Chariots of Fire is one of those films, it seems, to have become fashionable to rave about. Maybe it’s just a thing in the Christian world, but I’m sure every other person I speak to about films says they love it.
I’ve never quite understood the hype, myself. It’s not a bad film, I quite enjoyed watching it and the story is interesting, but it’s not the kind of film I’m desperate to see over and over again – although I can’t deny that the theme tune is amazing.
However, the one part I do love, and come back to time after time, is when Eric Liddell, Scottish preacher and slightly reluctant Olympic sprinter, is legging it down the track. As he pounds away from the presumptuous Yanks who thought they would comfortably beat him, we hear his voice say:
“I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
In the film, Liddell, son of missionaries in China, always intends to return there do God’s work, but he also wants to do a bit a running first, and sees no contradiction between the two.
I’ve always found this a hugely encouraging idea — that we don’t have to be constantly doing ostensibly ‘Godly’ things to please our Heavenly Father. Sometimes it’s easy to believe that if we’re not working for a church, volunteering at a Christian charity, telling our friends about Jesus, or preparing for a Bible study we are somehow wasting our time; that when we spend our time doing things unconnected to church and faith God is a little bit disappointed. But, as Liddell says, this isn’t necessarily so.
As it turns out, I’m actually an appalling runner. When I was about 15, my school house were rooting around for someone who could run the 200 metres for them at the inter-house sports day. Despite my protestations, they insisted I go for a quick trial round the track. I completed the race in 37 seconds.
But while God almost certainly feels no pleasure in my running, I like to think He is more favourable about my cycling. Ever since I first started cycling to university six years ago on my Dad’s battered old bike, I’ve been hooked. There’s nothing quite like it, with the wind in your hair, whizzing down country lanes and through narrow city streets.
Of course, in a material sense, cycling doesn’t have anything to do with the kingdom of God. But isn’t it refreshing that our God isn’t just a cosmic task-master, always chivvying us along to do more, but enjoys it when we have fun?
Yes, there are times when it would be better to do more productive things than swan around on my bike, but, as Jesus told us, God is a good father who longs to give His children good gifts. And for me, one of those gifts is the ability to climb onto my bike and spend a few hours sweating up and down the hills of north London.
Cycling certainly isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s fun, and I am convinced that’s not an accident, but part of God’s great design. And as the poster in a bicycle shop round the corner from my parents’ house says: “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close”.