This week marked the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill’s burial. He was the only common man to be granted a state funeral in the twentieth century. People travelled from all over the world to watch the event. One man who had travelled from America had taken out a loan to be there and when asked why he had come said “I think history will show that Winston Churchill was one of the greatest leaders in the modern world”. It didn’t matter which political persuasion you were, there was no doubt that Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill commanded the respect of all. His leadership in the Second World War had taken the nation from a possible place of defeat through to victory.
Winston had many roles throughout his life. He was involved in politics for over 50 years. He served in the British Army as an Officer in British India, the Sudan and the Second World War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and wrote books about his campaigns. He was an artist. He won the Nobel prize for Literature and was the first person to be made an Honorary citizen of the United States. He held many positions of Office with both the Conservative and Liberal party. He twice held the Lord of the Admiralty, once during the First World War and then again in the Second World War. However, his first attempt came to an abrupt end with the disastrous Gallipoli campaign which caused his departure from government. The 1930s saw him out of office and in the political wilderness. He became outspoken against Nazi Germany and campaigned for the re-armament of the British Services. Winston was not without his failings, in fact several times he failed, but he was very resolute as a person and would get up again and face the odds. He became Prime Minister in 1940, taking over from Neville Chamberlain who himself stood down and recommended Winston Churchill because he believed he would rally the nation and the political parties together and lead the nation to victory.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)
Winston was not a man to shy away from responsibility. He was always ready to take up the mantle when the moment provided the opportunity. There are many people that would attest to his inspirational leadership. Often he would climb to the roof of his Westminster office in the midst of a battle raging in the skies overhead to see how the defences of the Capital were holding up. He was a man that led by example. He had dark days when he battled with depression but always had the ability to raise himself above the present crisis and look for the solutions.
After the war he lost office but re-gained it in the elections in October 1951 and was in office until 1955. David Cameron said of him the other day “not only was he a great man but a great Britain” In fact in a National Poll in 2002 he was named “The Greatest Britain of all time”
There are those that said Winston would never become Prime Minister; he was too outspoken and had made enemies in all the three major parties over the years and in his past life he had made several serious blunders. However, “cometh the hour, cometh the man”. ..on 10th May 1940, in a meeting called by the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill was appointed Prime Minister by the King of England. It is interesting that one of his most rallying speeches was never actually broadcast to the nation during the war years. He delivered it in the Houses of parliament when he came to power in 1940, but it was later felt that it was too significant never to be heard again so it was recorded and broadcast to the nation in 1949.
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” (Winston Churchill)
There is no doubt that throughout the course of Winston Churchill’s life, he could have succumbed to the failures that had beset him. He could have been a man that was defined by his failings rather than his leadership during the Second World War. We all are able to look back and see times in our lives when we have failed or should have taken some other course of action, but Paul says in Philippians chapter 3:13…
“I do not regard myself as having hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul had many things in his past that he could point to that could have held him back. He had persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ and yet now was fulfilling the call of God upon his life as an Apostle to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just like Paul we too can have things in our past that could stop us from taking hold of our future. Our past can define us, but we can press on to what God has for us.
Right here, right now, at this moment in time, we as a Congregation are presented with a significant defining moment. It is our chance to “seize the day”, it is our hour; will we like Winston Churchill take up the challenge and walk into our destiny? We may not lead a nation, but we can on an individual level and together, play a significant role in helping to fulfil the vision that God has put before us. This is not Phil’s vision, but God’s vision given Phil and the Leadership.
In the war there was a famous poster “Your country needs you”.
Maybe the poster could be re-written for us to say “the Kingdom of God needs you”. As it says in John 4:23 “but the hour cometh and now is”. This is our hour, this is our time, this is our moment.
More Winston quotes:
“Attitude is a little things that makes a big difference.”
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
“Never, never, never give up.”
“You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.”