Well, it’s that time of year again! Time for another emotional post about the late great Philip James Elliot! Seeing as he didn’t celebrate his birthday much, it seems a little stupid to make an sort of hoopla about this day, but I figure us Jim Elliot enthusiasts are a dying breed so I’m gonna keep the fire aflame for as long as I can.
Honestly, I didn’t think the Lord had much else to teach me through this man. But His ways are above and beyond mine, and thank heavens for that. I think God was looking at me and saying “Oh you thought I was done teaching you through Jim Elliot’s story? Go ahead, dig a little deeper.” So here’s what I’ve found.
I’ve been realizing in recent weeks just how much our stories matter- how much can be done when we offer up our lives, our plans, and our purposes to Him. For so many years of my life I have been enthralled by the story of a man who died nearly 60 years ago by offering up his life for the Lord’s service, so you’d think this was a concept I’d have grasped by now. But not since living in this city and interacting with other people who have been effected by Jim Elliot’s story has that concept really hit home. Because guys, that’s what I’ve been doing out here- interacting with people who also love Jim Elliot, which is just plain amazing.
Through some light googling I found the congregation that Jim grew up in. They still meet every Sunday, and although they have moved buildings and changed names they remain a group of ardent believers who desire to bring God’s Kingdom to Portland. So a few weeks ago, surprise surprise, I decided to attend. It is a small group of mostly seniors, many of them theologically learned, and all of them passionate about the Lord. (I’ve found that to be a believer in Portland it’s really all or nothing, which was honestly a good kick in the pants to get serious about my faith. So it’s no surprise that these people are bold and confident believers, truly an embodiment of 2 Timothy 2:22-26).
When asked how I found their church I responded honestly “I am a huge Jim Elliot fan”. This led me to some frickin cool moments- some of which include meeting relatives of the Elliots and seeing one of the spears that killed the missionaries in 1956. Mostly though, my attendance has led me into honest conversation with honest believers of a generation that is not my own. Not only have I seen now how important our stories are, but also how far reaching our moment in time can be.
In the eyes of the many, Jim Elliot’s story was a failure. In 1956 the final chapter of his story was written and sealed. But goodness, just these few weeks have shown me so clearly how God’s criteria for success and failure is of a different and heavenly realm (Isaiah 55:9). Not only has Jim’s writing lived on after his martyrdom, but my story of finding this community of believers is a testament to how the “mistakes” we’ve made or the failures we have accrued can be used to do great things by the Lord. But God only worked through Jim’s life because he followed Christ’s example in praying “Thy will be done.” God works in the lives of those who seek after Him with their whole heart, in the lives of those who offer up to God all their own “plans and purposes and accept His will for their lives”. In a somewhat eerie and prophetic journal entry written by Jim in 1948 we see an example of this sacrificial living.
Prayed a strange prayer today. I covenanted with the Father that He would do either of two things: either glorify Himself to the utmost in me or slay me. By His grace I shall not have His second best. For He heard me, I believe, so that now I have nothing to look forward to but a life of sacrificial sonship (that’s how my Savior glorified Him) or heaven- soon. Perhaps tomorrow! What a prospect!
I have been learning these past few weeks the importance of offering up to the Lord all that I hold dear. To not be grasping at the life and trying to accumulate security in this unstable world. Suddenly all the scriptures seem to be pointing back to benefits of this blissful sacrificial life. Those who lose their lives will find it, those who were last shall be made first (Matt 16:25, 20:16). Christ did not consider equality with the Lord something to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (Phil 2:6). When you humble yourself before the Lord and pray for His will in your life you are offering up your piece of clay to be molded and made into new creation. And by the grace of God your story will go on to effect change in the lives of those around you, maybe even those 60 years after you.
Ugh, there is so much to be gained by praying “Thy will be done”, I am by no means an expert though. I need to be reminded of this daily, hourly even. I think I have the shortest memory of all God’s children, but the Lord has called me back to Himself time and time again reminding me of these truths. How thankful I am for a gracious God who washes us whiter than snow, who casts our sins into the depths of the sea. A God who is continually molding us into a new creation and teaching us from the lives of those who came before.
Fun Fact: Not only is this Jim Elliot’s Birthday, but also Jim and Elisabeth’s wedding anniversary. So guys, this actually is a very special day.