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“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

At the beginning of World War II – Hitler invaded Holland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Winston Churchill, known for his military leadership ability, was appointed British prime minister on that very occasion – May 10, 1940.  He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won popular support. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill told his country and the world – “we shall never surrender.” In their book God and Churchill, Jonathan Sandys (Churchill’s great grandson) and journalist Wallace Henley conclude that despite his early years as an agnostic, he came to personally believe in God. They relate a story in which he narrowly escaped a bomb while on a walk with his bodyguard in St. James Park in London during the 1940 blitz. Churchill is said to have told his companion not to worry, that there was someone else who was looking after him. He went on to lead Britain to victory and grew to become one of the 20th century’s most significant figures. He later made a statement (frequently misquoted) – “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” His glowing courage, clarity of purpose, and perseverance made him an admired leader who lived to be 90.

Fifty-four years to the day when Churchill became Prime Minister, it was on May 10, 1994 that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa. Similar to Churchill, Mandela said: “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.” He spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the South African government, the first 18 of which were under brutal conditions. However, Mandela’s resolve remained unbroken. When his release was ordered in 1990, he promoted reconciliation efforts between the races. This led to negotiations with the minority in power, an end to apartheid, and the establishment of a multiracial government, resulting in the country’s first free election. Mandela’s message as president four years later was one of forgiveness. While he didn’t say much publicly about his personal beliefs, ministers who knew him say he was a man of deep faith. The ideals for which he is most remembered are indeed contained in scripture. An example is found in this statement: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” It is amazing that after a lifetime of hardship and persecution, he was around for 95 years and remained a global advocate for peace and social justice until his death.

While at times each of these men were controversial figures, both of them had moments that obscured everything else and made the world a better place. Their lives challenge us to persevere, regardless of the odds we may be facing. Jesus shares the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) who is poor and powerless but who nevertheless persists in nagging a corrupt, powerful person to grant justice for her. Jesus focuses the parable on the fact that we are “to pray always and to not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). One can conclude from His teaching that if persistence pays off with a corrupt human of limited power, how much more will it pay off with a just God of infinite power? It serves as an encouragement for Christians to persevere in their faith in spite of the odds. It provides hope that even in the midst of what may appear to be injustice, justice may be done. We must never give up hope, and never stop working for the greater good. God can heal wounds even in an unethical world. Suddenly, an apartheid regime crumbles or peace triumphs over war. This parable of Jesus indicates that God is the unseen actor, as He suggests: “Will not God grant justice for his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7).

Applying perseverance in a positive way is not an easy task for many of us.  In a world where instant gratification is the prevailing expectation, it is difficult to be patient and accept that resolution may not be immediate. The Christian must continue to walk with God by our side while unyielding in the journey of serving him with whatever talents and abilities He has gifted us. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). If our motives are pure and our convictions are honorable, then God will indeed hear and answer the cry of those who love Him.

REFLECTION: Can you recall a situation in your life when you had to persevere for a long time before you found resolution?  Were there emotions or hardships you had to endure?  How can you use your experience in helping others who are struggling for a solution while growing impatient or discouraged in their wait?


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