As we approach this year’s Academy Awards let’s remember one of the great Oscar winners, Chariots of Fire. It’s a must see. The movie tells the story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture.
Whenever I tell young people about the thing Eric Liddell is most remembered for, refusing to run his race – the 100-meter dash – in the Olympics, because it was run on a Sunday, they invariably laugh and say something like, “Why would he do that, that’s just stupid!”
Eric refused to run the 100-metres race, his best event, because it was held on Sunday. He also declined to run in the 4 x 100 meter relays, races that he had qualified for, because their heats also where run on Sunday. Because he was such a popular athlete, the British Olympic Committee asked if he would train to run in the 400 meters. He went on to win the 400 meters and set a world record in the process. Think what you want about his decisions, but Eric Liddell was a man who stood on his principles, whether others thought them stupid or not. And he always came out on top.
In the movie, after the British Olympic authority’s unsuccessful attempt at changing Eric’s mind, one of the men comments, “The lad…is a true man of principle and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life – its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.” Though the writer labels God as a generic “force,” the statement is true. The Christian life cannot be lived apart from God. To do so is to compromise our very being.
For Eric, his running was simply an extension of his life, and his life was in Christ. Therefore, every time he ran a race, he did so for the glory of God. Eric Liddell proved that when you do everything in life for God’s glory, you can win without compromising. For that’s where the power of integrity begins.
Some of Eric’s Christian friends questioned why he continued to run races when clearly God was calling him to be a missionary. I absolutely love his response – it’s my favorite quote from the movie. Eric said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
Living your life to the glory of God does not mean that you abandon doing what he has gifted you to do. No, it simply means that you perfect that talent for His glory, and not your own.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31