Skip to content

The Flying Scotsman

August 30, 2020

Eric Liddell at British v. US Relays (1924), Source (PD)

“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…OBEDIENCE to God’s Will is the secret of spiritual knowledge and insight.  It is not willingness to know, but willingness to DO God’s Will that brings certainty.”

-Eric Liddell, “The Key to Knowing God”

Eric Liddell was a beloved Scottish rugby player and track star, a British Olympic gold medalist, and a Christian missionary, memorialized in the film “Chariots of Fire” [1][2].

Born to missionary parents in China, Liddell displayed early athletic prowess.  While still at the University of Edinburgh, Liddell became widely known as the fastest runner in Scotland, justifiably earning his nickname as “the Flying Scotsman” (a reference to the famous express train between London and Edinburgh).

At the 1924 Paris Olympics, Liddell refused to break the Sabbath, withdrawing from the 100 meter qualifying heat and forfeiting his best chance for gold.  Liddell, nonetheless, went on to win a gold medal – in record-breaking time – in the 400 meter race, not his favored distance.

In 1925, Liddell returned to China to follow in his parents’ footsteps.  When in 1941 the government warned British nationals of increasing Japanese aggression, Liddell’s wife Florence and their children left for Canada.  But Liddell stayed on in the missionary field.

In 1943, he was imprisoned at Weihsien Internment Camp.  There he became a leader and organizer of the captives – assisting the elderly, arranging games for the young, as well as teaching science and Bible study.

Liddell died at Weihsien of a brain tumor at the age of 43, his faith undaunted.  Overwork and malnourishment may have contributed to his death.

Langdon Gilkey, a fellow prisoner who survived the camp to become a theologian, said of Liddell:  “It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.”

Outstanding for both his character and accomplishments, Eric Liddell remains an inspiration.

[1]  Wikipedia, “Eric Liddell”,

[2]  Duncan Hamilton, For the Glory:  The Untold and Inspiring Story of Eric Liddell, Hero of Chariots of Fire (2017).


From → Christian, Faith, Religion

  1. Thanks for this reminder of Eric Liddell. What an amazing story, how inspiring in these days of potentially depressing lock-down. If I recall correctly he said something to the effect, ‘When I run fast, I feel the presence of God.’ The discipline, yet also blessing and joy of obedience. Reminds me of the old hymn, “Trust and Obey…”

    Blessings Anna!

  2. Eric Liddell has been one of my historical heroes for his commitment and obedience to Christ as well as his convictions. Thanks Anna

  3. A really beautiful post Anna!

  4. Allan Halton permalink

    Eric Liddell is one of my heroes. I highly recommend his biography Complete Surrender by Julian Wilson.

  5. I watched Chariots of Fire again recently and I so admire him. It’s so sad that he died so young.

  6. I saw that movie as well and was humbled by his story of what happened in China later on while in prison. Like Watchman Nee, he was a shining light to those around him while in those Chi-com prisons.

    For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,” (Eph 3:1-2, ESV2011)

    Thanks for the reminder, Anna.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: