Chariots Of Fire

378px-Eric_LiddellThis week-end I watched the film, “Chariots of Fire” for the first time in a long time. It moved me again. That must be the greatest theme song of any movie ever. (

For those of you who’ve forgotten the plot, or maybe you weren’t even hatched when this winner of four academy awards came out in 1981, here’s a quick summary:

“Based on a true story, Chariots of Fire is the internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning drama of two very different men who compete as runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a serious Christian Scotsman, believes that he has to succeed as a testament to his undying religious faith. Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), is a Jewish Englishman who wants desperately to be accepted and prove to the world that Jews are not inferior. The film crosscuts between each man’s life as he trains for the competition, fueled by these very different desires.”  (

From the role of the Christian, Liddell, two powerful things leaped out for me. One was when his devout sister tried to persuade him to stop running. In the film Eric answers, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

“When I run I feel His pleasure.”

In the film his father, J.D. Liddell, a missionary to China, says to him, “You can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection. Don’t compromise. Compromise is a language of the devil. Run in God’s name and let the world stand back and in wonder.”

Later, Liddell made headlines around the world for his refusal to run in a qualifying heat of the 100-meter race in the 1924 Olympics because it was held on a Sunday. His Christian convictions demanded a respect of the Lord’s day.

He was called before the British Olympic committee, which included the Prince of Wales, who tried to persuade him to change his mind, but the young Scot was adamant.

In the film a teammate offers to give Liddell his place in the 400-meters to help solve the problem. (The committee meeting was real. Liddell knew of the Sunday problem months in advance and had already made his decision. He eventually trained for the 400 meters, which wasn’t considered his best event. At the Olympics he set a world record in the event).

Revealing Conversation

This is the conversation in the Olympic committee after Liddell leaves.

“Duke of Sutherland: A sticky moment, George.

Lord Birkenhead: Thank God for Lindsay (the runner who gave up his place). I thought the lad (Liddell) had us beaten.

Duke of Sutherland: He did have us beaten, and thank God he did.

Lord Birkenhead: I don’t quite follow you.

Duke of Sutherland: The “lad”, as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.” (Movie, Chariots of Fire, 1981)

I love that. “His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.”

What we do well is just an extension of what we are inside. That’s a powerful truth. Powerful.

Liddell went on to prove that as a missionary in China. He died of a brain tumor as a Japanese prisoner in 1945. According to the Guardian newspaper, “In 2008, further evidence emerged of Liddell’s selflessness and caring nature when Chinese authorities revealed that Liddell had refused an opportunity to leave the camp and instead gave his place on a prisoner exchange to a pregnant woman.”

What Does This Mean To Me?

These two things can also impact our lives. Where do you feel His pleasure?

We do things that we have to do, even if we don’t feel particularly qualified.

But we must work more and more to do those things where we feel His pleasure. We’ve all got a couple or three. Other people try to mold us into their agenda and sometimes that’s okay for a while.

Be careful, though, that we don’t give up the reason that God made us just to do “good stuff or to placate someone else.”

Does who you are flow naturally into what you do? Liddell’s running (and ministry afterwards) bubbled up from who he was inside—his love for the Lord Jesus and his firm commitment to do the right thing, even if the future king of England tried to persuade him otherwise.

Get Yourself Together

Have you severed what you do from who you are?

… by sin?

… by getting drafted by others into their programs? You want to please them more than you want to please God by doing the things He created you to do?

… by doing what gets praised instead of doing what gives Him pleasure?

… by doing what earns the most money instead of giving God the most pleasure from your life?

If this is you, here are a couple of suggestions to find your “sweet spot.”

… Zap the compromise out of your life. Liddell wouldn’t have been who he was if he didn’t live out his interior beliefs. When we find ourselves continually adjusting what we believe, we warp our center. I’m not talking about being so hard-headed you can’t see another point of view, but there are things that are “us” and when we compromise that we change.

… Reflect on when you feel God’s pleasure and do more of that. Out of that will flow an abundant life in Christ.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (Ps. 37:4, NLT)

Photo: By unknown (Sports event handout)[1] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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