Winston Churchill: An Imperfect Man Who Used His Power for Others


When a person of power has an institution, a nation, or military might behind him, it multiplies that person's power. This was certainly true of Winston Churchill. He had some power as a member of the British parliament and the cultural elite. His ability to give a good speech and write an excellent book gave him power. Between 1930 and 1940, he was in disfavor, the decade known now as his wilderness years. He spent most of the time in his Elizabethan-era home at Chartwell, a three-hundred-acre estate twenty-five miles from Parliament. There he painted, wrote some of his best works, and famously built a stone wall. He also agonized over being out of power and even plotted to force his way back in. Most thought he would never rise to power again since he already was over sixty years old.

Churchill was in many ways an egomaniac, consumed with power and sure that he was born to great things. This was a belief his mother shared. She helped him create a heroic story of escape as a prisoner of war during the Second Boer War. It wasn't that it didn't happen; it was that it was publicized and dramatized for his benefit, which helped him get elected to Parliament. After the First World War, Churchill wrote a long book about the war and all it meant to England and Europe. One of his critics, A. J. Balfour, said of Churchill's book, "Winston has written an enormous book about himself and called it The World Crisis."[14] Churchill was once asked a question by a young socialite about the nature of man. He responded, "We are all worms. But I really think I am a glow worm."[15] He believed he was special, that he was called to do great things. When he was named prime minister in 1940, he relished it; for this he was born.

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The historian Paul Johnson asked, "How did one man do so much, for so long, and so effectively?"[16] Churchill was a prolific writer; he spent much of his life turning words into cash to pay his bills. He published more than ten million words, more than most professional writers. It is obvious that he was ambitious; in fact he had enough ambition for a thousand men. He always aimed high; he worked hard, even though he did much of it from his bed in the mornings and slept very little. He worked diligently to make himself a master orator. He had talent, but it was nothing without hard work. I think Churchill's ambition is summed up by a statement he made as prime minister. He was once seen walking up and down in an empty cabinet room after a major sacking saying aloud, "I want them ... to feel my power."[17]

What kind of impression was Churchill trying to make? While he was clearly advancing his career, he also used power for others. He was an imperfect man who took his own bathtub to war, who loved all the advantages of wealth and power, but in the end, he is considered by many to be the most courageous and determined leader of the twentieth century. He used his power to make a dent in the world. Winston Churchill was not a "Christian" leader. However, he saved Western civilization with his great courage in standing alone against Hitler in the early years of World War II.

Churchill is a good example of a person who used his inner strength to serve the greater good and not compromise liberty and freedom to avoid great sacrifice. Hitler thought Churchill would sue for peace and submit, but he wouldn't. His beliefs would not allow him to compromise. History has dubbed him the Last Lion. There is much to admire him for. Some may not easily see Christ in that five-feet-six-inch chubby curmudgeon, but when it comes to leading others into a sacrificial mission for a high moral cause, he is at the top of the heap.

Power is woven into the fabric of human personality and is impossible to unravel. In fact, we all know that "on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value."[18] God alone can sort out motivation, and then we will know. Until then, Christians are called to use power for good.

NOTES: For all citations in this article, see Chapter 3 of The Christian Leader by Bill Hull. Copyright © 2016 by Robert W. Hull from which this excerpt was taken. Used by permission of Zondervan.