For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton. Penguin Press. 400 pages. 2016
Award-winning British sportswriter Duncan Hamilton has given us a wonderful gift in this new biography of Olympic Gold Medal runner, missionary and evangelist Eric Liddell, known as the Flying Scotsman and Flying Parson. Many of us know Liddell from the 1981 Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire, which depicted his rivalry with Harold Abrahams at the 1934 Olympic Games, and which I watched again while reading this book. More than half of Hamilton’s book covers Liddell’s life after the period covered by the film.
Liddell was born in China to missionary parents. His father was a minister and his mother a nurse. They were missionaries with the London Missionary Society (LMS). Liddell told people that he decided to be a missionary to China himself at age 8 or 9. Eric and his two brothers and sister would later move to Scotland. Eric would only see his parents once between 1908 and 1920.
Liddell’s athletic mentor was Tom McKerchar and spiritual mentor D.P. Thompson, who first asked him to speak in churches, which he would do often. Hamilton writes of his unique way of running with his head thrown back.
If you have seen the film, you know that in the 1924 Olympics, held in Paris, Liddell, favored in the 100 meters, chose not to run because the race was going to take place on a Sunday. He was criticized for his decision, but held fast to what he believed the Bible taught. Instead, he ran the 400 meter race on another day, setting a world record, winning with his unique way of running with his head thrown back.
Hamilton writes that Liddell had many opportunities to financially capitalize on his win, but instead chose to return to Tientsin, China to serve the Lord with the LMS, the same missionary organization as his father, who was still well-known and respected there.
Liddell would teach science and sports at the Anglo-Chinese College. He was gifted as an evangelist, and served in that capacity in Siaochang. Liddell married Florence in 1934. He had first met her when she was only 14, almost 10 years younger than him. They would have three daughters, including one that Eric would never meet in this world.
Florence returned to Canada in 1941, while Eric remained in China. Eric fully expected to be released from China and move to his next assignment in China, but Hamilton writes that only the wealthy were able to leave. Instead, with the Japanese invasion of China, Liddell and others were confined to concentration camps like Weihsien, where he worked hard and cared for fellow prisoners under difficult conditions. In his letters to Florence, Eric portrayed things more positively than they actually were in the camp. His health declined, and he was diagnosed as having had a nervous breakdown. This bothered him a great deal, as he thought that as a Christian he should have been able to deal with everything he was facing. What was unknown was that he had a brain tumor, which was the cause of his death at age 43 in 1945. The location of his grave is unknown.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was Liddell’s manifesto. His favorite hymn was “Be Still My Soul”. He also preached the absolute surrender to God. Liddell’s commitment to athletics was second only to his commitment to the church. Hamilton’s account of Liddell’s life is glowing, a wonderful tribute to a true role model, and one of my top books of the year.
- Christianaudio Book of the Month. The August FREE! audiobook from Christianaudio is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Christianaudio’s description of the book is “Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a titanic figure among the world’s great authors, and The Brothers Karamazov is often hailed as his finest novel. A masterpiece on many levels, it transcends the boundaries of a gripping murder mystery to become a moving account of the battle between love and hate, faith and despair, compassion and cruelty, good and evil.”
- 10,000 Reasons: Stories of Faith, Hope, and Thankfulness Inspired by the Worship Anthem. Matt Redman’s new book was published August 1.
- 15 of the Best Christian Books on Grief, Death, and Suffering. Kevin Halloran writes “The following Christian books on suffering, grief, loss, and death will help you learn God’s view on suffering and be prepared when suffering enters your life.”
- Family Christian Stores Introduces New False Teaching Section. The Babylon Bee, Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire reports “Responding to customer complaints alleging that works from well-known false teachers were mixed in with biblically sound material in the company’s bookstores, Family Christian Stores announced Tuesday morning that all books by apostates will be immediately removed from their shelves and separated into their own easy-to-find section.”
- Church History 101. Tim Challies reviews this small new book authored by Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke and Michael Haykin. He writes that the book “succeeds as something like an annotated timeline and as a teaser for further study. My hope is that people will read it and find that it whets their appetite for further, deeper study.”
- How Not to Ruin Your Family as a Christian Leader. Derek Brown interviews Ajith Fernando about his book The Family Life of the Christian Leader, specifically about the danger of self-promotion, striving for balance in life, the connection between adultery and insecurity.
