David Waters

Well I’ve no idea where four years have gone but once again it’s the Olympic Games, I’ve just caught up on the action from the first few days and I will be glued to it from now on as I have been for every Olympics since I was a boy. But there was one Games that I didn’t get to watch until it was brought to life by a film.

I’ll never forget my Dad ushering me in to the sitting room years ago telling me there was a film on television that we had to watch. It was Chariots of Fire and as soon as that famous soundtrack kicked in with the slow motion running on the beach I was hooked. If you remember it tells the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics. A talented and ambitious Jewish sprinter called Harold Abrams who was studying at Cambridge University and the man they called the flying Scotsman, Eric Liddell, who’s family were Christian missionaries in China and who famously pulled out of the 100 metres because he refused to race on a Sunday.

Eric Liddell

I loved the film and ever since that day Eric Liddell has been my hero – not because he was some strict follower of religious rules but because he was an inspiring, wonderful man who lived out his faith in everything he did.

In the film Eric’s sister is portrayed as not wanting her brother to pursue his running, she feels it’s a distraction and that Eric should be doing God’s work as a missionary with the rest of the family. I think there’s a danger sometimes when we think of doing something for God we think it means giving up what we enjoy and doing something “religious”, becoming a minister or a missionary etc.

As good as those callings are, of course, I don’t see serving God that way. Back in the film Eric takes his sister for a walk to tell her he’s been accepted as a missionary to China and she’s overjoyed, but what he says next has always stayed with me. He says, “I’m going to China but I’ve got a lot of running to do first. You see I believe God made me for a purpose, he made me to go to China but he also made me fast – and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Theme from the film – Chariots of Fire

Liddell of course went on to win Gold in the 400 metres in 1924 – an event that wasn’t even his best! And he then went out as promised to China and there are many wonderful stories of how he cared for and encouraged people there especially during the war in a prison camp. Winston Churchill even arranged a deal to get this Olympic Hero out of the prison and home. He gave his place to a pregnant woman and died there aged just 43.

I believe in a God who has given each and every one of us unique talents and gifts and I believe he delights in seeing us use them to the best of our ability and for good. We may not be Olympic champions but if we strive to be the best we can be with the gifts and to use them for good – then God

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