22 My God sent his messenger, who shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t touched me because I was judged innocent before my God. I haven’t done anything wrong to you either, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God.
2 Timothy 4
16 No one took my side at my first court hearing. Everyone deserted me. I hope that God doesn’t hold it against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that the entire message would be preached through me and so all the nations could hear it. I was also rescued from the lion’s mouth! 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil action and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and always. Amen.
The apostle Paul spent most of his life fearlessly preaching the message of the living God even though the emperor-worshiping Roman Empire tried to legally ban it. He drew strength from the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, and from passages like Psalm 22:20-22 (a part of the psalm Jesus quoted on the cross). He wrote 2 Timothy from a Roman prison, knowing his execution was near (cf. 2 Timothy 4:6-7). But he was still grateful for the times God rescued him “from the lion’s mouth.”
Loving Lord, on the good days, it’s easy to visualize my life as a parade. Remind me on the bad days that, if you are with me, I’m still a part of a victorious march through life. Amen.
* William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 221.
Today’s passage emphasizes the virtues of courage, bravery, & fortitude. Since it is very unlikely that we will ever be thrown into a lion’s den for practicing our faith, ala Daniel, or imprisoned on death row for preaching the Gospel, ala Paul, it can be challenging to relate to their amazing examples of courage. Perhaps it could be helpful if we consider a more contemporaneous model of bravery with the life & times of Eric Liddell. (Pronunciation: Liddell rhymes with fiddle.)
Aside: Sometimes there is a fine line between bravery & foolishness. Like the story of the elderly woman who shot her husband for walking on her freshly mopped kitchen floor. When the police officer radioed his commander that he was waiting to arrest her, his commander asked why. He said, “Because the floor is still wet.”
Eric’s parents were Scottish missionaries to China in the early 1900’s. When Eric was sent to boarding school in Edinburgh his headmaster noted, “Eric was entirely without vanity, yet he was enormously popular. There was no false pride about him, but he knew what he stood for.” Eric would attend Edinburgh University to study science with the goal of teaching at the Anglo-Chinese College in China.
Eric’s notoriety came from his ability to run very fast, earning the nickname the “Flying Scotsman.” In one race he was knocked to the ground & was able to make up the 20-meter gap & still win the race. His competitors frequently mocked him for his ungraceful running style: head tilted back, jaw wide open, & arms flailing. Yet, Eric was always a gracious sportsman, shaking hands with each of his opponents & sincerely wishing them a good race.
Aside: A little trivia: A survey of 700 Olympic track stars revealed that their preferred wireless service provider was Sprint.
Liddell wasn’t sure about participating in track meets, thinking it would distract him from God’s plan. His Mother eased his doubts saying, “God has given you a tremendous gift….run now & give God all the glory of your gift.”
At the 1924 Paris Olympics, Eric opts not to run in his strongest event, the 100-meter race, because it was being held on the Sabbath. He is viciously attacked as being a traitor, a publicity hound, and disgracing the field of sports. (These Olympics would be the inspiration for the 1981 Oscar-winning movie, “Chariots of Fire.”) As Liddell prepares for the 400-meter race, a fellow Christian gives him a note referencing 1 Samuel 2:30, “In the old book it says: “He that honours Me, I will honour.” Eric is so inspired by the support in the midst of all the commotion that week, he wins the gold medal.
Aside: My Great-Grandfather was infamous for repeatedly predicting that the Titanic would sink. In related news, he’s no longer allowed back in that movie theater.
Post-Olympics, Liddell turns his focus to evangelizing. His preaching style was with a heavy Scottish brogue, and always opened with this question: “Do you want to know the God I love? Accept God tonight, & tomorrow you will feel a love you have never known before.”
Eric was asked if he missed the fame & excitement of athletics. He replied that his work for God had so much more meaning. He noted that “Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ, or we repel them from Christ. We are all working for the great Kingdom of God.”
Liddell marries, starts a family, & returns to China as a missionary teacher, a position he holds for 18 years. However, with China at war, conditions begin to deteriorate. He sends off his wife & children to Canada for safety. As he kisses his wife good-bye he says, “Those who love God never meet for the last time.” They would never meet again in their human lifetime.
Eric is interred in a squalid Japanese prison camp rife with disease, near-starvation rations, & horrific conditions. In spite of these grim circumstances, Eric quickly becomes the inspirational leader of the prisoners. He arranges a schedule of scholastic & Bible classes, organizes numerous sports leagues for the children, & creates a care-system for the elderly & disabled inmates. Survivors of the camp repeatedly noted his joyful demeanor, his loud laughter, & his boisterous singing of hymns. He became known to the children as “Uncle Eric” & to his fellow prisoners as “Jesus in running shoes.”
Liddell would die of a brain tumor while imprisoned in the camp in 1945 at the age of 43. His last words were, “It’s complete surrender,” referencing how he lived his life for God. The camp would be liberated 4 months later.
So, what might Eric’s life mean for us today?
Could we have the courage to live out our faith like Liddell? Too often we are tempted to care way too much about what others say about us. If Eric could endure the toxic & false muckraking, perhaps we could as well.
Could we be brave enough to genuinely wish the best for our business competitors, our political foes, or our neighbors? Liddell demonstrated amazing self-esteem where society’s every-day petty scoreboard didn’t faze him. (Actually, I would submit it was more likely to be God-esteem – Eric was so confident in God’s love for him that worldly accolades & accomplishments paled in comparison.)
Finally, can we have the fortitude to actually surrender our life to Christ – making Him the guiding force in all that we do? Eric wrote a manual of Christian Discipleship that asked a series of questions each morning. The concluding query each day was, “What does God want me to do today & how does He want me to do it?”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to attend the funeral of a local movie theater owner. Services are at 2:45, 5:10, 7:30, & 9:55.
For those unfamiliar with the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” here is the final scene. (Spoiler Alert: It is the finale.)
And here’s a brief parody clip from the 1983 Chevy Chase movie “Vacation:”
Keddie, John W. Running the Race: Eric Liddell: Olympic Champion & Missionary. Christian Focus 2020
13720 Roe Ave.
Leawood, KS 66224
24000 W. Valley Pkwy
Olathe, KS 66061
1601 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
601 NE Jefferson St.
Blue Springs, MO 64014
8412 W. 95th St.
Overland Park, KS 66212
Can’t find something? Let us help.