If you’ve watched the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, you’ll be familiar with British athlete Eric Liddell. He was one of the world’s fastest runners at the time of the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But what shocked his country and made headlines throughout the world was Eric Liddell’s refusal to run the final 100-meter race. This race was his best, and his countrymen were sure that if he ran in it, he would win the gold medal for his country in this 100-meter sprint. However, it was scheduled for a Sunday, which Eric Riddell believed was the Lord’s day for resting, worship, and for Christian fellowship. He therefore refused to run in it because he didn’t want to miss church.
Now, the gold medal in the 100 meters race that Eric Liddell would miss as a result of this decision, was regarded as “the jewel of the Games.” And for refusing to compete in this event, many believed that he had simply decided to throw away this great and prestigious prize that would have greatly honored his country.
Eric, however, reaffirmed unequivocally that he would not compete on Sunday, even if he were his country’s only hope of winning an Olympic gold medal. His unwavering resolve on this matter made the people of the country he was representing in the Olympics very angry with him. They published negative articles about him in the newspaper. Some even accused him of being a traitor.
But Eric stayed firm and didn’t change his mind about his Christian beliefs. He had never run on Sunday, and he never would, not even for an Olympic gold medal.
Now you and I will both agree that Eric Liddell’s decision was a huge sacrifice! But Liddell recognized that, while not running on Sunday might cost him a gold medal, it would honor God, and for that reason, he was willing to lose the Olympic gold medal with no regrets.
On the morning of the Olympic 400-meter final on 11 July 1924, a member of the American team handed Eric Liddell a folded piece of paper shortly before the race. When he opened the note to read it, he discovered that it referred to 1 Samuel 2:30 and contained the following message: “In the old book, it says, ‘He who honors me, I will honor.’ Always wishing you the best of luck.” And that is exactly what Eric did. He chose to turn his back on fame and fortune in order to honor God.
Even these days, so many sporting events are scheduled on Sundays. For this reason, devoted Christians who want to keep the Lord’s Day holy may find themselves being compelled to miss watching their favorite Premier League and World Cup soccer matches or they may not be able to attend their favorite activities, such as running MTN and other organization’s marathons that are intended to raise funds for community causes if they are scheduled on Sunday. To honor the Lord’s Day, faithful Christians must also close their shops and other businesses and go to church. As a result of this radical decision, God’s people might be rediculed, and it may look like they are missing out on making money on the Lord’s day and that they won’t be as successful as their competitors who don’t close their shops on Sundays.
Christians who want to honor the Lord by keeping Sunday special may also find themselves in very confusing situations when it comes to job opportunities, academic pursuits, and other privileges. This is because they may put devout Christians in a tough situation like Charles Liddell’s and either force them to work on Sunday or offer them tempting benefits that are designed to entice them to work on the Lord’s Day. How are you going to deal with this temptation? Will you give in? (Of course, I know it is okay for doctors and nurses to work on Sunday, but I am not talking about such critical life-saving services.)
In his desire to honor God and the Lord’s day, Eric chose not to compete in a 100-meter race that he was very good at, and would have guaranteed him a gold medal, but which was unfortunately scheduled on a Sunday. Instead, he he chose to participate in another 400-meter race that was scheduled on a weekday. He was not excellent at this race, but he decided to compete in it by faith, knowing that he that honors God, God will honor him too .
With very little time left, Eric trained and qualified for another race that was not scheduled for a Sunday. Eric was aware that his chances of winning the 400-meter event were minimal because two of the competitors had established world records. To make matters worse, on race day, Eric was allocated the outer lane, which was considered the worst position. And surprisingly, by God’s help, Eric ended up not only winning the gold medal, but he also set a new world record!
Even though Eric Liddell died of a brain tumor in 1945, he continues to speak into our lives, and we see him still honoring God even today as we read in this story about his great devotion to Christ, which motivated him to do everything in life for God’s glory.
Wouldn’t you desire to be totally committed to Christ like Eric Liddell was? Are you willing to make such a big sacrifice for Christ, as Eric Liddell did in the 1924 Olympics in Paris? What price are you willing to pay to honor Christ? Are you willing to make great sacrifices and let go of the things you hold sacred and hold most dear in your life in order to glorify God ? Are you willing to sacrifice even a gold medal in order to honor Christ as your absolute Lord?
I cannot predict how the Lord will honor you. But he will, in some way, if you faithfully choose to honor him. It may be very costly for you to make some of these sacrifices in your life, but you have God’s assurance that those who honor him will be honored. Any sacrifice made for him and in reverence for Sunday as the Lords day will undoubtedly be blessed by God.