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  • annehope19

Get Out Of The Boat!

Most people aim at nothing in particular…and achieve it!  Life passes by in a whir as we sit there thinking we have all the time in the world.  Until we don’t.  And then we find ourselves seemingly without purpose or striving to find purpose. 


Perhaps it’s the end of a job, retirement, or an empty nest.  Perhaps it’s the accomplishment of a degree, the tragedy of a divorce or a death, leaving you wondering what’s next.  It is a constant battle to live a purposeful life.  Our aspirations may change with the scope of our lives, but it is always important to alter our course and objectives in order to live passionate and purposeful lives.  A life without passion and purpose is merely a life of existence.


Chariots of Fire won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1982.  It is the true story of the Scottish runner, Eric Liddell, who won the gold medal in the 1924 Olympics.  He was the son of Scottish missionaries and was born in China.  As a devout Christian, he was famous for refusing to compete on Sundays.  His resolve was to keep the Sabbath day holy, and for him, that meant not competing in athletic events. 


He and his elder brother were sent to a boarding school for children of missionaries in London and after graduation, he attended Edinburgh University.  Even as a young boy, Eric was an outstanding athlete.  He excelled in cricket, rugby, and track.  In fact, he became known as the fastest man in Scotland. 


In 1923, he gave up competition in other sports to concentrate on track as he trained for the 1924 Olympics to be held in Paris.  Many of his records lasted for over 10 years.  His best event was the 100-meter dash.  But when the competition schedule came out for the Paris Olympics, the heats for the100-meter dash were to be held on a Sunday.  He bowed out of his best event. 


The finals for the 4x100 meter relay and the 4x400 meter relay (events which he ran for Britain) were scheduled to be held on a Sunday.  So, he elected not to compete in either of those events as well.  Rather, he decided to focus his training on the 400-meter dash.   His times in that event in prior competitions had not been very impressive.  But the event heats and finals were to occur on weekdays.


When the time came to finally compete, after months of focus and training, Eric Liddell broke the world record three times in two days.  In a thrilling final, he sprinted out to take an early lead and held on to win the gold medal. 


This fierce competitor had fulfilled the purpose of his training.  But not without adversity.  His sister felt he was wasting his time with such frivolous activities.  She constantly criticized him for delaying his true calling—mission work. 


But Liddell held fast to what he believed to be one of his goals in life.  He told his sister, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  In response to all the rigid, long hours of practice he responded, “No man who really is a man ever cared for the easy task.  There is no enjoyment in the game that is easily won.  It is that in which you have to strain every muscle and sinew to achieve victory that provides real joy.”


After the Olympics Eric Liddell refocused his purpose.  He set his eyes on a different prize and returned to China as a missionary teacher.  He taught the children of wealthy parents, coached sports teams, and ran a Sunday School.   


But in the late 1930’s China became a dangerous place as Japanese aggression grew in the area.  By 1941, World War II was in full bloom, and the situation in China had become dire.  The British government advised all nationals to leave the country.  Liddell sent his wife and children to Canada, but he remained in China to assist the Chinese in medical care. 


From 1937 to 1945 more than 14 million Chinese died in conflict with the Japanese, with more than one sixth of the Chinese population becoming refugees in their own country.  In 1943, Liddell was detained in a civilian internment camp where he developed an inoperable brain tumor. 


Eric Liddell died in that camp in February 1944.   But he lived a life of purpose.  He made choices.  He dedicated himself to those purposes.  He trained; he lived out his dreams. 


Dreams change.  Life’s circumstances change.  At times, the world may seem as though it is working to wreck our lives and God’s plans.  But God is not helpless or weak.  He is working among the ruins to give us new dreams, new desires, a new goal.  As we discipline ourselves to seek Him first, then all the other things will follow.  He can take the calamity and use it somehow, someway for our good.


Dare to dream.  Stretch your goals.  Reach for new heights.  What has God created you to desire?  To run? To teach? To play tennis?  To lead a small group?  To inspire?  To write?  To create?  In the quiet of your heart, if you feel the desire to do something, first consider if it is in line with the character of God.  As Eric Liddell would say, “If so, obey that impulse to do it, and in so doing, you will find it was God leading you.” 


The first step in learning to walk on water is to get out of the boat!  And remember…we are all missionaries.  Wherever we go and whatever we do, we either bring people closer to the love of God, or we repel them from God.  Which are you?

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