Just a few blocks away from London’s Westminster Abbey, between St. James Park and Parliament Square, I finally found Clive Steps on King Charles Street. Descending the old stone steps, well below the city streets, I entered an austere concrete bunker. Light bulbs hung from wires, maps of Europe covered the walls, and different-colored rotary phones littered the desks that were scattered around the room. It was exactly as it had been more than 60 years ago. It was damp and cold, the same as it was in those dark days in 1940. These were the British Government’s war rooms during the Nazi bombing of London, in the summer and autumn of that year. Who many considered a failure, I had come to see where a man had become transformed.
Winston Spencer Churchill had spent the majority of his adult life in politics, following in his father’s footsteps. He had once been considered a rising star, but as the years had passed, he was all but forgotten. His many mistakes and miscalculations had mounted. He was often considered inept, impetuous, out of step with the times, and most of all, unwilling to listen to reasonable men. By the 1930s, he had become an outlaw in the House of Commons.
Even as Adolf Hitler and Germany’s Third Reich rose in military power, all the major nations in Europe, influenced strongly by Great Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, only wanted peace. With more than 37 million casualties in less than two decades before, memories of the carnage of the First World War ran long and deep in the hearts of Europeans. The “War to End All Wars” had been the soil that gave rise to a new breed of politicians: men who would do virtually anything, even compromising principle, to avoid war. The Roaring Twenties, the League of Nations, and the new international treaties had fueled visions of lasting peace.
Churchill was out of step with the social and political times. He hated what was happening, and despised the pacifist policies of England and France. Useless to the peace-at-all-costs social and political status quo, very few cared for the old man’s rhetoric.
As the years passed, Churchill spent his days writing, building ponds and walls at his residence and painting. His speeches in the House of Commons decrying Hitler and rising Fascism in Europe were often heard by less than a dozen backbenchers. Lady Astor, a leading lady of England, upon being asked about Churchill replied, “Oh, he’s finished.”[i] Mocked in the press[ii] and shouted down by students at Edinburgh University,[iii] his political career seemed doomed. A book about his waning career was even published in 1931—The Tragedy of Winston Churchill.[iv]
But as the Nazi war machine grew in strength, as nation after nation was enslaved, all of Europe was engulfed in war. On May 10, 1940, as The Last Lion, (the title of the famous three-volume work on Churchill by William Manchester), Churchill became the top leader of England. With Chamberlain’s ignominious resignation, Churchill became Prime Minister. He was 65 years old.
With all of Western Europe now in his bloodthirsty, sadistic clutches, Hitler set his sights on taking over England. What he hadn’t bargained for were the lionhearted convictions of Winston Churchill. On July 14, 1940, in a BBC Broadcast, Churchill spelled out his beliefs:
“This is no war of chieftains or of princes, of dynasties or national ambition; it is a war of peoples and of causes. There are vast numbers, not only in this island but in every land, who will render faithful service in this war but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded. This is a war of the Unknown Warriors; but let all strive without failing in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted from our age.”[v]
Churchill would later be hailed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. In 1940 and 1949, Churchill was Time magazine’s Man of the Year. He would later speak of his bulldog mentality and love for a cause worth fighting for by saying,
“Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” October 29, 1941, Harrow School.
Few of us will ever be famous; none of us will ever see our visage on the cover of Time or Newsweek. But the courage and tenacity of Winston Churchill is a tribute to how God can use a person who will not give in to pressure, power, and petty attitudes. Are you living for a cause worth dying for? The greatest cause on earth is given by Jesus when He said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
(Luke 4:18-19, NKJV)
This is a mission worth living for. This is a mission worth dying for. If your mission in life isn’t worth dying for, then it certainly isn’t worth living for.
Never give in,
Steve Holt D.D. MA
[i] William Manchester, The Last Lion, vol 2, p. 85.
[iii] Ibid, p. 87.
[v] BBC Broadcast in London, July 14, 1940.