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The man who would not run on Sunday

The man who would not run on Sunday


The man who would not run on Sunday

If you have seen the movie Chariots of Fire you will know about the British athlete Eric Liddell. At the time of the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France, he was one of the fastest men in the world and a favourite to win the gold in the 100 metres sprint. Then the news came out: the preliminary heats were going to be run on a Sunday. And very quietly, without any fuss, he said, “I’m not running on a Sunday.”

His decision sent shock waves throughout Britain. A gold medal in the 100 metres was regarded as “the jewel of the Games”, and in people’s eyes Liddell had simply thrown it away. Cruelly and hurtfully, they even called him a traitor to his country.

So what on earth was Liddell thinking about? Why was Sunday not a day for competitive sports? And what does his decision have to say to us, 90 years on?

It’s helpful to begin by thinking about Sunday as the Lord’s Day. It is called that in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, and indicates to us whose day it is – not ours, but the Lord’s. It is a day that he has marked off from all the other days of the week as special. And as we read through the New Testament and look at church history we find Christian people keeping it special – fencing it off, as it were, and using it as far as possible for the purposes for which the Lord has given it. It is a day for resting from the activities of the other six days, for worship, for Christian fellowship, and for the service of others.

It is also a very valuable gift. To keep one day different from all the other days is not a burden (or at least it shouldn’t be!) but a blessing, and generations of Christians have found that the more carefully they fence off the day the more of a blessing it is to them.

But there is often a cost. So many sporting events are held on a Sunday now that Christians who are committed to keeping the Lord’s Day holy may find that the limit to which they can go in their sport is all too quickly reached. They may well be unable to achieve the success levels of which they are evidently capable.

Nor is sport the only area where sacrifice may have to be made. The Christian who would honour the Lord by keeping Sunday special may find himself in exactly the same position in regard to employment opportunities, or participation in recitals, musicals, plays, and other performances.

The Lord himself would assure us, however, that we will not be the poorer for such sacrifice. His promise is that “those who honour me I will honour” (1 Sam.2:30). Anything we give up for him he will certainly in some way or other make up to us.

So Eric Liddell found. On the morning of the 400 metres final – not Liddell’s best distance – one of the British team masseurs passed him a note which he read at the stadium: “In the old book it says, ‘He that honours me I will honour’. Wishing you the best of success always”. And Liddell got it, too, not only winning the gold but setting a new world record!

I cannot say how the Lord will honour you. But in some way he will if you faithfully honour him. It may be very costly to do so, but you have the promise of God himself that those who honour him he will honour. God will certainly bless any sacrifice that is made for him and for his special Day.

David Campbell Elder Grace Baptist ChurchDavid Campbell
Grace Baptist Church
777 W North Street
Carlisle, PA 17013