What do you call a man who lifts two 85-pound dumbbells with his little fingers, hammers a twenty-penny nail through a two-inch board with his fist or hoists eight football players weighing more than 2,000 pounds combined? A modern-day Samson? A wonder of nature? The world’s strongest man? How about “nothing without the strength of Christ?”
That’s how Paul Anderson described himself. “I am the world’s strongest man, but I can’t get through one day without the strength of Jesus Christ,” he would tell a room full of engrossed young men.
“Those who felt that Christianity was for sissies changed their minds after hearing Paul,” wrote Wayne Atcheson in his 1994 book, Impact for Christ. “He made an unforgettable impression and impact.”
Anderson won the Olympic gold medal in weightlifting in the super heavyweight division at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia. Facing a 104-degree fever that seriously jeopardized his chances, he called on the strength of God on his last attempt and subsequently lifted the bar over his head.
In 1957, in his hometown of Toccoa, Ga., Anderson squatted under a table that, with the contents on the table, weighed 6,270 pounds – the equivalent of more than 31 average-sized adult men – and lifted it off the ground. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the “greatest weight ever raised by a human being,” bettering the old record by more than 2,000 pounds.
Anderson was not a tall man, though, at 5-9 and 375 pounds, he probably wasn’t picked on too often on the street corner. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he traveled throughout the country showing feats of strength and then sharing the Source of his true strength.
“Paul was a willing servant,” Atcheson wrote. “FCA audiences in the four corners of the United States have sat before his amazing feats of strength and have heard his clear presentation of the Gospel. He was a force like none other for the Lord.”
Kidney diseases took his physical strength in the early 1980s, and eventually took his life in 1994. By then he could trade all other monikers for the one he most wanted to hear.
No doubt, as he took his first step into Heaven, he heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
– Excerpt from the book “Sharing the Victory: 50 Years, One Mission.”