Not everyone thinks that these are great days. But really, if you were given your choice, would you exchange this generation for any other? Would you want to live in any other age? Think of what is being accomplished these days. True, there are problems. But real leaders are never confounded because of problems. Men were made to surmount difficulties.
No challenge was ever greater than that of carrying the gospel to all the world in this hectic hour. If we but believe it, the challenge becomes the chance, the opposition the opportunity. Think of what Providence has provided as aids for the accomplishment of this high purpose. When Israel left Egypt, God made a sea dry land. But today not only a small sea but every ocean becomes a way and the air an avenue. Nothing is a barrier to God. No iron curtain can stifle His message of grace.
"Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle?" saith the Lord. "I would go through them, I would burn them together" (Isa. 27:4). How many times we have seen God accomplish what seemed to be the impossible.
The four words of our title were spoken by Sir Winston Churchill in a speech delivered to the boys at Harrow School in 1941. They sum up the spirit of this man who changed the history not only of his own nation but of the free world. Fifty years earlier he had sat in those same halls in Harrow; he had studied in those same rooms. Those were more or less politically quiet days. Now the world was at war. Cities were being bombed and danger lurked on every street. No one could tell what a day would bring forth. A tense and eager audience listened to him say:
Do not let us speak of darker days, let us rather speak of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.
One's attitude to danger is vital. Psychologists tell us that we do not run because we are afraid, but rather we are afraid because we run. Paul says, "Having done all, to stand. Stand therefore." With a course to defend, a man can rise to great heights. And Churchill's absolute dedication to a cause is an example to all who are called to leadership. Could we say it has a particular lesson for the ministry of the Advent Movement? In the darkest hours of the struggle when some were saying, "There is no use going on," the indomitable spirit of this man rose to the occasion. To him defeat was unthinkable; victory was certain, though it be through "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." Even in his teens he sensed that he was walking with destiny. He made enemies, as great leaders always do, but when he died official representatives from 113 nations walked behind his flag-draped coffin.
Many things about this man we could not emulate, but his indomitable spirit and dedication have never been surpassed in human history. Had he known and followed the principles of healthful living, he might have lived many more years. He did not reach nine decades because he smoked and drank heavily, but in spite of it.
He had rare gifts, and none was greater than his ability to use the English language. Rarely has there been one who could embody so much in a sentence. His was not exactly spontaneous oratory; it was studied declamation. The world remembers not only what he said but how he said it. And there again is a lesson for us as ministers. The power of words is tremendous.
The cause we serve is far greater than that of national safety. It is not bound up with time but with eternity. It is as much greater as heaven is higher than the earth. Leaders who not only sense responsibility but give their whole lives for a cause are hard to find. God is looking for, and the church desperately needs, men with clear vision, deep conviction, and unswerving loyalty; men who are "as true to duty as the needle to the pole"; men who are unafraid in the face of the biggest challenge; men who instead of wailing because of the tragic times to which we have come are able to say, "These are great days." Our churches need more than an analysis of their failures. No inspiration comes from talking defeat. Victory must be our watchword, victory over sin and selfishness here and now, and then final victory over every form of rebellion at the return of our Lord.
John Wesley said, "Give me fifty young men that fear nothing but sin and I will shake the world." Jesus chose only twelve, and one of those turned traitor. But through the eleven and the converts they made, God turned the world upside down. Those were great days, but ours are greater. Then let us to our tasks and lead the church of God to victory.
R. A. A