Those words were spoken by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in October of 1941 when France had fallen to Hitler and the German dictator had his foot firmly planted on the neck of the European continent. On the 29th of October Churchill traveled to Harrow, his prep school, to address his alma mater in one of Britain’s darkest hours. His words are forever etched into the ink of history: “This is the lesson: Never give in! Never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
Florence Chadwick once did as she was attempting to swim the 26 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island. After 15 hours her view of what was ahead of her was blocked by a densely settled fog and, becoming confused, she abandoned the effort only to discover that she had quit a mile from the shore. Two months later the famed female swimmer attempted the feat again and, though once again a heavy fog blocked her view and tested her orientation, she was successful, becoming the first woman to swim the channel. Chadwick said even though she could not see the shore, she kept a mental picture of it in her mind enabling her to forge ahead even when tempted to quit.
Have you ever been tempted to “throw in the towel?” May I address pastors, missionaries and Christian workers for a few moments? (All others may feel free to listen in!) Most all of us have been tested and even tempted to at least question whether we ought to continue what we feel is our calling. Sometimes it is because of failure in reaching a goal or finishing a project. At other times we may have been betrayed by someone that we had trusted and had considered a dear friend. You may have been challenged by another leader (deacon, church member) to consider whether you might ought to pull up stakes. It may be dismal circumstances that have caused you to even second guess your calling. Family members may be on the sidelines urging you to spend your time and talents in a more profitable way of providing for your family. The list could go on ad infinitum. We probably have all been at one or more of these junctures. What to do?
One option might be the one that Indianapolis Star sports reporter Bob Kravitz shared in the July 31, 2004, issue of the Star commenting on Boxer Mike Tyson’s fourth-round knock-out blow by little known British heavy weight boxer Danny Thompson who pummeled Tyson with a flurry of hits that sent the once feared champ onto the ropes with blood streaming down his face: “The strange and sordid saga of Iron Mike ended in the most ignominious fashion possible Friday night—Tyson sprawled against the ropes, a trickle of blood coming from above his right eye. He could have gotten up before the count of 10. But as he looked beseechingly at the referee, as he gazed around the ring as if taking stock of his entire life, he bore the look of a man who didn’t want to get up.” In other words, Kravitz and others who witnessed the debacle downfall of the defeated once-dreaded heavy-weight champion, concluded that he threw the towel in having had enough. He quit.
You can too, by the way. One mentor told his disciple: “Go ahead and quit.” But don’t expect to find any peace or tranquility. The minute you quit, if you have been called of God, His Holy Spirit will begin to dog you and make you more miserable than you were before you tried to quit.
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., said: “You will never be happy off the trail of God’s purpose. A man that is called of God to preach may do something else. He may go to congress. He may be governor. He may be a United States senator. He may become president! But no man was ever happy who left the trail of God’s purpose. Stay on the trail and do the will of God, or you will never be happy in this world! There is no such thing as contentment and happiness outside the will of God. And there is nothing that can be done to you that will take out of your heart the joy of living as long as you are on the trail of the divine purpose.”
Charles Spurgeon weighed in thusly: “Opportunities to return, as long as you are in this body, will be with you to the very edge of Jordan! You will meet with temptations when you sit on the banks of the last river waiting for the summons to cross. It may be that your fiercest temptations may come even then!”
I have witnessed some of God’s surest saints, waiting for their crossing, succumb to Satan’s cage-rattling as the father of lies tries to get them to doubt that what they have preached and practiced for a life-time will not stand them in good stead when they board the boat for life’s final crossing of the bar. Not often does it happen, but it has and it will. If you are the tempted, just let the British Bulldog’s words flood your mind, heart, and soul: “Never, never, never give in!” Or, better yet, cling to the words of the Master, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” (Hebs.13:5) remembering His final promise just before ascending back to the Father, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20) Good enough!
So, buckle up. Stand firm. Refuse to quit. John Milton could have let his blindness drive him into paralysis, but it was after he became blind that he wrote his greatest poem. Sir Walter Scott was kicked by a horse and confined to his house for many days before writing “Lay of the Last Minstrel.” Those who have accomplished great feats have often done so after having been slammed to life’s mat, sometimes bloodied and bruised, but with an indominable spirit that would not let them wallow in pity; His grace got them up and on the go again.
So, my dear Brother, Sister, fellow Servant and Joint-Heir with God’s Son, just keep on keeping on!
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.” (anon.)
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)