The Heart of a Martyr, Part Two

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 about 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 passages express Elliot’s observations and concerns related to issues that affect the life of the individual believer, the church of Christ, and the spread of the Gospel:

Regarding dating/courting:

No one warns young people to follow Adam’s example.  He waited till God saw his need. Then God made Adam sleep, prepared for his mate, and brought her to him. We need more of this ‘being asleep’ in the will of God. Then we can receive what He brings us in His own time, if at all. Instead we are set as bloodhounds after a partner, considering everyone we see until our minds are so concerned with the sex problem that we can talk of nothing else…It is true that a fellow cannot ignore women — but he can think of them as he ought — as sisters,  not as sparring partners!

He made this observation about evangelical crusades:

I am one who believes that a man does not have to come all at once into the family of God with a jolt and accompanying spinal exhilarations. Personally, I wasn’t ‘saved’ all at once, but took some years coming into my present settled convictions about the truth of God. So why should I demand that conversion be immediate in all others?…Let not him who accepts light in an instant despise him who gropes months in shadows…The natural, so often illustrative of the spiritual, teaches that healing and growth, yea, even birth, are processes, and I think we altar-callers often perform abortions in our haste to see ‘results’ (Nov. 1948).

How relevant this observation is for today:

‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’ (Is. 30:15). I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: Noise, Hurry, Crowds. If he can keep us hearing radios, gossip, conversations, or even sermons, he is happy. But he will not allow quietness. For he believes Isaiah where we do not. Satan is quite aware of the power of silence. The voice of God, though persistent, is soft…Let us resist the devil in this by avoiding noise as much as we can, purposefully seeking to spend time alone, facing ourselves in the Word…Satan is aware of where we find our strength. May he not rob us! (Dec. 1948)

To a friend who Jim felt was neglecting the fellowship of believers:

I sense that you are in real need of some stalwart Christian companionship in both sexes…You can’t fool yourself into thinking you can get along without more contact with the people of God than you have been having…you [should] learn godliness along with some friend, as did Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress…It is dangerous to have companions among the devil’s flock, and know little of traveling behind the Great Shepherd of the Sheep of His fold (Feb. 1950)

Apparently Elliot believed in what is known as the “regulative principle” of worship. In response to a comment made by a friend that “the worship service is most satisfying to me as an individual,” Elliot gave this response:

What in all eternity has that got to do with it? Have her personal likes and dislikes any right to dictate method in the holy church of God? It is this attitude that has brought hopeless confusion into our present order, for ‘holy rolling’ and snake-handling are most satisfying to some folks as individuals…Is it His way? Let my personal likes be filed in the waste-can. Let me follow by afforded grace. It is neither J’s job nor mine to command or condemn any system of gathering. It is the responsibility of both of us to search the Scriptural principles, and find the all-important, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’

“[I]n spiritual work, if nowhere else, the character of the worker decides the quality of the work. [The poets] Shelley and Byron may be moral free-lancers and still write good poetry. Wagner may be lecherous as a man, and still produce fine music, but it cannot be so in any work for God…No wonder so much work in the Kingdom today is shoddy – look at the moral character of the worker.” Another true observation that is so relevant 60 years later!

When it became evident to his parents in 1950 that Jim would soon be leaving them and the United States to go to South America as a missionary, they expressed a sense of loss and sorrow at his leaving. Jim refers to Christ’s words to his disciples that His followers must be willing to forsake all, including family, to follow Him. With this in mind, he wrote the following words of encouragement and exhortation to his parents:

Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly – all of them, straight at the Enemy’s hosts.

What a wonderful picture for parents when their child leaves home to serve God in the place of His calling!

To read more from the journals and letters of Jim Elliot, read “The Heart of a Martyr, Part One.”
Did you find the words and life of Jim Elliot as insightful and inspiring as I did?

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