soup.
Many of the prisoners were full of gloom, not seeing any end in sight to the terrible conditions. Eric Liddell was a light in the midst of the darkness.
He started teaching children chemistry and organizing sports. One day in 1945 Liddell became gravely ill and was admitted to the hospital. There was nothing the doctors could do, and that year, he died of a brain tumor. He was 46.
The whole camp was devastated by the death of the man children called Uncle Eric. Six months later, the internees were released from the camp. Liddell ran the race well.
Compared to many, his life was a sprint, but he kept focusing on Jesus and finished the race.