Back in 1987, Chuck Colson established the William Wilberforce Award to honor men and women who make a profound difference in the face of formidable societal problems and injustices. Chuck named the award after his hero, the eighteenth-century British parliamentarian who stood against the prevailing culture and powerful economic interests in his campaign to abolish the slave trade.
As Eric Metaxas announced earlier this year, the 2016 award is going to none other than Chuck Colson himself. I can safely say that Chuck would have fought bravely against being named the recipient of this award. That’s because he was one of the humblest men I ever knew.
Yes, Chuck was a very public figure. He took to the airwaves each day to proclaim the Good News and exhort the Church to stand, to love, and to speak truth to the culture. He spent nearly 30 years of his life traveling to the world’s darkest places to bring Gospel hope to prisoners. He fought tirelessly for criminal justice reform. He advised presidents. And he received numerous awards and honors.
But he shrank from praise. When people would introduce him before speaking, Chuck would squirm in his seat, then step to the podium and land a self-deprecating one-liner or two—before praising his co-workers and Prison Fellowship volunteers as the people who deserved the honor.
Why? Because Chuck knew he was vulnerable to the greatest of sins: Pride. He had been a brilliant student, a Marine captain, a talented lawyer who flew up the political ladder and found himself—in his thirties—in an office next to the president of the United States. But as he said many times later in life, his pride blinded him. He believed in his own ability, his own moral rectitude, and the causes he fought for. So much so that he couldn’t see the gnawing corruption inside President Nixon’s inner circle and in his own heart.
Chuck recounted many times that fateful visit in 1976 to his friend Tom Phillips. “That night,” Chuck said, Tom “read to me from Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, particularly a chapter about the great sin that is pride. A proud man is always walking through life looking down on other people and other things ... As a result, he cannot see something above himself immeasurably superior—God.”
That passage shattered Chuck’s illusions about himself. And that night, in a flood of tears sitting in his car outside of Phillips’ home, he gave his life to Jesus Christ.
And the rest, as they say, is history. This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Chuck’s public ministry in founding Prison Fellowship. No one can count the untold thousands of prisoners, their families, and children, who can trace their own salvation back to Chuck’s decision to remember those in prison. And we also celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chuck’s very first BreakPoint broadcast which, like his books—Born Again, How Now Shall We Live?, Loving God—challenged millions to take seriously the lordship of Jesus as the grounding of a truly Christian worldview.
Ten years ago on this program, Chuck said this: “As I think about my life, the beginning of the prison ministry, our work in the justice area, our international ministry that reaches one hundred countries, and the work of BreakPoint, I have come to appreciate the doctrine of providence. God's divine intervention orchestrates the lives of His children to accomplish His good purposes.
“And that,” Chuck said, “leads to the greatest joy I've found in life. . . . It’s not having been to Buckingham Palace to receive the Templeton Prize, or getting honorary degrees, or writing books. The greatest joy is to see how God has used my life to touch the lives of others, people hurting and in need.”
And in that spirit, we’re honored to bestow upon Chuck this year’s Wilberforce Award. And my prayer for us, BreakPoint listeners, Colson Fellows, Prison Fellowship volunteers, for all who are called to serve Jesus, is that we will find that great joy Chuck talked about. The joy of seeing God at work in us.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: April 8, 2016