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Eric Liddell - Success, Religion and EthicsEric Liddell - Success, Religion and Ethics


Eric Liddell (1902-45)


Scottish rugby international and athlete (pictured right) .

Winner of the 400 metre gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics, as shown in the film, Chariots of Fire  (see point 1 - Liddell is played by Ian Charleson, pictured right below).

He then became a teacher and missionary in China.Eric Liddell - Success, Religion and Ethics


Why was he successful?


1. Religion

 He was a devout Christian who believed that God must come first in everything, even his running.

The 1981 Oscar winning film, Chariots of Fire, describes his friendly rivalry with Harold Abrahams, the English sprinter. Eric Liddell - Success, Religion and Ethics

Abrahams (pictured right) won the Olympic 100 metre gold medal in 1924 after Liddell had refused to run in the qualifying heats, because they were on a Sunday (the Christian holy day).

He then had to face a barrage of criticism from the press and the public.



Eric Liddell - Success, Religion and Ethics

2. Compassion and civility

Liddell (pictured right running in 1924) was always courteous and kind, even to his competitors.

As a missionary in Japanese occupied China in 1938, he risked his life rescuing two injured soldiers in a cart, bolstered by reading a verse from Luke’s gospel the night before:

“Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful also in much”. 

The Japanese never searched his cart which saved his life!



3. SacrificeEric Liddell - Success, Religion and Ethics

In serving God and the Chinese people, he refused to leave China in 1941 and go to Canada with his wife, Florence (pictured right at their wedding), and three daughters.

He never saw them again, because he was imprisoned in a camp by the Japanese.

During his imprisonment, Liddell:

  • persuaded some rich prisoners to share their extra rations with the others.  
  • sacrificed his freedom (when he was ill) to save a pregnant woman.
  • taught another prisoner to love his enemies (the Japanese) and pray for them.


Key quote on God and religion

God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.

We are all missionaries. Wherever we go we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ.


Key quote on success

In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory, there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.


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