- Left Behind Co-Author, Tim LaHaye Dies. Jeremy Weber writes “Tim LaHaye, the best-selling author best known for the Left Behind series, “graduated to heaven” early this morning after suffering a stroke at age 90.”
- How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness. Kevin Halloran reviews John Piper’s new book on the Bible, A Peculiar Glory.
Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?
Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls
This is a book I’ve been wanting – and not wanting – to read for a while. I’ve wanted to read it because I enjoy Scott Sauls’ blog posts and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the book. He’s a pastor in the same denomination I serve in, he served with Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, graduated from Covenant Seminary and is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. What’s not to like about the guy?
I’ve not wanted to read the book because I think it’s going to challenge me to get out of my comfortable box. How about reading along with Tammy and I?
This week we look at highlights from Chapter 1: Red State or Blue State?
- For us preachers, Tim (Keller) said, the longer it takes people to figure out where we stand on politics, in all likelihood the more faithfully we are preaching Jesus.
- The first thing I want to say about government is that God is in favor of it. This should encourage anyone with a career in public service.
- The Bible identifies three institutions that God has established to resist decay in society and promote its flourishing. These are the nuclear family, the church, and the government. The focus of this chapter is to consider specifically what the Bible says about government.
- The apostle Paul encouraged submission to the governing authorities, who are “ministers of God” and to whom taxes, respect, and honor are owed.
- When it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe that Jesus would side completely with one political viewpoint over another. Rather, when it comes to kings and kingdoms, Jesus sides with himself.
- The question, then, is not whether Jesus is on our side but whether we are on his. This is the appropriate question not only for politics and government but also every other concern.
- Our loyalty to Jesus and his Kingdom must always exceed our loyalty to an earthly agenda, whether political or otherwise. We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith.
- To the degree that Christians follow the teachings of Jesus, they will actually be perceived as the most refreshing and cooperative citizens of any earthly kingdom.
- Partisans inflate the best features of their party while inflating the worst features, real or contrived, of the other party. They ignore the weaknesses of their own party while dismissing the other party’s strengths.
- Christians have liberty in things that are nonessential, including politics.
- It is wrong to question someone’s faith because they don’t vote like you do. Yes, wrong.
- Jesus is neither conservative nor liberal, yet he is also both.
- Kingdom politics reject the world’s methods of misusing power and manipulating the truth. What does it look like for Christians to live out Jesus’ Kingdom vision in our daily lives? It looks like taking care of widows and orphans, advocating for the poor, improving economies, paying taxes, honoring those in authority, loving our neighbors, pursuing excellence at work, and blessing those who persecute us.
- Christians, as citizens first and foremost of God’s Kingdom, value leaving the world in better shape than we found it.
- Christianity always flourishes most as a life-giving minority, not as a powerful majority. It is through subversive, countercultural acts of love, justice, and service for the common good that Christianity has always gained the most ground.
- The Kingdom of Jesus does not advance through spin, political maneuvering, manipulation of power, or “taking a stand” for what we believe (do we ever see Jesus, or for that matter Paul or any of the apostles, taking a stand against secular society or government?). Rather, the Kingdom of Jesus advances through subversive acts of love—acts that flow from conservative and progressive values. This is the beauty of the Christian movement. It embraces the very best of both points of view, while pushing back on the flaws, shortcomings, and injustices inherent in both. How does this work?
- Christians became known for taking up the cause of orphans.
- Here we have the conservative virtue of protecting the unborn plus the progressive virtues of championing female equality and social justice.
- In Christian communities the poor were treated with dignity and honor. There was a spirit of compassion and generosity among Christians, which manifested in the sharing of wealth to narrow the income gap—a progressive value. But generosity was voluntary, not forced—a conservative value.
- It is the job of Christians to help certain parts of government become unnecessary.
- Less need for government in those areas that Scripture entrusts to the church’s care. God gave us government to restrain evil and uphold the peace in society. He gave us the church to (among other things) champion the cause of the weak, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and show hospitality to people on the margins.
- Public faith enriches the world not by grasping for earthly power, but through self-donation.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London.
This week we look at Chapter Three: Fasting
- You remember that in this section of the Sermon on the Mount our Lord is talking about the question of personal righteousness.
- It is important, however, that we should realize that what our Lord says here about fasting is equally applicable to the whole question of discipline in our spiritual lives.
- Particularly for Evangelicals, this whole question of fasting has almost disappeared from our lives and even out of the field of our consideration.
