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Monday, July 30, 2012

Run the Race

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12: 1-2 NIV)

The opening ceremonies for the 2012 summer Olympic games in London included a comedy skit about the theme-song of the movie Chariots of Fire, which was about a group of British runners who attended the 1924 Olympics in France.  While I laughed at the comedy, I found myself thinking how great it was that the entire world would soon be revisiting that movie, and Eric Liddell's testimony would again have an opportunity to reach hearts. 

Read about Him on Wikipedia
His name came up in the Beijing Olympic coverage, as well, because he was born in China and died in a Japanese internment camp there, near the end of World War II.  He wasn't just an Olympian, a gold medalist, or a world record holder; Eric Liddell was a missionary, and I think that in some ways he is still ministering for the Lord.

I can't help but think that this is what he would have wanted, especially in today's world, where competing on Sunday could be seen as the least of our offenses, and bigger issues like traditional family and abortion are shaking the church to its very foundations.  In the end, Liddell's reason for holding out on that race was not just "the principle of the thing."  He wasn't doing this out of an obsession with keeping ceremony or being legalistic.  His decision not to compete in the races on Sunday was motivated by his deep conviction that pleasing God is much more important than pleasing men.  He did not want to place his sport (or indeed any part of his life and work) above his God, even if it cost him everything.  Though he had invested a great deal of time in racing, he didn't want to say, "God will understand," because he believed that he was made to serve God, and God was not made to serve him.

This conviction had the unexpected side-effect of distinguishing him in history.  Others have won gold medals, and his world-record has long-since been outstripped by others.  Many of those athletes have been forgotten as more have followed in their place--and yet, we still remember Eric Liddell as a distinguished Christian, and an athlete secondly.

This is a challenge to Christians today.  As we go out and run our respective races (whether we are training for the track, or nailing down roofing, or sitting in a cubicle), we should remember to run our race as for the Lord, and not just for ourselves.  Indeed, it is all for God's glory.

For more about Eric Liddell, I glowingly recommend the biography, Run to Glory, by Ellen Caughey.