|Book review: Complete Surrender - A Biography of Eric Liddell By Julian Wilson|
|Monday, 09 July 2012 11:27|
The distance that separated Eric Liddell from his cinder track competitors is as nothing compared to the gap that exists between this totally focused Christian and what often passes for Christian discipleship today. The book's title Complete Surrender is spot on in summarising Liddell's approach to living as a Christian.
Most readers will be familiar with Eric Liddell's unique Olympic story as vividly portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire. His decision to withdraw from the blue riband 100 metres event in the 1924 Paris Olympics, because the heats were being run on a Sunday is well known.
His subsequent world record and gold medal winning triumph in the 400 metres is legendary and this biography faithfully recounts this great sporting moment.
A fuller account of Eric's sporting successes is also to be found, including reference to his seven international appearances representing Scotland at rugby.
The book however moves on and leaves the reader in no doubt that Liddell's 47.6 seconds on the track is but a fleeting incident when set against the 20 years he was to serve as a missionary in China.
His work commenced in the year following the Olympic victory and took him to Tientsin Anglo Chinese College, also known as the "Eton of China". The college "offered an academic training steeped in Christian values". Eric was a key part in the "steeped" by initiating Bible classes and showing unswerving dedication in encouraging students to find faith in Christ.
In 1937 he moved from the college to fulfill the role of an evangelist in the rural village of Xiaochang. In undertaking this work the sacrifice had to be made of leaving his wife and family as the region where he was to work was considered far too dangerous due to the raging Sino - Japanese conflict.
Married for only three years this was a huge wrench only to be further tightened when 1941 Florence, his pregnant wife, and his two young children were evacuated from China, leaving Eric to be later interned in a squalid Japanese camp. Many stories of his unselfish activities and exceptional care of his fellow internees amidst conditions of appalling deprivation emerge from this time.
In 1945, still in the camp and just before the end of the war, this Olympian would die of a brain tumour. Finally he would receive the "incorruptible crown" against which the great honours bestowed on him as an athlete would seem as mere trifles.
The slogan for the 2012 Olympics is "inspiring a generation". Here is a book which cannot fail to inspire all who read its pages. It is a living commentary on Paul's strident words about "pressing on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3v15).
A book that cannot be too highly recommended.
The Revd Martin Poole is a retired Baptist minister (Penarth, Godalming, Eastleigh) and is currently Lymington Centre Manager for Christians Against Poverty
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