Eric Liddell was a missionary in China with the London Missionary Society. He had quite the life getting there. He had been born in China to missionary parents, but from ages 5 – 23 he spent in England and Scotland in school and university. He became quite the sportsman, leading rugby and cricket teams and setting several records as well for racing. In 1923 he set a British record for the 100 yards at 9.7 seconds, a record that stood for 35 years. He twice won the annual Scottish Amateur Athletic Association’s sprint contests in the 100, 220, and the 440 yard, only the 4th runner to win all three in a single year.
At the 1924 Olympics in Paris he won the bronze medallion in the 200 m finals and gold in the 400 m. The 400 was his second choice as he did not run the 100 because it was on Sunday. The day of the 400 metres race came, and as Liddell went to the starting blocks, an American masseur slipped a piece of paper into Liddell’s hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honour me I will honour.” Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand. He not only won the race, but broke the existing world record with a time of 47.6 seconds.By the end of the following year Eric Liddell was in China, teaching as a missionary.
By 1941 things were getting dangerous in China because of the Japanese/Chinese war so he sent his pregnant wife and 2 daughters to Canada to stay with her family. In 1943 he was interned at a Camp with other missionaries as well as some people from the regular population. He gave up an opportunity to leave the camp, letting a pregnant woman take his place. He died of an inoperable brain tumour 5 months before liberation. Everywhere he went he was a leader and a man of integrity. That’s what stands out to me as I read of his life. Whether it was in sports or ministry or a prisoner, the love and light of Jesus was his reputation in life. He was a man of integrity and lived his faith for all to see.
As we look at this Psalm, then, we look at a bigger picture of life. The Psalmist in these 6 verses gives us quite a variety of approaches to praising God, and so we will dwell here for a few minutes.
1) The first phrase we have connected to praise is location. In God’s sanctuary (in our bodies/life, for we are the temple of God). In the Old Testament there was a very specific place to worship – the temple. You hear that in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan lady at the well. Jesus expanded on that and post resurrection God’s sanctuary became our the hearts and lives of His followers. This can be connected to the purposes of our lives. In the movie based on the life of Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire, we see Eric’s sister challenging him about running and races when there were so many needs in the world around them. Eric Liddell replied, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Where in your life do you feel that? Where in your life do you feel that deep down sense of not just God’s presence, but of His pleasure? John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us abundant life – and that abundance is connected to why we are here; to why we were created.
Sometimes Bonnie asks me the question, “If I could do anything in my life, anything at all, what would it be?” It is a challenge that is answered out of what we do with Jesus every day. If we answer that question from our self (outside of Jesus); out of our wants and desires, we not only miss that connection we have to the eternal, but we misunderstand what is at the heart of happiness. There’s that bumper sticker that says “He who dies with the most toys wins”, and how empty and sad is that? We need to connect to our creation in Jesus, to the purpose that Philippians 3:12 states that we were laid hold of by Christ for. It is out of that purpose, that relationship with our Creator, that we can answer that question and find true contentment and happiness. Praise the Lord in and through your life.
2) The Psalmist then opens up the location of praise to the mighty expanse – in the whole world around us. The second part of this first verse is connected to the first. As we praise God in our life, in who we are, we will begin to praise Him wherever we go. Remember those verses from Psalm 139? Whether heaven or hell, whether light or dark, God is there with us and knows us in those places. His promise again and again in the Scriptures comes forth that He will never leave us nor forsake us. And so we have Eric Liddell reminding us in his own words that which we have come to know as being “missional”. Worship is co-existent with life. He said, “We are all missionaries. Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ, or we repel them from Christ.” Where is the hope in Christ, if it does not come from us? Who will share Jesus with our neighbour if we do not? Who will help the homeless if we do not join?
Praising God is about recognizing God’s worth, about living within His priorities, His kingdom. His is a Kingdom of Grace, so we extend that Kingdom of Grace wherever we are. Our mission field is the world around us. Our reach is extended through the missions programs of our churches and of our families as they go places we cannot. They become extensions of our faith, of our witness as we pray. God is so great and mighty and what a privilege to be found useful by Him because of His grace. And this is the next point, which is both obvious and mysterious at the same time.
3) For His deeds – He has done mighty things! As we read the OT stories we see God at work down through the ages. One of the 2 courses offered this fall which we are facilitating here is Tracing the Story of God in the Bible. You can see God at work in history, His love and grace at every turn. You also see righteous judgement which flows out of His holiness. Those deeds are obvious, and the people God used, well, there’s the mystery. Abraham founded a nation, but told Pharaoh Sarah was his sister because he was afraid. David’s sins are legendary. Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land because of his sins. Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead when caught in a lie. The mystery is that God uses ordinary people, people who struggle not just with small things, but big things. God chose to use a person to help found two world-wide charismatic movements back in the late 60’s even though he struggled with homosexuality. Nobody could deny God’s power was there, but why him? A Campus Crusade for Christ worker struggled with that, because he did all the right things and said all the right things, and went to all the right places, but he didn’t receive the same kind of power from God. God is Sovereign, and His grace unfathomable.
Never compare yourself to another, but look to God for who you are and where you are going. That is the truth that comes out of this. It also helps us to understand perhaps God’s greatest work – Salvation. God has done a work in you that is better than any of us deserved. That is grace, and He offered it while we were yet sinners. And God is still doing that work – whether you are 6 or 86. Praise God for saving us from our sins, for deliverance from our bondage to sin. Ezekiel 36:26 talks about God removing our heart of stone, and replacing it with a heart of flesh. Romans 6:20 talks about us being slaves to sin, and it is from this bondage we are saved. Salvation is not just eternal life – it is much bigger than that. Our salvation is to result in sanctification; to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Jesus Christ; to be changed so that we may love more completely. For those who think love is mamby-pamby, you couldn’t be more wrong. Have another look at the tough love in the life of Jesus; of the tough love of God as He bared His holy arm in the Old Testament. Stand up, take a stand, love, and praise the Lord.
4) With instruments – stuff at hand. Lastly, we are encouraged to make some noise; a joyful noise about our faith. Half the Psalm (3 verses) focuses on this. It is ironic that probably more churches have split over the issue of music than any other thing in the last 50 years. Look at the words: trumpet, harp and lyre, timbrel and dancing, stringed instruments and pipe, and cymbals… twice. How can we allow the differences of culture break our fellowship? It ultimately doesn’t matter what we use, as long as in sincerity we give it to God. Practically anything can be an instrument, a tool in praise to god. Eric Liddell used his ability to run as a means of both worship and outreach. My twin brother Dan uses his fondness of remote control planes to connect with unbelievers so that he may be a bit of spiritual salt in their lives. Whenever we come against differences we need to find what is most important. God has said it is not the sacrifices nor the offerings, nor the buildings or programs that pleases Him. It is the heart that is after Him. Let’s make it our goal this year to echo that verse that challenges us in whatever we do, in word or deed, to do all to the glory of God. Whatever it is we are involved with, do it to reveal who God is. Do it to reveal God’s character in you. Speak with blessings to those around you that you may glorify His name.
Whatever your circumstances, whatever your situation, praise the Lord.
Listen to this encouragement from James 1: 2 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” Know that God is sovereign; that He who began a good work in you will finish it. Know that God is in control. Live your life within those parameters and God will use you greatly. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”