- As men and women are beginning to consider the days and the times through which we are passing with a new seriousness, and as many are beginning to look for revival and reawakening, the question of fasting has become more and more important.
- Our Lord at this point was primarily concerned with only one aspect of the subject, and that was the tendency to do these things in order to be seen of men.
- What is really the place of fasting in the Christian life? Where does it come in according to the teaching of the Bible? The answer is roughly like this. It is something that is taught in the Old Testament. Under the Law of Moses the children of Israel were commanded to fast once a year, and this was binding upon that nation and people forever.
- When we come to New Testament times, we find that the Pharisees fasted twice in the week. They were never commanded to do so by God, but they did so, and made it a vital part of their religion. It is always the tendency of a certain type of religious person to go beyond the Scriptures; and that was the position with the Pharisees.
- When we come to look at our Lord’s teaching we find that though He never taught fasting directly, He certainly taught it indirectly.
- Going on beyond our Lord’s teaching and practice to that of the early Church, we find it was something that was practiced by the apostles.
- Indeed, on any important occasion, when faced with any vital decision, the early Church always seemed to give themselves to fasting as well as to prayer.
- The saints of God in all ages and in all places have not only believed in fasting, they have practiced it.
- God’s people have felt that fasting is not only right, but is of great value and of great importance under certain conditions.
- The biblical notion of fasting is that, for certain spiritual reasons and purposes, men and women decide to abstain from food.
- Fasting means an abstinence from food for the sake of certain special purposes such as prayer or meditation or the seeking of God for some peculiar reason or under some exceptional circumstance.
- Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not only be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting. There, I suggest, is a kind of general definition of what is meant by fasting.
- If we fast in a mechanical manner, or merely for the sake of doing so, I suggest that we are violating the biblical teaching with regard to the whole matter.
- Anything we do merely for the sake of doing it, or as a matter of rule or rote, is surely an entire violation of the scriptural teaching. We must never regard fasting as an end in itself.
- We should never regard fasting as a part of our discipline.
- So it is wrong to reduce fasting merely to a part of the process of discipline. Rather is it something that I do in order to reach that higher spiritual realm of prayer to God, or meditation, or intense intercession. And that puts it into an entirely different category.
- Another false way of regarding fasting I would put like this. There are some people who fast because they expect direct and immediate results from it.
- The moment we begin to say, `Because I do this, I get that’, it means that we are controlling the blessing. That is to insult God and to violate the great doctrine of His final and ultimate sovereignty. No, we must never advocate fasting as a means of blessing.
- Therefore we should never advocate, indulge in, or practice fasting as a method or a means of obtaining direct blessing. The value of fasting is indirect, not direct.
- We do harm to the cause of Christ if we claim as miraculous something which can be easily explained on a natural level. The same danger is present in this question of fasting-a confusion between the physical and the spiritual.
- It should always be regarded as a means to an end, and not as an end in itself. It is something that a man should do only when he feels impelled or led to it by spiritual reasons.
- I must discipline myself at all times, and must fast only when I feel led by the Spirit of God to do so, when I am intent on some mighty spiritual purpose, not according to rule, but because I feel there is some peculiar need of an entire concentration of the whole of my being upon God and my worship of Him. That is the time to fast, and that is the way to approach the subject.
- The wrong way is to call attention to the fact that we are doing it. Any announcing of the fact of what we are doing, or calling attention to it, is something which is utterly reprehensible to Him. You must not call attention to the fact that you are fasting.
- But this is not only a question of fasting. It is pathetic sometimes to observe the way in which people do this even in the matter of singing hymns-the uplifted face at certain points and the rising on tiptoe. These things are affected, and it is when they are affected that they become so sad.
- I cannot understand the Christian who wants to look like the typical, average, worldly person in appearance, in dress or in anything else-the loudness, the vulgarity, the sensuality of it all. No Christian should want to look like that.
- As Christians we should all desire to be unlike those worldlings, and yet at the same time we must never get into the position of saying that it is our dress that truly proclaims what we are.
- Don’t worry about the impression you are making; just forget yourself and give yourself entirely to God. Be concerned only about God and about pleasing Him. Be concerned only about His honor and His glory.
- If a man is living entirely to the glory of God, you need not prescribe for him when he has to fast, you need not prescribe the sort of clothes he has to put on or anything else. If he has forgotten himself and given himself to God, the New Testament says that man will know how to eat and drink and dress because he will be doing it all to the glory of God.