During the Paris Olympics in 1924, Scotsman Eric Liddell, a celebrated sprinter, was expected to win gold in the 100 meters. However, he discovered that the time trials for his event were going to fall on a Sunday, which he believed to be the Sabbath. (While he had the wrong day, he did have the right attitude about the Sabbath.) Even though he had relentlessly trained and his country had invested in him, he refused to run. This decision put him under immense pressure from politicians, teammates, and even some family. “God will understand,” they said. “Your country is counting on you! Do it just this one time!” But he said, “No. I can’t do it—not even once.”
Well, it turned out that Liddell could run in another event that did not conflict with his beliefs—the 400 meters. During the time trials, he didn’t perform well. Teammates wondered about his ability to secure a medal. But Liddell believed the results were in God’s hands, and just prior to running the final, he was handed a slip of paper from an American with a profound message on it: “Those who honor me, I will honor.” When the gun sounded, Liddell ran like he was possessed and broke the standing record to finish first!
Eric Liddell firmly believed in obeying God no matter the cost—and that meant following every one of His Ten Commandments, including the fourth.
For him the Sabbath commandment was no less important than the ones that say, “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery.” It’s very difficult for most people to wrap their minds around that idea, but I also believe it is absolutely true. Very few people, after accepting Christ, dispute nine of the Ten Commandments, but the fourth they often see as a “personal preference” or optional commandment. But it’s not just a recommendation from Moses; it’s the law of the Almighty.
The Bible tells us, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). The devil doesn’t care whether your sin is adultery or murder or Sabbath breaking, just as long as he can get you to sin and separate you from God.
He knows that in God’s view the Sabbath commandment is not any less important than the other nine. That’s why I believe it is the devil’s plan to erode our convictions through rationalizations and compromises so that when the big test of the last days comes, when we must choose whom we will worship on penalty of death, many people will have been so trained to compromise that they won’t be prepared to take a stand when it matters most.