||Ephesians 6:10 to end
We had a big snow the day of his funeral, enabling me to watch more of it than intended. Winston Churchill was a great man, no doubt; the scope of his activities makes me gasp. He served under six English monarchs; participated in Indian wars before the turn of the century—wrote an account critical of the Generals; fought in Africa—took part in the cavalry charge; the Boer War—escaped; was involved in Cuba insurrection. For 60 years he served in the House of Commons, changing political parties twice on matters of principle; Made First Lord of the Admiralty during WWI—fought in trenches. Authored 30 volumes on the history of Gt. Britain; his greatest triumphs occurring after the age of 65. With all that, it’s sad to reflect on the futility and finiteness of this man’s works that we observe around us as he returns to dust. Because of his efforts, the world was saved from one tyranny, but others continue; one follows another, then another, and another.
Of Churchill’s many virtues, he is to be most admired for his outstanding strength-- his courage—physical, intellectual and moral. He had something to say on the subject himself. He said that ‘courage is the virtue that makes all the other virtues possible’. How true. For Christians courage opens the way to greater faith; it gives us the ability to be proud of the gospel, not ashamed. Courage is the engine that powers us to turn from evil and follow the law ‘love thy neighbor’. Do you think Christians have great courage? The chapter we read in Ephesians is all about this; does it describe anybody you know? Suggest you look again at chapter 6, beginning at verse 10. Paul himself prayed that he might speak boldly—courageously--to make known the mystery of the gospel (v. 19). Now consider these questions and ask yourself, how many people around you don’t know what you believe? How often have you remained silent for lack of courage because you are ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Have you failed to condemn evil? Do you pray for courage?
Let’s reconsider the life of Winston Churchill to see what it was that gave him courage. In his early life he was pretty much ignored by his parents. He attended inhospitable, drafty schools and was a poor student. His parents were in the social service and didn’t have much time for him. You could call him a neglected child. His upbringing was one that would make or break you, but what it did for him—it made him tough. Courage is born of adversity, or more accurately, courage is born of faith which is born of adversity. Churchill’s courage grew out of faith—faith in himself and the British Empire.
The popular picture of the Christian is of one who is sanctimonious, soft spoken, bloodless, of effete temperament. Christians are thought of as having a different set of emotions, and like most popular conceptions, unreal. This false perception has its effect on us, and we conjure up a vision of what we’re supposed to be like. Consider the parade of characters in the 11th of Hebrews who were so courageous that, in Daniel’s case, God stopped the mouth of lions. Stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, they remained strong in the faith that gave them courage--a faith and courage that was often born and strengthened by adversity. In the Bible, people we consider courageous are called ‘faithful’.
Most of us have had very little adversity. Does that mean we have
very little faith and courage? Not if you have the quality that makes any one person successful, be it scientist, statesman, musician, or escape artist: that quality is will power. It is the characteristic we must have to make all the difference between success and failure. In the way of the world it will promote self-glory, but in the heart of the Christian, obedience. We see many figures in the Bible narratives who were pleasing to God: faithful Abraham, David, the apple of His eye, and Christ, His only begotten son. We see them, by their own will power, summon strength to do the unpopular thing—the unusual thing—the thing they did not want to do. By repeated efforts they established habits, bringing about a remarkable change in their lives. Surely you don’t think Winston Churchill wrote his books by starting each day doing the things he didn’t want to do. What was his motivation? From an early age he developed a positive attitude--an attitude of exerting himself. His sustained interest in the country he loved made the exercise of will easy.
If we act today and set about to strengthen our faith at every opportunity and assume a positive outlook by exhibiting a healthy attitude toward the world around us, we can better face the terrible forces of circumstances that will undoubtedly come. Crises such as loss of position, illness, poverty, death—can bring us to ruin when we lack a resolute faith. Courage is not belligerence, eccentricity, narrowness, or pettiness; these things will only drag us down to failure. A strong faith, born of adversity, makes it easy for us to apply ourselves to the action God requires of us, that we may see the joy that is set before us (Heb 12. 1, 2). A loyal and steadfast faith in God’s promises will result not only in the satisfaction that comes from a life well lived, but will reap the reward of endless life, by the grace of God. Our exercise of will doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in the world. It does before God.
Well done thou good and faithful servant. . .enter thou into the joy of thy Lord