Eric Liddell - Loving Unnoticed

One of our Inspirational Devotions

photo courtesy of Si B

Life after a Gold Medal

The movie Chariots of Fire, depicts Eric Liddell winning the Gold medal in the 400 meters at the 1924 Paris Olympics. With this fame, many doors to success were opened. But little did the world know that Eric would choose a life of obscurity over public recognition. Eric spent the second half of his life following in the footsteps of his Presbyterian parents, who were missionaries to China.  

Eric was the first person born in China to win an Olympic medal. However, in China he is most revered because he suffered along with those who were put in Japanese POW camps during WW II. In the prison camp, Eric is remembered for teaching his fellow prisoners how to forgive the Japanese. He is remembered for helping the sick and sharing his food. When he found a boy with no shoes in the cold winter, Eric gave him his own shoes. And not just any shoes – the very same running shoes he used in the Olympics.

Serving in Secret

Near the end of the war, Winston Churchill negotiated a prisoner exchange on Eric's behalf. Eric refused to be exchanged and gave his place to a pregnant woman. Eric remained behind so he could serve the other prisoners. He died in the camp in 1945. Eric's house in Tianjin is protected by the Chinese Government as a building of historical significance. Today, at the former POW camp stands a stone monument in his honor. But during the war, Eric Liddell served in obscurity. There were no cheers from a stadium full of adoring fans. These sacrificial deeds were done in secret.

Loving Unnoticed

You may have never thought about it, but genuine expressions of love are usually not "showy." A worried parent stays up late at night with a sick child. A note of encouragement to a troubled friend is written after everyone has turned in. An elderly person is driven to a doctor's appointment every day for two straight weeks. Throughout the world, each day there are literally thousands of small loving acts of kindness. These loving deeds are often unseen and, unfortunately, sometimes unappreciated. But God sees them all. They do not escape his attention.

Jesus Knows

In the Scriptures, it's encouraging to realize that Jesus noticed people who lived their lives without fanfare. Perhaps no one else saw the poor widow put in her two coins in Luke 21, but Jesus did. In John 6, a young boy gave his lunch to Jesus. It was this lunch that Jesus used to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children. We don’t know who he was, but Jesus does. Virtually everyone is familiar with Mary the earthly mother of Jesus. But nowhere does the Bible mention the name of Mary's mother, who undoubtedly instilled within her daughter a deep sense of reverence and humility. All around the world, in terms of worldly fame, most followers of Jesus are nameless and unknown. They live, love and serve in relative obscurity. But one thing is certain, Jesus knew Eric Liddell and he knows who these people are, too.

photo courtesy of Thomas R. Stegelmann

An Audience of One

Perhaps you are currently serving in an obscure place or functioning in a role which is far away from the spotlight. It's natural to want others to know how much you are doing and how hard you are trying. Be encouraged. Jesus sees your sacrifice and endurance. If you are feeling the desire for recognition for whatever it is you are doing – take heart – Jesus notices everything. At this moment, he might be your only audience, but an audience of ONE is significant when that person is Jesus himself. Draw your motivation from the smile on his face. We love, because he first loved us (I John 4:19). Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:4).

Author:Paul Schlieker

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Discussion ideas for your small group or Sunday School class:

1. Why is loving without acclaim a true test of our love for Jesus?

2. What other Bible people can you name who served and loved without public notice?

3. In what settings or conditions is it hard for you to show love?

4. What Bible verses help you love with a good attitude - regardless of notice?

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