A biography of Eric Liddell, Olympic gold
A biography of Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medallist and missionary
By Julian Wilson
Authentic. 138 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 1 860 248 412
In this Olympic year, what better book to read on your holiday than a biography of one of Britain’s most celebrated Christian Olympians?
Many people will know of Eric Liddell from the film Chariots of Fire, but this biography takes you beyond his success at the 1924 Paris Olympics (where he famously refused to run on a Sunday), to the mission field in China where he gave his life in complete surrender to God’s service. It is short, easy to read and full of anecdotes from those who knew Liddell personally — and it seems no one had a bad word to say about him.
However, do not expect to read this book and not be both profoundly challenged and hugely inspired by one who gave himself so wholeheartedly to love the Lord with all his heart and his neighbour as himself. Tim Keller speaks of gospel humility as ‘not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less’, and Eric Liddell is a striking example of such humility. Despite being hugely competitive and incredibly successful as an athlete, he is universally remembered as one who was gentle, fun and servant-hearted, always looking out for the interests of others.
His greatest interest was that God be glorified, and it was this desire that took him away from the spotlight as an internationally renowned, record-breaking athlete, to the obscurity of the North China Plain. As he said on his departure, ‘Let our motto be, “Christ for the world, for the world needs Christ”’. His single-minded longing to do God’s will, in keeping with missionaries of his time, took him away from his family (he never met his third daughter), but it was a price he paid with great dignity and cheerfulness, even when interned in the squalid and depressing conditions of a Japanese prison camp.
I thoroughly recommend this book as it will spur you on to live wholeheartedly in the service of Jesus Christ and to long for the integrity, beauty and impact on others that comes with such a life.
student pastor, St. Ebbe’s Church, Oxford