The British public seldom accords hero status to its political leaders. Occasionally exceptions are made. Sir Winston Churchill is one of those rare exceptions. Fifty years after his death his memory seems to be acquiring legendary status. Despite more objective and critical historical assessments of his career, the iconic war leader’s reputation still remains firmly, perhaps stubbornly, intact.
That reputation is founded more than anything on Churchill’s refusal to quit. His famous “Never give in” speech at Harrow school in 1941, encapsulates the spirit of the man and his famed bulldog tenacity.
Churchill’s life paralleled the rise of Marxism and the eventual triumph of communism in Russia.
What happened in Russia seems now like a foregone conclusion. Less than a decade earlier, however, a successful Russian revolution seemed as unlikely as Britain emerging victorious from war with Hitler did when Churchill made his famous Harrow speech. In fact a Marxist revolution anywhere in the world seemed so unlikely that Marx’s daughter Paula and his son-in-law Paul Lafargue both took their own lives in 1909. Yet within eight years everything would change.
Looking at the days we live in, it can sometimes be hard to work out whether we’re living in the best of times or the worst of times. It sometimes depends on who you are talking too!
Having said that, there is probably quite broad agreement that the church finds itself presented with opportunities not seen for many years. At the same time she is facing pressures unequalled in the last couple of centuries.
The sense of further pressures yet to come and the developing climate of hostility can cause us to lose long term vision and replace it with both short term and long term despair.
But the reality is that we simply do not know what is around the corner, whether it is just around the corner or whether the corner is a very long corner! We do not know what God will do to change things.Five years from now the chaotic consequences of our social policy could mean that Britain is even more broken than it is now. Or we could be in the greatest revival in history. Or both. We just do not know.
We do know that whatever the circumstances, God will be with us. And when things are not going our way, we need to hold on to hope, hope in God. When we struggle to have vision for the future, the alternative is not despair, but determination, fuelled by hope in the God of history.
Paul knew about this kind of hope and determination better than any of us.Living at a time when the church was experiencing pressure way beyond anything that the contemporary Western church knows, Paul boldly stated his faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. And because of that faith he went on to declare:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.16-18)
Whatever the short term or long term future brings, we can be certain that future glory awaits us. Even if things get worse. Even if the church finds itself under greater pressure. Even if discrimination against Christians turns into persecution. It’s always too soon to give in.