Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 8, 2009


Do your best to not give up until you cross the finish line


One of the greatest privileges of a pastor is to encourage people not to give up. Pastors do their best work not by chastising people for their sins but by inspiring them to overcome their failures.

When ministry is based on encouragement, rather than judgment, there is always plenty to do. All around us are people who are struggling with defeat. A business or a marriage has failed. Debts seem insurmountable. Alcohol and drug use is out of control. Dreams have been shattered. The ox is in the ditch and there seems no way to get him out.

When the bottom falls out people do not need a lecture; they need compassion. Not pity. Compassion is that rare gift that inspires people to believe in themselves because someone else believes in them. Compassion is staying with someone that everyone else has given up on. Compassion is snatching a friend from the jaws of despair and convincing him that he has what it takes to get out of the mess he has made.

A man praised his pastor for helping him recover from alcoholism. He said, “My drinking had put me in a deep hole. Nobody wanted anything to do with me. But my preacher got down in that hole with me and helped me to crawl out. His love helped me believe in the love of God.”

Compassionate caring can help people set goals for themselves and refuse to quit until they succeed. Such caring can call forth in others the willingness to persevere. Few human qualities are more important than perseverance. That is why most of our heroes are people who refused to allow adversity to deter them from their goals.

Winston Churchill, for example, is one of the great heroes of the 20th Century. He will always be remembered for his tenacious spirit, and that which he inspired in the people of England during World War II. When it appeared that Hitler was about to bring England to its knees, Prime Minister Churchill kept hope alive with his defiant words, "We will be victorious!"

Churchill traveled all over England motivating the people. He inspired workers in the factories and on the farms to work tirelessly for their country.  He visited the troops and instilled in them the conviction that England would prevail.

Few stories are more captivating than that of Churchill's visit with the coal miners. Hearing that the miners were discouraged about their contribution to the war effort, Sir Winston surprised them by showing up in the dangerous underground tunnels where they worked.

They were astonished that Churchill would risk coming into the mines and stared in trembling disbelief as his words rang in their ears:

"We will be victorious! We will preserve our freedom. And years from now when our freedom is secure and peace reigns, your children and your children's children will come and they will say to you, 'What did you do to win our freedom in that great war?' And one will say, 'I marched with the Eighth Army!' Someone else will proudly say, 'I manned a submarine.' And another will say, 'I guided the ships that moved the troops and the supplies.' And still another will say, 'I doctored the wounds!'" Then, with persuasive power Churchill shouted, "They will come to you, and you will say with equal right and equal pride, 'I cut the coal! I cut the coal that fueled the ships that moved the supplies! That's what I did. I cut the coal!"  

From that hour no coal miners ever worked with greater courage than the men who heard Churchill that day. They refused to quit. They endured, and helped England preserve its precious freedom. Though the German bombs continued to fall upon English cities, the coal miners were never discouraged again.

Many admire Churchill for his wit. And he desires our admiration. On one occasion Lady Astor said to Winston, “If I were married to you, I would put poison in your tea.” He replied, “If I were married to you, I’d drink it.” When someone criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition, he responded, “This is the kind of tedious nonsense up with which I will not put.”

Though Churchill’s gifts and achievements are extraordinary, I am thankful most of all for his personal example of perseverance. Voted out of office he refused to quit and was later re-elected Prime Minister. He earned the right to encourage others never to give up.

One of his most memorable speeches is a brief one given to the boys at old Harrow School, which he had attended as a boy. Imagine how these words must have inspired the young lads at the school:

 "This is the lesson: 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. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

So if today you find yourself struggling to carry on, allow me to encourage you to get up out of the ashes of your hardship and stay the course. Stay with it. Tie a knot in the end of your rope and hold on. Refuse to quit. Never give up. The finish line may be just ahead. Do the best you can until you cross it. + + +