I reviewed this book for Christian Focus Publications in return for a copy of Run the Race.
The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!
~ Psalm 16:3 (NLT)
Human beings love heroes. It is the reason that comic books movies are so popular, is it not? Personally, I love the stories of the Christian saints who have gone before us. It is in the reading of their lives that I am reminded yet again that God has fitted each one of us with spiritual gifts, talents and abilities. He calls us to use those gifts to glorify Him and to grow His Kingdom. In reading the stories of those who served God with their whole lives, I remember that only God can see the impact our lives will have on those around us, and upon history – if we truly follow Him. Those are the lessons that I wish to share with my children, and the reason we read so many biographies together…..
The boys and I just finished reading Christian Focus Publication’s newest addition to the Trailblazers series, Eric Liddell: Finish the Race by John W. Keddie. The book is written for 9-14 year olds, with a recommendation to read it aloud for ages 7-9. My boys happen to be 9 and almost 8, so we read it as a family.
According to one of Eric Liddell’s colleagues, Liddell’s favorite expression was “A God-controlled life”. Author John Keddie certainly paints the picture of a man whose life was God-controlled. Eric Liddell was born to missionary parents in China, and sent to Britain for education with his brother. It was in Britain that Liddell made two things clear to the world: One, he could run. Two, he loved Jesus and there would be no running, for him, on the Sabbath.
Much of Finish the Race focuses on Liddell’s Olympic career, and the stand he took for observing the Sabbath. Liddell began to speak as a witness for Christ, drawing crowds as a result of his success on the track. As I read, I found myself wondering if all the uproar over the Sabbath was truly called for. I found myself pondering the fact that we refer often to the Ten Commandments, yet in Western Christianity we have a tendency to hold the Sabbath in such low regard. I found myself agreeing with Liddell that this is, indeed, an important observance ~ not in legalism, but out of respect for our Lord.
Liddell committed himself to missions in China, rejoining his family in Tientsin. He was to serve in China for the next 20 years. During that time he married and had two daughters. In the midst of World War II and the attack on China by the Japanese, Liddell sent his wife (pregnant with their 3rd daughter) and his children to safety in Canada. Liddell stayed behind, ministering to both the Chinese and to the other missionaries. Eventually, he was imprisoned by the Japanese in an internment camp. Liddell and the other missionaries imprisoned with him manufactured a highly structured little society within the internment camp, caring for each other in every way. Eric Liddell never did see his family again. He died in the internment camp, rejoined to the Lord he loved so much.
Though there were some exciting moments in the book (a daring rescue in Japanese territory, his Olympic runs, and the prison camp), much of the narrative focuses on Liddell’s character in Christ. What becomes apparent is that Eric Liddell was faithful, steady, and committed. He loved Jesus with his whole life, and he lived out that love in service to those around him. Eric Liddell’s eyes truly were focused on Jesus as he ran with endurance the race which was set before him.
Despite the steady nature of Liddell’s character, and thus the plot of the book, my children begged me to continue reading each day. They were mesmerized by the life of a man who loved Jesus enough to take a stand.
Especially helpful (and present in all of Christian Focus’ Trailblazers series) are the questions and Scripture suggestions for each chapter found in the “Thinking Further” section in the back of the book. “Thinking Further” sparked some interesting discussions for us.
John W. Keddie, author of Finish the Race, is a minister who has also written a biography about Liddel (for adults) entitled Running the Race: Eric Liddell, Olympic Champion and Missonary, as well as consulting on the film “Chariots of Fire”. Most interestingly, Keddie came to faith in Christ after reading a booklet written about Eric Liddell. Keddie was an athlete and found Liddell’s stand for the Sabbath intriguing. For Keddie, that was the beginning of a journey that ultimately led to a commitment to Jesus.
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Following the end of our reading of Finish the Race, I asked my seven-year-old, “Why do you think Eric Liddell stayed in China when he knew it was so likely that he would be imprisoned? Why didn’t he go to Canada with his wife and two little girls? Don’t you think he would have liked to see his youngest little girl be born?”
I waited, curious to find out what my little man-in-the-making would say. He narrowed his eyes and set his face, as he does when he is about to make a profound statement. “Well, you know, Mom… those were very dangerous times,” he said while nodding his head,”and there were people who needed to be rescued. Sometimes rescuing is more important than leaving.” There you have it. That is the reason I read biographies of Christian heroes to my boys. John W. Keddie’s Eric Liddell is an excellent addition to our collection and we enjoyed it very much.
Purchase Eric Liddel: Finish the Race and the other biographies in the Trailblazers biography series for 8-12 year olds at
Other Christian Focus Trail Blazer & Torchbearer books reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- Brother Andrew: Behind Enemy Lines
- Fanny Crosby: The Blind Girl’s Song
- Nate Saint: Operation Auca
- Michael Faraday: Spiritual Dynamo
- Mary of Orange: At the Mercy of Kings
- John Stott: The Humble Leader
- Titanic The Ship of Dreams: John Harper
- John Knox: The Sharpened Sword
More Books for 8-12 Year Olds Reviewed at Thinking Kids
- History Lives Christian History Series by Brandon & Mindy Withrow
- Guarding the Treasure: How God’s People Preserve God’s Word by Linda Finlayson
- Tough Questions About the Bible by Joel R. Beeke
- The New Astronomy Book by Danny R. Faulkner
- God’s Special Tent: The Story of the Tabernacle and What Came After by Jean Stapleton
Thinking Kids Book Review Indexes
Thinking Kids Pinterest Book Boards
- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.