The Heart of a Martyr, Part One

This is a continuation from the article, “The Legacy of a Martyr” on the book Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot

In her book Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot reveals much JimElliotabout the life and heart of her husband, Jim, through his journals and personal letters to family members and to herself. Jim Elliot (1927-1956) was one of five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. The following excerpts illustrate Jim’s dedication and focus on the spiritual rather than the temporal.

Speaking of education in general: “The acquisition of academic knowledge (the ‘pride of life’) is a wearing process and I wonder now if it is all worth while…What thing better can a man know than the love of Christ, which passes knowledge? Oh, to be reveling in the knowledge of Him, rather than wallowing in the quagmire of inscrutable philosophy!”

“I’m afraid sometimes it’s [education] more in the style of I Corinthians 8:1, ‘knowledge puffs up.’ Culture, philosophy, disputes, drama in its weaker forms, concerts and opera, politics — anything that can occupy the intellect seems to turn aside the hearts of many here on campus from a humble life in the steps of the Master…No, education is dangerous, and personally, I am beginning to question its value in a Christian’s life. I do not disparage wisdom — that comes from God, not from Ph.D’s” (1945).


“Help me, Lord, not to mourn and weep for those things, once precious, which you teach me are but dead (whether desires, pleasures or whatever may be precious to my soul now), but give me a willingness to put them away out of my sight.”

“‘[He makes] His ministers a flame of fire’ (Heb. 1:7). Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul — short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him…Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

“Father, let me be weak that I might loose my clutch on everything temporal. My life, my reputation, my possessions, Lord, let me loose the tension of the grasping hand…open my hand to receive the nail of Calvary, as Christ’s was opened — that I, releasing all, might be released, unleashed from all that binds me now. He thought Heaven, yea equality with God, not a thing to be clutched at. So let me release my grasp.”

About his growing relationship with Elisabeth Elliot wrote to his parents in October 1948:

“I believe in the God who pulls strings through circumstances. As regards Bets, I would have it no other way. God has made me as eager to go singly to the work as I ever was. It would be fine with me — and I say this as praising His overabounding grace — if I never saw her again. Our fellowship has been wholesome and entirely beneficial. But as for talk of my getting married…I have no clear leading as to what work I am to be doing, so that a wife simply cannot be decided upon…God has made me willing for Christlike loneliness… But cannot we leave all that with Him? We shall not be without signs when there are turns in the road.”

“Little faith will bring the soul to heaven, but much faith will bring heaven to the soul.”


“Oh, the awful emptiness of a full life when Christ stands yet without.”

Regarding helping his fellow Christians, Elliot realized the need for humility:

“In seeking to enjoy fellowship with others on a different spiritual level, he wrote, I found a very subtle snare in so doing. I sought their fellowship in order that I might minister to them, ‘be a help,’ to these ‘weaker’ ones. What a rebuke came when I sensed my real motive — that I might minister. Love hacks right at this, for she refused to parade herself. I learned to recognize no ‘spiritual planes,’ but simply to love, purely, in every group. Trying to ‘be a help’ even has a smell of good works in it, for it is not pure.”

“I sense tonight that my desires to be great are likely to frustrate God’s intents for good to be done through me. O Lord, let me pray again with earnest, honest heart: I will not to be great — only, God, grant to me Thy goodness.”

“I think there is nothing so startling in all the graces of God as His quietness. When men have raged untruths in His Name…when they have virtually talked Him right out of His universe, when they, using powers He grants them, claim universal autonomy and independence, He, this great Silent God, says nothing. His tolerance and love for His creature is such that… He waits for men to leave off their bawling and turn for a moment to listen to His still, small voice of Spirit…”

On the death of young people: “I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth till they were older. God is peopling Eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women.”

“Whenever the choice is between the doing of spiritual work, of whatever sort, and a secular job, again of whatever sort, the choice for me must be the former regardless of financial condition.”

“Anything, good as it may be, put before my study of the true and living Word, becomes a snare and I must assiduously avoid such, if the Word is to be my fresh meat every morning.”

I found many of these comments to be very insightful and inspirational – food for thought!

Read more about Jim Elliot’s dedication to serving God in “The Heart of a Martyr, Part Two.”


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