Monday September 01, 2014

Follow in the footsteps of a spiritual giant


Do you know any spiritual giants? Someone whose close relationship with Jesus Christ makes them unique among believers?

Speaking faith-wise, spiritual giants get things done. Their prayers bring observable results. Their practices of faith are as intentional as training for a race. To those around them, their motivation shines clear: to live a life that makes God smile.

Spiritual giants live humbly. They rarely frequent church platforms; in fact they avoid the spotlight, though they’re not afraid of taking a public stand, if necessary.

I once accused one of my giant friends of having more hours in the day than the rest of us – in reality, I observed that she uses them more effectively. Walk alongside someone like that awhile, and you’ll begin to understand the ways of giants. Eric Liddell, 20th Century Scottish Olympian, may have been one – but you would have had to run alongside him.

Known as “Scotland’s greatest athlete,” Liddell, a university student and sprinter of national acclaim, achieved world renown during the 1924 Paris Olympics. Today, he’s remembered not for what he did, but for what he refused to do: violate a strong conviction of his faith.

“I won’t run,” he said, after learning that his main event, the 100 metre heat, would run on a Sunday, his day of rest. Another athlete won the gold Liddell could have had. Five days later, head thrust high, arms pumping like pistons, he crossed the finish line. No one expected him to win the 400 metre heat, but he won gold that day.

Shortly after the Paris Olympics, the tide of global praise still incoming, Liddell announced his intention to leave sports and become a missionary to China. Many who knew what he left behind – fame, honour, prosperity – scratched their heads and questioned his sanity.

In 1945, after two decades spent devoting his life to serving the people of China, Liddell died in a POW camp. Fellow prisoners gave countless reports of his Christ-like kindness.

Liddell’s legacy endures. Though he shunned fame, his example of faith achieved exactly that – a beautiful public pointing to the Lord he ran alongside; the God who gave him breath to race well and finish with excellence.

In the company of spiritual giants, you and I could be forgiven for feeling a tad shrimpy. But whether over a simple meal, the duration of a friendship, or while working on a mutual project, the spiritual giants I’ve known have always encouraged and inspired me to grow up. Dig deeper. Take bigger steps.

In the recently (2012) re-mastered four-time Oscar winning movie, Chariots of Fire (Liddell’s story) his character says, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  Though Liddell didn’t use those words in life, they sum up his example for every Christ-follower:  Run the road of life, using the gifts God has given. Run it well, to make him smile. And cross the finish line looking upward, not inward.

It’s the way of spiritual giants.



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