Thursday, March 10, 2016

No Longer I? CHAPTER 19, Part One

This book, and Webber's first award-winning book, Meeting Jesus,  should be in the hands of every recruit, soldier, candidate, officer, and former officer - they and the Army will be strengthened as a result. Awarded 5 Stars



When the Olympic Games came to London in 2012, the official theme music played during the Olympic Flame Relay, the opening ceremony, and every medal awards ceremony during the two weeks of competition was from the 1981 film, ‘Chariots of Fire.’ The film, which was set in the preparation for the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, told the stories of Eric Liddell’s athletic career and Christian faith, together with the story of his fellow athlete, Harold Abrahams (who was Jewish), and Abraham’s fight against prejudice.

One of the most memorable quotations in the film is that of Eric Liddell, ‘I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.’ Sadly, it is wrongly attributed to Eric. It was in fact a line created by the film’s writer, Colin Welland. Having said that, it did reflect what drove Eric to win. Both a formidable rugby player, (he played six matches for Scotland), and a successful sprinter, he was already well known before he decided to concentrate on his athletics. When Liddell was invited to become an evangelistic speaker, he saw how his success in sport might provide an ideal platform to reach those who might otherwise show no interest in the gospel.

His purpose in running wasn’t for personal fame and glory, but to bring glory to God, attention to his Saviour. He had already decided to return to China (the land of his birth), as a missionary long before the drama that would unfold at the Olympics. Three months prior to the British teams’ arrival in France, Eric discovered the heats for the 100 metres, (his best prospect for winning a gold medal), were scheduled to be run on a Sunday. Because of his strong conviction that it was ‘the Lord’s Day’ and that it was wrong for him to run, he felt obliged to inform the British Olympic Association that he could not take part. When his decision became public knowledge there was a hostile reaction to him. There were those who called him a traitor to his country. There were even some members of parliament who lambasted him for putting selfish beliefs before duty to country, but undaunted, he stuck by what he believed.

When he got to Paris, he was to be found preaching in the Scots Church in Rue Bayard on the Sunday in question, while Harold Abrahams prepared himself to win the 100 metres gold medal. His decision to remain true to his convictions and his God set him apart in the history of athletics. Although he loved running, and won the bronze medal in the 200 metres and then the gold in the 400 metres, a spectacular achievement indeed, he never allowed his sport to become the idol that, as we said in the previous chapter, cricket became to CT Studd. As The Guardian newspaper observed, ‘Liddell has already decided that the race he has chiefly to run in the world is not on the cinder track.’

Our only purpose in all that we do and how we do it is to bring glory to God. We are set apart. Whilst others work for wages, we labour for our Master. Yes, we need money to feed the family, to pay the mortgage or rent, to clothe ourselves, but that is not the reason we do what we do. We do not go to work merely to please our employer or, as is the case in much of life today, to do the minimum work for maximum return. Our desire at the end of the day is to have pleased the One who has done so much for us. We are first and foremost his servants. Whereas our culture today wants to get all it can from life, our desire is to give all we can to life.

‘Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (Romans 12:1).

I was preaching on this text one Sunday morning and trying to explain that everything we do we do for Jesus. We should treat everything we do as though he was the recipient. Everything is an offering to him, an expression of gratitude to him for his abundant mercy, a response to his goodness to us. I went on to say that whether anyone notices – or not, appreciates what we have done – or not, thanks us – or not, gives us the credit for it – or not, will not matter, because the One we did it all for was Jesus. Our only concern ought to be whether we please him.

At the end of the meeting, as the congregation left and my wife and I shook their hands at the door, I noticed Dot, a little lady in her seventies who had recently been widowed, was standing against the wall opposite me, out of the queue. Whilst concentrating on each of the people as they came up and shook my hand I watched her hovering there and guessed that, being shy, she was waiting until the queue abated before approaching me.

She was a lovely lady, a simple soul who had had a very hard life. Often, when I visited her she would apologise for the fact that she didn’t think she was very bright. But I could see something really special in her. I thought of the words, ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no-one can boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

‘So when I am doing the washing up for the over 60s club,’ she said, having stepped forward during a lull in the procession of people leaving the hall, ‘I’m not doing it for them?’
‘No,’ I replied.
‘And I’m not doing it for you?’ she continued, with a twinkle in her eye.
‘No,’ I again replied.
 ‘I’m just doing it for Jesus?’
‘Yes,’ I answered.

‘It was my idea to volunteer to do the washing up for the over 60s club,’ she then stated, ‘but you asked me if I could help with the washing up for the Alpha Course you are running didn’t you? Even though you asked me, I’m still not doing it for you am I? It’s all for Jesus.’

I looked down on this tiny woman and could have cuddled her had it not been that doing so in public might have embarrassed her. I thought to myself, ‘There will be others, far more intelligent than she, who will not have thought any more about the message, never mind apply it to themselves.’

‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,’ said Jesus, ‘because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure’ (Matthew 11:25)

Dot enjoyed the company of the other ladies in the kitchen and they loved her. The plates and dishes were sometimes piled quite high, but she would quietly get on with the job with never a moan or grumble of any kind. But following our brief conversation that Sunday morning I noticed a difference in her countenance whenever I saw her at work in the kitchen, an added sparkle I had never seen before.

No Longer I?

Howard Webber

Available in paperback and Kindle from amazon

End Part One of Four

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