David Pawson - The Holy Spirit Series Pt13 - 1 Corinthians 12

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Thoughtful Thoughts 24.6.2022 by John Dunning. The Holy Spirit Pt. 13

Disciples with the Holy Spirit who changed the world;- Eric Liddell…

Eric Liddell… Part 1; fame - and ‘gold’

Most know the name ‘Eric Liddell’ because of the movie, “Chariots of Fire”, where he was praised for doing what he felt was right by refusing to run on Sunday, in the 1924 Paris Olympics. He went on to win a gold medal in a race that was not his specialty - the 400 meters. ‘Scotland wouldn’t see another gold medal until 1980, when Allan Wells won the 100 meters, the race that Liddell refused to run on Sunday. Just after his victory, Wells stated simply, “That one’s for Eric Liddell.” ’ C.S. Lewis Institute)

Some might accuse Eric Liddell of being too ‘religious’ for refusing to run on a Sunday, by treating Sunday in a way that was similar to the Jewish Sabbath - but that was all part of his Christian witness. However, he dropped that rule in the prison camp, as we shall see later. 

As the first movie, “Chariots of Fire”, only covered the first half of his story, another movie was made to cover the second half, which was the most important part. That was because Eric Liddell, the British Olympic champion, became a missionary in China. He has since been honoured for his commitment to the Chinese people with a statue. He was born in China to Scottish missionary parents and worked and died in China after his education in England. ‘The monument was unveiled in a ceremony attended by his daughters, as well as the survivors of a camp where he was held in the war.’ 

Eric Liddell… Part 2a; the man

Wikipedia:- “Liddell accepted a position at a rural mission station in Xiaozhang, which served the poor. He joined his brother, Rob, who was a doctor there. The station was severely short of help and the missionaries there were exhausted. A constant stream of locals came at all hours for medical treatment. Liddell arrived at the station in time to relieve his brother, who was ill and needing to go on furlough. Liddell suffered many hardships himself at the mission.” 

Then the Japanese invaded China, so Eric sent his family back home to Scotland, whilst he stayed behind in China to help his Chinese compatriots in their hour of need. That resulted in the Japanese army rounding Eric Liddell up, along with many Chinese, and being interned as P.O.Ws. in a concentration camp…

b). internment

During his time of internment as a prisoner of war, he helped smuggle medical supplies into the camp to treat the Chinese prisoners and became a school teacher to all his fellow prisoners of war. 

Wikipedia:Liddell quickly became a leader in the camp and the favorite of the youth, who called him “Uncle Eric.” Despite his previous stance of not playing sports on Sundays, he initiated all kinds of activities and sports for the youth in the camp on Sundays as well as other days of the week to keep them out of trouble’. Wiki.

The Chinese don’t really go in for erecting monuments to people, (other than of their own leaders, of course), but they made an exception for Eric Liddell. 

The monument refers more to his Olympic Gold Medal, and his selfless life, pointing out that he was born in China, lived and worked in China, and died in China. The carefully written life summary did not upset the Communist government, but the reality was rather more spiritual than the summary, in that the people had raised the statue because they saw his heart. 

Apart from all his good works, like the school he provided to all, he also set an example by putting his Sunday Bible teaching into practice, at some cost to himself. For example, when Eric Liddle found himself interned in a Japanese prisoner of war concentration camp along with many Chinese, he was offered a ticket out of the camp by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in a ‘prisoner-of-war’ exchange programme, in a deal which Winston Churchill had made with the Japanese. However, Eric gave his ticket to a pregnant Chinese woman instead. She was released and lived to tell the tale, whilst Eric Liddell stayed behind and died in the prison camp. By putting into practice what he had taught, his sacrifice so impressed the Chinese, that they never forgot. His story circulated around China to the extent that he was held up as an example in a speech by the premier, at the Beijing Olympic Games. His sacrifice proved his genuineness, just as he had once preached to Christians about putting into practice what they preached. (Romans 12:1 “...offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”)

c) legacy…

The CS Lewis Institute writes; “Eric Metcalf, a teenager in the camp, recalls Liddell giving him a pair of running shoes that had been repaired with string, to keep his feet warm in the winter. Metcalf goes on to say, ‘the best thing, however, Eric Liddell gave me was his baton of forgiveness. He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them.’ After the war, Metcalf would return to Japan and serve there as a missionary for forty years. 

“David Mitchell, a child who survived the camp, wrote later, “None of us will ever forget this man who was totally committed to putting God first, a man whose humble life combined muscular Christianity with radiant godliness.”

“It took two months for word of Eric’s death to reach the West; when it did it’s said that all of Scotland mourned. Liddell’s life was short, only forty-three years, and yet his legacy lives on. China lists Liddell as their first Olympic champion and honors him as one of seven hundred heroes of the liberation of China.”

d). conclusion…

The real legacy was the long-term effect Eric had on the Chinese people, in demonstrating true Christianity. Because Mao threw missionaries out of China (1948-1950), Eric Liddell’s story became an important part of the history of the Christian Church in China. He was an example of what true Christians were like. It helped the Chinese Christians left behind to have what the Chinese call “face”. That helped when Mao put Christian leaders to work in a sweet factory, making sweets, at a time when millions of Chinese were starving to death because of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”. It backfired on Mao because the Chinese Christian leaders in the sweet factory pledged to work together if they ever got out. The plan they came up with was to agree to work together by dropping western denominational churches, and simply work together in unity, (except the Roman Catholic Church priests, who refused). The decision to work together resulted in a revival in China. 

e). Epilogue…

It was said of Liddell: “It’s one thing to preach Bible study or whatever, but it’s another to actually live your beliefs under conditions like being in an internment camp.” And again,

“It’s not just preaching, it’s about watching someone in a set of beliefs in extraordinary circumstances, still believing those beliefs will carry him through.” (Fiennes.)

The Bible says that God will honour those who honour Him. He kept His promise! Liddell’s daughter, Patricia, told The Times that she was taken aback at the statue being erected: “I find it extraordinary that a statue has been raised – the Chinese don’t really raise statues”. She added: “My father was multi-faceted, he didn’t just appeal to religious people. He was born in China, he worked in China, he died in China. He’s their Olympic hero. He didn’t leave the Chinese people when the going got tough”. 

As even the Chinese Premier held Eric up as an example in the Beijing Olympics we can learn much from Eric Liddell’s faith. 

This is John Dunning signing off from “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.

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