Saturday, December 31, 2011

To Honor God

Most of us have all seen the movie Chariots of Fire in which the Scottish runner and missionary Eric Liddell is memorialized for not running his best event, the 100m, in the 1924 Olympics because it fell on Sunday.  He chose not to run on the Christian "sabbath" to honor God.  Instead, he ran in the 400m which was not his strong race, but which he trained for, and it was thought impossible for him to win.  It was said that an American trainer gave him a note previous to the race that said, "Those who honor me I will honor." (1 Samuel 2:30). He not only won, but set a world record which stood until the 1936 Berlin games.

The movie also popularized the statement "I believe God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure."

Eric Liddell's triumph is well known, and stands as a witness to his Christian faith and convictions, but what about his life after sports?  Liddell was married and returned to China, where he was born, and he and his wife served as missionaries until his death in a Japanese internment camp in Weihsien, China in 1945. He was only 43.

Days before his death from an undiagnosed brain tumor and deprivation, Liddell asked that Finlandia be played for him.

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief and pain;
be still my soul...thy best,
thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways,
leads to a joyful end.

His final words were "it's full surrender."

A monument now stands in Weihsien commemorating his life and death.

Tim Tebow has helped popularize Phil 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  And most of us like this verse because we assume that it means that we can win, that we can be successful, and prosperous, because God will strengthen us to do so.   But "all'' includes these as well:

Winning, succeeding, prospering
Struggling, persevering, just getting by
Losing, failing, grieving

Is God more honored through victories or how we act and cope with loss?

We've seen how an international debate has been sparked by Tim Tebow's public profession of faith, his unorthodox QB skills, and the Broncos' six-game winning streak that still seems "miraculous."  What other public figure in American culture has stirred an international debate on the role of faith in daily or professional life, what God does and does not care about, or in what aspects is God willing to intervene in our lives? 

Whatever this New Year brings, joy and success or heartache and struggle, let's all make it our goal to honor Him.  Whatever talents you have, whatever your heart's desire, do your best and feel "his pleasure" like Liddell did.

And may God bless us, everyone.