Monday, May 01, 2017

A Review "For the Glory"

Duncan Hamilton's 2016 biography of the famed Olympic great, Eric Liddell, For the Glory details a modern tragedy in the vein of an ancient Greco-Roman demigod.

Like all great tragedies, the life behind the tragedy speaks volumes for centuries. Liddell gave up a near certain 100 meter gold in 1924 to honor his views of the Christian Sabbath. He gave up future Olympic glory to keep his vow to missionary work in a dangerous mission in late 1920s China. He honored his missionary agency's request to stay in enemy occupied territory when WWII erupted. Like other non-combatants, he was held in a war camp for simply being British when Japan was at war. He sacrificed for the sake of other inmates day in and day out for over 18 months. He loved, he forgave, he served, and 5 months prior to his war camp's release, he took his last breath.

Eric Liddell (immortalized in both athleticism and character in Chariots of Fire) was a full soul, not just a great body. His dedication to excellence, service, and humility comes across as an act, but it's near perfection for 4 and 1/2 decades has no holes, no guile, no gild. In fact, the one missing piece of Duncan Hamilton's rich story is the power behind the life. Hamilton paints Liddell as a saint, and surely he was. But saints aren't built by human hands. Truths Liddell conveys over and over, but truths that get lost in Hamilton's account.

Hamilton notes that Liddell based his life on the Sermon on the Mount. Liddell even penned a short devotional work on the truths of the Sermon. The secret to his whole life (and the life of any who would follow after God) was summarily described by Liddell as "knowing God." One quote in a work by Liddell noted this, "A disciple is one who knows God personally, and who learns from Jesus Christ, who most perfectly revealed God. One word stands out from all others as the key to knowing God, to having his peace and assurance in your heart; it is obedience."

The centrality to Liddell's life was focusing on Jesus Christ, the one who perfectly revealed God. Only in Jesus Christ can someone have peace and assurance in the heart. Obedience will follow, indeed. But obedience flows from faith. We don't obey to be saved, but we obey because we're saved.

So read Hamilton's majestic book on a majestic person, but know that the power, peace, and assurance, the fueled Eric Liddell was Jesus Christ--his life, his death, his resurrection. As I read Liddell's life, I saw a life of glorious renewal and the power of God's grace. It exposed that I fell short of God's holy standard. But the solution isn't to lace up and try to run like Eric. The solution is to know the God that Eric knew.

This God allowed Eric to write these words, the very last words to come from his pen, words that speak to hope beyond this life, hope procured by Jesus Christ's bloody death and glorious resurrection, words that can be true for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. These words: "All will be well."

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