Eric Liddell: Pure Gold 4

imgresDavid McCasland in Eric Liddell: Pure Gold says there was “a wide social and philosophical divide…separat[ing] those [foreigners] whose enterprise was tobacco or mining [i.e., “secular” businessmen] from those whose venture was faith [i.e., “sacred” missionaries]” in China.

The business folks thought the missionaries were “native, piggish, and morally judgmental.”  The missionaries thought the business folks were “affluent, morally corrupt and unconcerned for the Chinese people.”

The sacred-secular divide has been around for a long time, it seems.

I love how David McCasland ends this particular passage: “There was behavioral evidence to support both views.”


Eric Liddell: Pure Gold 3

imgresDavid McCasland in Eric Liddell: Pure Gold describes Eric, following his Olympic gold, saying this to his college classmates: “Over the entrance to the University of Pennsylvania, there is written this, ‘In the dust of defeat as well as in the laurel of victory, there is glory to be found if one has done his best.’”  He had been to Penn once to run in the Penn Relays.  Again, these are words of a man who learned how to “serve the work.”

By the way, the University of Pennsylvania is my alma mater.   And I have no recollection of seeing this quote.  Embarrassingly, I didn’t even know there was an “entrance” to the university!

Eric Liddell: Pure Gold 2

imgresDavid McCasland in Eric Liddell: Pure Gold says, “[f]or Eric, there was a great feeling of joy [for winning the gold in 400 meter race in the 1924 Paris Olympics] but no sense of receiving God’s blessing for refusing to run on Sunday.  He had won — that’s all.  Decisions based on principle needed no circumstantial vindication.”  Indeed, he was a man who understood sabbath, who was not enslaved to his work even when the work held out the possibility of an Olympic gold in a 100 meter race.

Do you know what else?  As Tim Keller put it, he was not running to chase away his sense of insignificance.  “It never occurred to him that he was the only member of the British team to have won two medals in individual races.  Part of what endeared him to others was his ability to enjoy his success while being completely detached from any sense that he was responsible for it.”

Eric Liddell: Pure Gold 1

imgresDavid McCasland describes how Eric Liddell thought about his own future when he was at the height of his fame as a Scottish rugby player in Eric Liddel: Pure Gold:

What Eric was certain about as he pondered his future was that he wanted to serve Christ with whatever gifts he had been given.  But he had no idea how this athletic ability could be put to use for the kingdom of God.  In his own eyes, he seemed to possess so few of the skills he thought necessary for Christian ministry.  Not only was he not an orator, he dreaded the thought of speaking in public.  Forty thousand shouting fans in a stadium didn’t bother him at all, but forty people sitting quietly in a church hall terrified him.

Then he accepts an invitation from Glasgow Students’ Evangelistic Union to speak to miners in Armadale.  After two weeks of “Christian campaign” with no success, GSEU was hoping Eric Liddell’s celebrity might draw the miners.

Here’s Eric Liddell, after speaking to about eighty men on a Friday night about what Jesus meant to him, “quietly and simply”:

My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction, and I shrank from going forward.  At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ — after all if He called me to do it, then He would have to supply the necessary power.

Every Good Endeavor 17

imgresTim Keller is at his pastoral best in the last chapter of Every Good Endeavor where he sharply diagnoses how, when we work without the gospel’s power, we are not “merely doing the work that draws the salary” but also “working to chase away [our] sense of insignificance.”

We are too often driven by acedia which, according to Dorothy Sayers, means “a life driven by mere cost-benefit analysis of ‘what’s in it for me,’” contrary to what its translated version, “sloth,” connotes.  In fact, a person “characterized by acedia…does not necessarily look lazy at all.”

Keller exhorts his readers:

Instead of working out of the false passion of acedia, which is born of selfishness, you are working out of true passion, which is born of selflessness.  You are adopted into God’s family, so you already have your affirmation.  You are justified in God’s sight, so you have nothing to prove.  You have been saved through a dying sacrifice, so you are free to be a living one.  You are loved ceaselessly, so you can work tirelessly in response to a quiet inner fullness.

He points to two examples.

One is Eric Liddell who, as portrayed in Chariots of Fire, declares: “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”  The other is John Coltrane, who after his experience of the grace of God in 1957, was freed to make music “for the music’s sake, the listener’s sake, and God’s sake.”

Tim Keller concludes with these words:

You can accept gladly whatever level of success and accomplishment God gives you in your vocation, because he has called you to it.  You can work with passion and rest, knowing that ultimately the deepest desires of your heart — including your specific aspirations for your earthly work — will be fulfilled when you reach your true country, the new heavens and new earth.  So in any time and place you can work with joy, satisfaction, and no regrets.  You, too, can say, “Nunc dimittis.”  (That is, “I could die happy now,” the words of Simeon upon seeing the Messiah.)