The Steps of a Good Man

Eric Liddell - Missionary, Olympic Gold Medalist

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 37:23

Recently, while watching the Vancouver Olympics, I saw a short program on some of the greatest Olympic athletes of the last century. Although there were truly a number of well deserving champions, my personal favourite was not among them. To me no account of the games would be complete without the story of Eric Liddell (1902-1945), who represented Great Britain at the 1924 Summer Olympics.

Eric Liddell was raised in China, the son of Scottish missionaries. During the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he went on to win a gold medal in the 400 metre dash and bronze in the 200 metre. Liddell’s story was made famous in the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire, where his unorthodox style of running with his head thrown back and mouth wide open was depicted on the screen for all to see. Liddell also made headlines at the games for his withdrawal from two additional races, in which he was favoured to win, because the heats were scheduled on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. This strange, “Flying Scotsman,” as they called him, along with his Christian faith, was the talk of the world that summer.

When asked why he was so fast, Liddell simply said, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

In 1925, just one year after his Paris victory, Liddell moved back to China so he could serve as a missionary. This was in keeping with a calling he had felt long before his Olympic ambitions. It was in China that he would devote the remaining 20 years of his life to serving Christ.

One of the first jobs Eric Liddell worked in as a missionary was as a teacher at the Anglo-Chinese College in Tianjin. It is said that Eric’s influence there helped shape a generation of future Chinese leaders; many of whom carried with them his Christian beliefs and values.

In 1941, after the Japanese invasion of China, Liddell was placed under arrest and subsequently died of health complications on February 21, 1945. Ruth Tucker, in her book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, writes this of Eric Liddell, “His sudden death came as a shock to his family and friends and to his fans the world over, but it was a testimony of the sacrifice of a man who had so consistently put his faith in God above personal ambition and fame.”

The world may have well forgotten about Eric Liddell, but this remarkable figure in Olympic history remains for me one of the great role models of the Christian faith. Truly, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.” We would do well to follow that same path.

Post by: Jack Caron, NBBI Faculty

This article appears in the April 2010 Open Bible Bulletin.

Here are some outside links that might be of interest:

2 Responses

  1. Eric Liddell Centre

    You might like to read some of the information we have about Eric Liddell on our web site. Click on this link and then on Eric Liddell at the top of the page:

    Eric Liddell

    We have added some press cuttings to our collection recently.

  2. Jack Caron

    Thanks for pointing out this great website. The resources are tremendously helpful!

Leave a Reply