Chariots of Fire, Part II

Most of us are familiar with the story of Olympic champion Eric Liddell, whose life was memorialized in the film Chariots of Fire. Eric, a devoted Christian, won world fame in the 1924 Olympics for refusing to run on Sunday. During the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Americans met a modern counterpart of Eric Liddell: Jonathan Edwards of Great Britain, who puts God first in his life and who just won an Olympic silver medal in the triple jump. Edwards is relatively unknown in America. But in Britain, he's considered a national hero. Last year, the British athlete broke a 10-year-old record by becoming the first man ever to clear 59 feet in the triple jump. Then, during the World Championships in Goteburg, Sweden, he broke his own record by seven inches. That's an amazing feat in a sport where records are set one inch at a time. But Edwards wasn't through. On the same day, on his very next jump, he broke the 60-foot barrier--something that had been considered humanly impossible. And during the Olympic Games, Edwards topped it all off by winning a silver medal--and he did that while having an "off" day. (America's Kenny Harrison won the Gold by jumping 59 feet, 41/4 inches, but he fell far short of breaking Edwards's world record jump.) The Brits are understandably thrilled at Edwards's athletic success. But for me, what's even more thrilling is the motivation for this track star's brilliant athletic performance: honoring Jesus Christ. After breaking the world triple jump record last year, the tall, gangly athlete told reporters that he was determined not to let his newfound fame corrupt him. "There's a lot of temptation that could lead me off the track," Edwards said. "What I want to do is glorify God and honor my wife and children." In fact, he added, "I would give up everything tomorrow if God told me to do so." And despite the fact that his athletic ability has made him rich, Edwards insists, "I'm not chasing money. There is room for only one God in my life." What a refreshing testimony! Unlike so many of today's athletes who eagerly pursue fame, money, and bad-boy reputations, Edwards knows he's a role model. In fact, he plans to follow in his father's footsteps and become an Anglican vicar when his athletic career is over. So forget about the highly paid, egotistical athletes the public so slavishly idolizes. Here's a real sports hero for Christians. Share the story of Jonathan Edwards with your children as an example of a role model we can all be proud of. British or not, Jonathan Edwards is one athlete I'll be rooting for as he hops, skips, and jumps his way into the future. After all, every Christian lives under the lordship of Christ--and therefore we're on the same team.  


Chuck Colson


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