Anyone who has heard remotely of Chariots of Fire knows the basic story of Eric Liddell and his bold pursuit of God’s glory on and off the cinder track. But his story goes much deeper than an Olympic medal. Liddell was not only an athlete but a dedicated missionary who was willing to go to any length to serve the Lord.
Lesson focus: Eric Liddell was a giant of faith because he refused to back down in the face of challenge to his Christianity, no matter what that meant. From him we can take example of how any action can be used for God’s glory.
Passage: but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3:17
Target Audience: Pre-k through fifth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Yarn, cardboard circles, examples of Chinese writing; world map
Lesson Opening: Start this lesson off with a bit of outside activity, holding a mini mock “Olympics” session. Go outside (if practical) for foot-races, relays, jumping activities, obstacle courses, or “funny foot” races. Try to play a slight variety of games so that students of varying ability have opportunity to shine.
This lesson takes a look at a faith giant who stood out as an athlete and servant of God. Try to secure a recording of “Chariots of Fire” music as you start out, and have some pictures of Liddell
and the famed 1924 Paris Olympics.
Provide students with maps of the world (older students especially should each get their own), and encourage them to trace places as they are mentioned. Give an overview of Eric Liddell’s life, pausing at points to emphasize a spot on the map or highlight a key event…
-Eric was born to missionary parents and lived in Scotland and then England (point out on map). He was sent to London for school and did not see his parents for several years. What would it be like to be separated from your parents for years??
-In school, Eric was a great athlete. He enjoyed rugby (explain the nature of this popular British sport) but developed a great passion for running.
-In 1924, Liddell had the opportunity to compete in the Olympic games held in Paris. He chose not to race his best event, the 100 meter run, because the heat was held on a Sunday. After much prayerful consideration and outside chastising, Eric insisted on staying out of the race, and instead ran in the 400m, in which he was not at all favored to compete well. He won.
–Although an Olympic gold medal is impressive, the story of Eric Liddell did not end there. He continued his pursuit of God’s glory by dedicating his life to serving as a missionary. He spent the remainder of his life working in China as a missionary. He did get married and had three daughters, but by the second world war his family was forced to flee the country out of safety concerns. Liddell remained and eventually died in a prison camp.
-Regardless of his stage in life, Eric made the joy of the Lord his strength and motivation. He displayed consistent good sportsmanship with his athletic competition and worked hard in all he did. In a poignant scene of the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric tells his sister “I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Eric knew the meaning of being a “champion rejoicing to run his course” (Psalm 19:5). He was able to accomplish great things because He truly did all for the glory of God.
Discuss how our lives can more live up to this example. What are some things we try to do on our own or for our own glory, when we could be honoring God? How can we put Him first?
Create special “medals” to honor our life as God’s athletes. Using the circular cardboard, decorate and attach the verse and a caption: “I honor God by…” Encourage students to identify what areas of life they can devote more wholly to God. Finish by attaching yarn or ribbon to the medals.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Recognize that all we have comes from Him and is for Him.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. -1 Corinthians 9:24-27