Chariots of Fire: A Tale of Two Men

December 12, 2009

I don’t know how it happens, but whenever I run, I hear music. A steady beat from a piano and synthesized percussion builds into a beautiful melody. Nowhere can I run and avoid this occurrence, but it is heightened when I run at the beach. For the life of me, I cannot figure out who is following me and playing the theme from Chariots of Fire every time I run.

Or maybe it is just playing in my head.

I am sure I am not alone in my experience, because it seems that whenever you see someone running (especially in slow motion) someone will invariably start humming the tune. However, while everyone knows the song, not many know the movie…or the story it tells.

Chariots of Fire tells the story of a group of youth British athletes as they prepare for the 1924 Olympic Games while giving particular attention to two of them: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. After the famous opening scene, we first meet Abrahams, a young Jewish man entering a fine English university with a chip on his shoulder. He sees the whole world as against him, and he is out to win (or as he puts it, “Run them off their feet.”)

In contrast to Abrahams, Eric Liddell is introduced. Instead of being out to prove himself when he runs, Liddell runs because he believes God has given him the ability to do it, and “when runs, he feels God’s pleasure.” Above everything else (including running), he commits himself to his God.

Through the telling of the story of the Olympic games we see two very different men. The desire to win consumes Abrahams. Every loss destroys his confidence and fear racks his mind as he prepares for the final race. On the other hand, Liddell faces a different predicament. When the preliminary heats for the 100 meters are scheduled for a Sunday, Liddell chooses to honor his conviction to not run on the Sabbath. Even when he is placed before the Prince of Wales, he will not compromise.

Both Liddell and Abrahams end up winning gold medals (Abrahams in the 100m; Liddell in the 400m). But contrast appears yet again in victory. Abrahams’ victory seems to be a joyless occasion, and he shuns his teammates for a drunken conversation with his trainer. In Liddell’s victory, we see joy, a reunion with his family, and the satisfaction of knowing that he honored his God.

The movie provides so much more than a powerful melody that runs through my mind, it also encourages me. Worldly success is not the goal of this life; bringing glory to God is. And only when we live our lives for his pleasure will we experience true pleasure ourselves.

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One Response to “Chariots of Fire: A Tale of Two Men”

  1. Hunter Adamske said

    Great blog Pastor Ben, It is so true that when we live for the glory of God and for His pleasure that we receive joy in return. It doesn’t logically make sense, but it is true none the less. Glad I found your blog!

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