Thursday, February 28, 2013

Eric Liddell: Finish the Race

Most of us are familiar with the inspiring story of Eric Liddell, Olympic runner and missionary to China.  However, our kids may not have grown up watching Chariots of Fire. John W. Keddie's book in the Trailblazers series, Eric Liddell: Finish the Race is a wonderful narrative of Liddell's life. Fascinating, action-packed and detailed, Keddie's writing provides a clear sense of Liddell's strong faith, humble personality and athletic prowess.
Keddie's biography begins by chronicling Eric's early years, family and school experiences. Eric's college days were spent learning, playing rugby and running. As Eric became more and more successful in running, doors were opened to him to speak at evangelistic meetings. His quiet faith and humble nature impressed his listeners, even though he wasn't as eloquent as other evangelists.

Eric's running finally earned him a spot on the 1924 Olympic track team. Unfortunately, races for Eric's best events were scheduled for Sunday. Eric had grown up observing the Sabbath, which meant no work, rough play or sports were allowed. Rather, the Sabbath was a time for thanking God, reflection, and spending time with family. Eric had to make a hard decision--would he run on Sunday, or would he give up his spot and run harder events? Plot Spoilers Ahead: Not only did Eric stick to his convictions and run the 400 instead, he won the gold medal and ran it in world record time!

Although Eric could have remained in Europe and run in the next Olympics, he couldn't wait to join his father and the rest of his family as a missionary in China. Throughout Eric's ministry, marriage and eventual internment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he remained faithful to the Lord, the Sabbath and evangelism. He was an inspiration to many, including young sports enthusiasts, Chinese nationals, other interred foreigners, and the Scottish people back home. Eric was sorely missed upon his untimely death in 1945.

Keddie's book includes discussion questions for each chapter, a timeline of Eric's life, and a spelling guide for Chinese places. Interestingly, a more simple version of Keddie's book was translated into Chinese, and distributed in China during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

What I Like:  Eric Liddell's story is a great encouragement to do the right thing and trust God for the results. In this day and age, it is common to play sports, grocery shop or catch up on laundry and homework on Sundays. Liddell's commitment to keep the Sabbath holy, even with the Olympics at stake, is quite a challenge.

Keddie does a remarkable job of handling Eric's tragic death in an encouraging and uplifting manner, continually reminding readers the glory of Heaven awaits believers.

The discussion questions at the back of the book are thought-provoking and would work just as well for junior-high or college-age readers.

What I Dislike:  There are a couple of awkward phrases, but nothing too distracting. The book is small, with small print. This keeps the cost down, but may be off-putting for some readers.

Overall Rating:  Very Good

Age Appeal:  9 and up

Publisher Info: Christian Focus Publications, 2011; ISBN: 978-184550590-5; Paperback, 159 pages, $8.99

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