Story Behind the Hymn
What does one of America’s favorite hymns, the dying words of a controversial preacher, and an Olympic gold medalist have in common?
Both lived what they preached.
Dudley Tyng: An outspoken charismatic 29-year-old with a passion for God’s Word, strongly influenced those around him from a young age.
Eric Liddell: As a 22-year-old athlete in the 1924 Paris Olympics, Eric Liddell refused to run his 100-meter heat because the preliminaries were run on Sunday. Instead, he ran the 200-meter and the 400-meter races. He prayed that Jesus would be glorified when he ran. Against all odds, the Lord glorified Himself by giving Liddell the gold in both races—even setting a new world record.
Both were controversial.
Tyng: In the mid-1800s, he boldly preached his firm, though controversial, stand against slavery, encouraging some and angering others. The anger grew so intense that he resigned from the pastorate of a large church.
Liddell: Like Tyng, Liddell’s conviction was respected by some and upset others. Eric ran for his country, Scotland, that had never won an Olympic medal. Many thought he should place the good of his country over his conviction not to run on Sunday.
Both were powerful preachers.
Tyng: Tyng preached to crowds of up to 5,000 people at the YMCA. In 1858 he gave a sermon where 1,000 men committed their lives to Christ. It is said that he declared in his message, “I would rather that this right arm was amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God’s message.”
Liddell: Liddell touched the hearts and lives of everyone around him. He spoke with a simple authority because he lived a life devoted to God. His straightforward, authentic preaching and lifestyle made him a powerful preacher.
Both lived a short life.
Tyng: A few weeks after his message at the YMCA, Tyng was visiting the countryside when his arm caught in the cogs of a corn thrasher. It became infected and he died. As he lay dying, he encouraged his father to, “Stand up for Jesus, and tell my brethren to stand up for Jesus.”
Liddell: After graduation, Eric followed in his parents’ footsteps as a missionary to China, becoming an evangelist during WWII. He was captured and sent to prison camp where he held Bible studies and devotions, organized athletic events, gave talks, and shared the love of God with everyone in the camp. He was a friend to all. At the age of 43, he succumbed to a brain tumor. His last word: “surrender [to Jesus].”