Eric Liddell was born of missionary parents in China. He was the second child, having an older brother. He was born just after the Boxer rebellion was crushed and China was trying to rebuild. The mission his parents were stationed at had been destroyed. He was born as they awaited a new assignment on January 16, 1902.
He was enrolled in a boarding school in Britain, so he did not get to see his parents very often. School officials encouraged him to take up sports. He also made it a point to rise early each day to meet the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Once he enrolled into the University, he broke one record after another in sporting events. His sister wrote their parents that they had nowhere to put all the awards.
It was on April 6, 1923, that a Scottish evangelist, D.P. Thomson, invited him to share his testimony and enter public evangelism.
Eric trained to run the 100-meter race for Britain in the Olympics of 1924. He was the predicted winner of the race. When he arrived, he found the race would be held on Sunday. He believed strongly he could not honor God and also run the race on Sunday. His fans were horrified by his refusal.
Suddenly a runner dropped out of the 400 meter race and he was able to fill the slot, just before the race.
Also, just before the race, an unknown man slipped a little piece of paper into Eric’s hand. It simply had a quote was a great inspiration to him.
1 Samuel 2:30 …for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
He won the race even though it was 4 times longer than he had trained to win. He set the world record at the same time!
In 1937, he took the Chinese district of Siachang that covered 10,000 square miles. He faithfully covered the territory on foot or by bicycle, visiting churches, preaching and dodging the bullets as the Japanese invaded.
On one trip, he heard of a Japanese man who was left to die 20 miles away. No one would help him for fear the Japanese would kill them. Eric found the man, loaded him into a cart and was determined to get him to a hospital. That night he could not sleep worrying about the fact the Japanese would kill him on the spot when they caught him. He opened his Bible and his eyes went to the following verse:
Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
After reading that, he was able to go right to sleep. The next morning, the Japanese troops were everywhere, but they never searched his cart. On the way he rescued another victim whose neck had been slashed execution style by the Japanese. He got them to the hospital. The first man died, but the second recovered and became an outstanding Christian artist.
In 1943, at the beginning of the War, he was imprisoned in a Japanese interment camp. The conditions were horrible. He kept all around him refreshed giving comfort and care, sharing the Scriptures, and leading in worship. His secret was rising at 6 am and huddling secretly at a small table with a peanut oil lamp studying the Bible and adding to his notebook. Of course, many hours were spent in silent prayer.
His physical condition worsened while in the camp, and at times his head throbbed. On February 21, 1945, he died. It was revealed by an autopsy that he had a massive brain tumor.
The Eric Liddle Organization. http://www.eric-liddell.org/
Catherine Swift. Eric Liddell. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1990. page 27-28.
Morgan, R.J. On This Day. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997. April 6.
Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations. Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979.
William Barclay, Letters to the Seven Churches (New York, 1958), p. 104. adapted in Olford, S. F. Institutes of Biblical Preaching: Volume Four. Institutes of Biblical Preaching. Memphis: Olford Ministries International, 2002.
Morgan, R. J. From This Verse: 365 Scriptures That Changed the World. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1998. August 17.
Morgan, R. J. Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000. Page 492.