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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 8, 2019

Turn in your Bible to II Peter 3:18.

“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18; p. 1320 Scofield).

You may be seated.

These are the very last words that Peter wrote before they dragged him out and crucified him upside down. Peter was not raised in a Christian home. He was not a Pharisee. He was not strictly Orthodox. He was a rough fisherman. Peter made many mistakes and committed many sins before he was converted on the night Jesus rose from the dead.* It was years after he first heard about Jesus, that Peter became a “man of steel” and a sold out Disciple of Christ. That is why his last advice is well worth remembering,

“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

Peter knew that one does not make a simple “decision,” and then everything else falls into place. No! He had to grow, to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ!”

My own life shows the folly of not being properly discipled. My pastor Dr. Lin was a great man of God – but he never saw me as a disciple – because I was not Chinese. And when I had a relationship with a young Chinese girl, the pastor told me not to come back.

*See Charles John Ellicott’s and J. Vernon McGee’s comments on John 20:22.

It was then that I began to mold my life on Winston Churchill. Churchill once said, “You must never make a promise which you do not fulfill.” Dr. Lin promised me he would send me out as a missionary from the Chinese church. But he did not keep that promise. Later I learned to forgive him and he became my friend. But when he told me not to come back, I was left alone, with only Churchill as my guide. And he smoked cigars and drank whiskey, and he seldom attended any church.

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What a strange guide for a young preacher like me! Churchill was an agnostic. He only went to church for weddings and baptisms, never to regular Sunday services. But I did learn some helpful things from him – to fight for what was right, to make it through the wilderness and loneliness of life, and to exercise courage. I could only go on alone with Winston Churchill as my guide. But that was better than no guide at all. Galileo once said, “You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him find it within himself.” I was cut loose from my pastor and wandered normlessly for years as a result.

But God was still with me. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see!” (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807). God made Peter a Disciple, a man of steel, a man of God. And Peter said,

“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

And so, for lack of anyone else to guide me, I was drawn to the young Winston Churchill.

His family was fairly well to do. He lived in a fine home, wore nice clothes and had many toys to play with. But he had many disadvantages as well.

This boy was not very good looking, and he was not an athlete. He was weak and sickly. He spoke with a lisp. He did poorly in school, and his teachers said he was a troublemaker. Worse still, his parents hardly ever found time to be with him. They did not show him affection. He lacked two things children need most – love and encouragement.

His future did not look good. He had only one thing going for him. Inside his head, he had another vision of who he was. He saw himself taking bold and dynamic actions. He saw himself commanding warriors in desperate battles. He wasn’t stuttering when he spoke. In his mind he was giving eloquent speeches to thrilled audiences.

In real life, his father went insane and screamed at him: “You are doomed to life-long failure.”

Now his father was dead and Churchill was a POW. He was captured by the enemy. He was put in prison over 300 miles from the nearest friendly lines. Several other prisoners in the camp planned to escape. But they were too afraid to break free. Yet this young man felt differently about being in prison. He had to escape!

It didn’t matter that he was not equipped to survive in the wilderness. What the boy had was a vision of freedom! This gave him the courage to act! He broke through a window and went out into the darkness of night. It took courage to step outside his comfort zone!

Now we see him as a public servant. All he ever wanted to do was serve his country. At this point in life he had no power because he did not have a position in the government. Still, he felt that war was coming. He could not sit back and do nothing.

So he gathered his own facts about the situation facing his country. He learned that his country was in terrible danger. He spoke out in public speeches, through newspaper articles, radio broadcasts and books.

At first people laughed at him. So what did he do? He continued to speak out! They laughed. They made fun of him. Some people said he was as crazy as his father! But he used everything he could to warn his countrymen. It took almost ten years before they began to listen to him. He was in the wilderness.

What did it take for him to keep on in the face of such opposition? It took determination. It took the will to never give in.

Most people remember Winston Churchill as the dynamic Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War. But there was much more to him.

When he died at the age of 90, the Oxford scholar Isaiah Berlin called him, “A gigantic historical figure during his own lifetime. One of the two greatest men his nation has produced, an orator of great power, the saviour of his country, a mythical hero – who belongs to legend as much as to reality, the largest human being of our time.”

The three stories I told you were about his life. The boy with a vision of himself that no one else had – that was Churchill. The speaker who wouldn’t give up – that too was Churchill.

He served sixty years in Parliament. He held nearly every political office in the British Government. He finally became Prime Minister at 65 – when most men retired. He came back as Prime Minister when he was 76 years old and continued until he was over eighty.

Churchill’s bulldog persistence was legendary. He overcame many obstacles in his life. Whether the enemy was his lisp, his sickly childhood, the absence of his parents’ love, his lack of a college education, his fight against Hitler and his war machine, his loss of his baby daughter, Marigold, or his inner battles with life-long periods of depression, Churchill became a symbol of raw personal courage. Toward the end of his long life, Churchill said this –

“Life is a test and this world is a place of trial. Always the problems...will be presented to every generation in different forms.”

Again, Churchill said this,

“Human beings are not dominated by material things, but by ideas for which they are willing to give their lives or their life’s work.”

His mark on history will rest on his life-long example as a leader. On June 18, 1940 Churchill rose in the House of Commons to give probably the most important political speech of the Twentieth Century,

“I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization... The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

(These passages are paraphrased from Larry Kryske’s great book, The Churchill Factors).

Perhaps this message will give you some idea concerning my interest in this remarkable man. But, though he was the greatest man of the Twentieth Century, he was not a Christian.

Yet he inspired me again and again – especially during times of deep depression. In my own dark depression, the other night, I read all of his second book on World War II, Their Finest Hour. As always, my spirits were lifted. I went to bed at about 8:00 AM – with the bagpipes playing tunes of glory in my head. And here is what I want to tell you this evening.

      I have a dream. It is far too large a dream for us to understand it all at once. The dream is this – that our new Oriental church is to become a lighthouse of hope and a place of refreshment to struggling churches throughout the world.
      We were not defeated by the great church split which we have endured. The quislings and traitors are gone. The unfaithful and selfish are gone, along with conceited and deceptive friends. Are we defeated by their treachery? No! We are actually encouraged by it – because we know that Satan would not have wasted his energy on our church unless he knew what we cannot see at present. Satan sees our new church the way I see it – as a coming bastion of prayer and a bulwark of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where we will, by struggle and perseverance speak to the whole world through our website, and through the missionaries we will send forth, to the world in the future.
      It is my vision, and my prayer, that we shall be an epicenter of revival and Truth to strengthen churches for all mankind.

If that dream and that vision should come to pass, as I believe it will, we shall owe it all to God, and the grace He first gave to the Apostle Peter, and now sheds on you and me!

There can be no question that God saved Britain in that dark hour. And that same God is with us as we work to make that vision a reality. The Apostle Peter told us, “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Sir Winston Churchill said,

“You ask: ‘What is our aim?’ I can answer it in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

May you and I live victoriously for Jesus Christ and for the vision of this church! Amen.

Stand and sing hymn number 6, “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before:
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
   Forward into battle, see His banners go.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
   But the Church of Jesus constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail;
   We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Onward then, ye people, join our marching throng,
   Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song;
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King;
   This through countless ages men and angels sing.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before.
(“Onward, Christian Soldiers” by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924;
      altered by Dr. Hymers).