People Who Provide the Spark Don’t Always Get To Sit By the Fire.
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, & William Wilberforce would know.
Have you ever thought of starting something knowing full well that you may never get to see the fruits of your labor?
Probably not. No one starts something thinking that they’ll never finish it.
You do see this when contemplating matters of injustice.
William Wilberforce took twenty years campaigning to end the slave trade and just before he died, in 1833, almost 25 years later, the act to free the slaves passed through the House of Commons. It took a while but he saw it pass into law, though it took a while for the abolition to manifest throughout the British Empire.
Martin Luther King Jr fought for civil rights from the mid-’50s until his assassination in 1968. He saw the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act signed. The 1968 Civil Rights Act was signed soon after his death. While those were steps in the right direction, America still struggles with racism today. They still wait for his dream to come to pass.
Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress(ANC) in 1944 and worked to end apartheid in South Africa. In 1963 he was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent 27 years there until his release in 1990. In 1994 he was elected the country’s first black president. He lived to see the fruits of his labour after 50 years of struggle.
When you study the lives of these men you see 3 attributes.
- Commitment. They gave their lives to the cause. It is what they lived for, their God-given purpose. Right up until their deaths they were still engaged in seeing their vision come to pass.
Nelson Mandela saw the full inclusion of black people in South African society but worked to see the transition went as smoothly as possible and became a world figure for freedom and justice everywhere.
Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day) is an annual international day, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the UN in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010.
Nelson Mandela famously said,
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
There are more inspirational quotes attributed to Mandela here.
2. Perseverance. They never quit when times were tough. They believed what they were fighting for was right and they were going to see it through.
Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years and his resolve never wavered.
Martin Luther King was jailed, stoned, and eventually shot.
William Wilberforce was vilified; opponents spoke of “the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.” The opposition became so fierce, one friend feared that one day he would read about Wilberforce’s being “carbonated [broiled] by Indian planters, barbecued by African merchants, and eaten by Guinea captains.” (from christianitytoday.com)
Martin Luther King famously said,
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live — a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” (April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple(Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee.)
There are more inspirational quotes attributed to King here.
3. Inspiration. They didn’t do it alone. Because of their passion and belief, they were able to lead others to follow their example and act accordingly to achieve the goal.
Each of them had well-known soldiers that fought with them.
Mandela had Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Chris Hani, and others.
King had John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, and others.
Wilberforce had Thomas Clarkson and others.
For every well-known warrior, there were hundreds of unknowns whose scars, pain, and death were brought on because they were inspired by great leaders, men that were driven, men that gave it all.
In his famous Abolition Speech, given in the House of Commons on May 12, 1789, William Wilberforce said,
“As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might, let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.”
There are more inspirational quotes attributed to Wilberforce here.
These weren’t perfect men. They were men who recognized a wrong and fought against it. Two of them, Mandela and King Jr, were victims of injustice. Wilberforce could have done nothing and lived a quiet, prosperous life but didn’t. He wasn’t going to be a bystander.
We shouldn’t be either!