Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A simple question to ask

I am close to finishing Duncan Hamilton's impressive book, "For the Glory," which tells the life story of Eric Liddell.  I was introduced to Liddell through the film, "Chariots of Fire."  In the film, Liddell, a devoted follower of Jesus, stuns the world by refusing to compete on Sunday.  Liddell was convinced that Sunday was a day to rest in the Lord, to worship, pray and to make the day all about God's goodness and grace.  In the end, Liddell competes in a race he has not trained for and wins a gold medal all the same.

The first third of the book is about Liddell's early life and about the events that took place at the 1924 Olympics.  Following that, the focus in on Liddell's life as a missionary in China.

It is this part of Liddell's life for which Hamilton is truly interested.  I knew a bit of what Liddell faced while reaching out with the Gospel, serving a country (China) that becomes embroiled in war against Japan.  You can't help but admire a man who sets aside his own security and comfort in order to witness Christ to those without faith, without forgiveness, without salvation.

One aspect of Liddell's life in which Hamilton gives great insight is the devotional life Liddell led. Without fail, Liddell began each day with an hour given to Scripture reading, mediation and prayer. Liddell said, "Every Christian should live a God-guided life.  If you are not guided by God, you will be guided by something else."

Liddell wrote some short booklets which outlined a way to let God take the lead in daily life.  Liddell gave one example of how this worked: "If, in the quiet of your heart, you feel something should be done, stop and consider, whether it is in line with the character and teaching of Jesus.  If so, obey that impulse to do it, and in doing so you will find it was God guiding you."

Thinking about taking a meal to a friend? Tempted to look at pornography on your smart phone? That close to spreading a rumor about your employer? Liddell would advise you to ask one simple question: "Is what I'm about to say or do in line with the character and teaching of Jesus?"

I believe it was Martin Luther who once said something to the effect that it is better to have a few good books that you can go back to again and again rather than having a great many books that are read once and then put on a shelf to collect dust.  Hamilton's book is one of those few good books that I will read again and again. There is much to be learned from the life of Eric Liddell.