A Recipe for Honoring God

My mother-in-law’s recipe box holds the usual handwritten recipes; those tried and true family faves. Then there are those magazine and newspaper clippings which held promise, but never actually made it to the table. One section even contained frugal D-I-Y cleaners and household tips on everything from laundry to organization.

But as I sorted through her recipe box yesterday, I found a treasure – a yellowed news clipping about 1924 Olympian Eric Liddell. Eric’s story was clipped and glued onto a 3×5 index card bearing the title, “Honor God.”

According to the story, Eric trained for the 100 meter race, his best event,  at the 1924 Olympics held in Paris, but the withdrew several months before the race when the official Olympic schedule was published because it was scheduled for Sunday. Eric believed strongly that Sunday belonged to God and he refused to dishonor His Lord by running on the Lord’s day. His announcement “electrified” the world and upset his supporters.

Eric chose instead to run in the  longer 400 meter race, scheduled for Friday, July 11. Even though he had excelled in the 400 meter race at the University, he was up against some very stiff competition.  Two Olympians running in that race broke world records prior to the semi-finals.  but Liddell held fast to his resolve to honor God.

As the crowds filled the stadium for the big race, the 51st Highlander Brigade played outside the stands. Being Scottish, Liddell felt  inspiration and hope in their music. He prayed again, promising to honor God with his life and through his race. As the last strains of the bagpipes died away, the runners made their way to the starting blocks and got set to run.

Moments before the start of the race, an American Olympic team masseur  approached Liddell, handing him a small slip of paper bearing the words, “Them that honor me, I will honor. 1 Samuel 2:30.”

At the crack of the starting pistol, Liddell shoved off the block. That day, he set a new world record for the 400 meter race completing it in 47.6 seconds, fulfilling his unknown friend’s prophetic message and defeating his proven competition.

But there’s more to Eric’s story! The second son of a Scottish missionary couple, he  grew up at a boarding school with his older brother Rob while his parents and sisters ministered in China.Following his graduation, he attended Edinburgh University where he played rugby and ran on the track team in the 100 and 200 meter races. Because of a tight schedule, he gave up rugby and decided to concentrate on track, preparing for the Paris Olympics. He won the gold for his 400 meter performance and the bronze in the 200 meter race.

Honoring God became a driving force for Eric. He returned to China where he served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943 during some of the most dangerous years just before World War II. Things got so bad in fact, that the British government ordered all its citizens to leave China in 1943.  Eric kissed his wife and three daughters good bye and sent them home to Canada, choosing to remain behind. He was captured and interned at Weishien until his death in 1945.

During his days in the internment camp, Liddell became a leader helping to distribute supplies and mediate disputes. Children called him Uncle Eric as he taught them Bible lessons and science in the small camp school. He also helped the elderly and earned a reputation for fairness and treating all equally. He died from a brain tumor on February 21, 1945, just five months before the camp was liberated.

In 2008, Eric’s decision to honor God with his whole life again became public as the Chinese government released some new information. Apparently the Japanese army made a deal with the British to release some of those interned at Weishien in a prisoner exchange. Liddell was one of those chosen for the exchange, but he gave up his spot to a pregnant woman.

Liddell died with these words on his lips, “It’s complete surrender.” Perhaps he is best remembered for his Olympic win which inspired the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire.

I have to say, I didn’t know who Eric Liddell was before finding that small recipe card in my mother-in-law’s box. The card only contained a snippet of info about his Olympic decision to change races., but like  those yummy  hand-written family-favorite recipes, it left my mouth watering to find out more – and I have been satisfied in my soul today!

Thanks Mom, for sharing this amazing “recipe” for honoring God with me!

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