Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lose to Win

Eric LiddellMany of you recall the movie Chariots of Fire. It was about Scotsman Eric Liddell running in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Liddell was a committed Christian and refused to run on Sunday (which he felt was the Christian Sabbath). The consequence was that he was forced to withdraw from the 100 meters race, his best event. Instead he entered the 400 meter race. The day of the race as Liddell went to the starting blocks, an American masseur slipped a piece of paper into Liddell's hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, "Those who honor me I will honor." He not only won the race, but broke the existing world record  with a time of 47.6 seconds.
Liddell gave up his chance to race for the gold in the 100 meters. But he held true to his Lord and his convictions.
Jesus said, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24). I don’t think this just means to lose your life in the way that a soldier might lose his life in battle. It means to become so immersed in something that you “lose yourself” in the task. Eric Liddell said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure."

What is the glorious obsession of a disciple? What brings you God's pleasure? Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. All you need in order to have a kingdom is a king: That’s Jesus. He said, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33).
There are two aspects to the Kingdom of God. There is the present kingdom of God: Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21); “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17).  There is also a future Kingdom. In Luke 9:26 Jesus speaks about coming in the glory of the Father and the angels—that’s what we call the Second Coming. Jesus is coming again and will one day set up a literal Kingdom. Don’t you want to be a part of that kingdom? I do, but you must lose your life in the Kingdom of God now in order to find your life in the Kingdom of God to come.
Is Jesus Christ and His Kingdom my obsession? Do I live to be a disciple and a disciple-maker?
The best part of Eric Liddell’s life occurred after his Olympic medal. He didn’t return to Scotland to have his picture on a box of Wheaties and to live off his endorsements. In 1925 Liddell accepted God’s call to serve as a missionary in China as his parents had earlier done. During the Japanese invasion, Liddell was arrested along with many Chinese Christians and placed in a prison camp. Even in the camp, he led many Chinese to Christ and discipled them.
In 2008 it was revealed by the Chinese authorities that Liddell had given up an opportunity to leave the camp and instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. Apparently, the Japanese made a deal with the British, with Churchill's approval, for prisoner exchange. This information was released near the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by the Chinese government and apparently news of this great act of sacrifice came as a surprise even to his family members.
Eric Liddell died at the camp on 21 February 1945, five months before China was liberated. At the young age of 43 He met his Master. He had run another kind of race, for another kind of prize and he received another kind of medal—more priceless than gold. Liddell is quoted as saying, “We are all missionaries. Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ, or we repel them from Christ.”
Are you a missionary, a disciple? Are you running the right race? Jesus isn’t after attenders or spectators. He doesn’t just want 10,000 well-dressed carnal believers to gather in church every Sunday. He is still calling people to be disciples and to be disciple-makers.


  1. This post reminds me of why I used to love listening to Paul Harvey--"the rest of the story" is much more compelling than what we may have thought was the main story. I knew about Eric Liddell because of Chariots of Fire, this post told me much about him that I didn't know. What a great reminder of the race we are called to run! Thanks again for another homerun, Pastor Richard!

  2. Nolan, Liddell's was truly a life given away--lost to be gained. Oh, that we could live with such a single-minded joy in our Lord, whether we are running or preaching, serving coffee or serving widows, changing tires or changing souls--all for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!

  3. In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful quotes I have ever heard. It has been a favorite of mine for many years now. "I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure."

    Every Christian should be able to complete the same phrase:

    I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me __________. When I __________, I feel his pleasure.

    Not only did Eric Liddell understand his purpose of sharing the gospel, but he took joy in the way God had created him and used that as a means to honor God. There is no doubt that there were mornings when his mind and body did not want to train. But I imagine his spirit yanking him up out of bed as it visualized the smile on the Lord's face for each step that would be taken.

  4. It is John Piper who says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." And in this statement I think he is right. Our greatest joy is in Him. And when we are living out that Christ-life in with joy and delight--it pleases God and glorifies His name.

    I think that is what Liddell did, both as a runner and as a missionary. He was doing what he enjoyed, because it was who God made him to do it and because through it he glorified his Father in heaven.



Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this post.