To Gain What We Cannot Lose: History for January 8

On January 6, 1956, a group of American missionaries made first contact with a local tribe in Ecuador, trying to reach them with the gospel.  Two days later, on this date, January 8, 1956, five of those missionaries – Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian – were speared to death by the very Auca tribe they spent years preparing to minister to. But their story was not over.

Jim Elliot and others had been ministering to the Quichua people in Ecuador since 1952, with many coming to faith in Jesus.  However, the nearby Aucas (now called Waodoni) were known to kill any outsiders that entered their area, including Quichua and also oil workers at a site nearby.  Jim “knew the only way to stop the Aucas from killing was to tell them about Jesus”[1] and came up with a plan to reach them.  Working with Nate Saint, a missionary supply pilot, they spent months trying to safely build goodwill with the Waodoni by lowering supplies to them from a plane and speaking friendly Waodoni phrases from a loudspeaker.

On January 6th, they talked to a Waodoni called George, thinking they had gained some trust and they set up a later meeting.  George, however, lied to them about his intentions, and ten members of the tribe were ready in ambush with spears on January 8th.  The unarmed missionaries had no chance.

Jim Elliot

Seeking vengeance or giving up might have been a reasonable response for the other missionaries, but in a miraculous example of forgiveness, persistent faith, and a heart for the lost, Elisabeth and Valerie Elliot (Jim’s wife and young daughter), and Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) learned the local language and moved into the jungle to live with the Waodoni in 1958.  Elisabeth wrote about serving those who killed her husband: “The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things I know about God.”  Today, the Waodoni are a friendly tribe and many are professing Christians.  Missionaries, including members of the Saint family, still live among them today.  Elisabeth died in 2015 at the age of 88, after a long career as missionary, author, speaker, and radio host.

Jim’s Apparent Failure is God’s Victory
In life, Jim Elliot was sometimes frustrated by his effort, once writing: “No fruit yet. Why is it that I’m so unproductive? I cannot recall leading more than one or two into the kingdom. Surely this is not the manifestation of the power of the Resurrection. I feel as Rachel, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’”[2]  While attending Wheaton College in Illinois in the 1940’s, Jim developed a desire to preach the gospel, including taking the train to Chicago and talking about Jesus with people at the train station, but with little response.

“He is no fool who gives what
he cannot keep to gain
that which he cannot lose.”

– Jim Elliot

But in death, Jim was used by God to inspire many other missionaries, including his own family, through whom God’s love for the lost went out and bore more eternal fruit than Jim may have ever imagined.  His story is a reminder that faithfulness is the Christian’s objective, and God provides the fruit.

Jim wrote what has become a familiar quote to many: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  In Paradise, Jim, those affected by his ministry, and all other believers, will forever praise God for His steadfast love through the centuries.  Nothing we do for God now can look foolish from that perspective.  We have so much to gain that we cannot lose.

Soli Deo Gloria

Learn More:
This story was dramatized in the 2005 film End of the Spear and in the 2002 documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor.  A website dedicated to Elisabeth Elliot’s life (https://elisabethelliot.org/) has more on this amazing history of God’s work.


[1] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/jim-elliot-no-fool-11634862.html
[2] https://www.inspirationalchristians.org/evangelists/jim-elliot-biography/

The Savior Among Us

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” – Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

In the Gospel of Matthew, this verse from Isaiah is applied to our Lord Jesus.  The name Immanuel means “God with us” and the name Jesus means “the Lord saves.”  In these two names is a beautiful picture of salvation, which means a restoration to a life lived with God beginning imperfectly here on earth, but eventually perfectly in His paradise.  Salvation and togetherness go together.  What we are saved from is our inability to live with God because our sin and His justice were unreconciled until the cross.

Among Jesus’ last words on earth were His command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  Included in this is bringing the hope to the world that He brought to us by being present.  God did not leave us alone but bore the cost of our reconciliation on Himself.

Today, be among those who need the hope God provides through the salvation He bought.  His desire is to live among the world through us, calling His current and future people to live with Him.

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Finding Time for God During “RTO”

Photo by Michelen Studios on Unsplash

During the pandemic, most of us found we had extra time on our hands.  In my case, I did not have to commute to work, and many other activities I’d normally do were shut down, so it was easier (not easy) to make time for private time with God in Bible study and prayer.  However, as I’m now in “Return to Office” mode, working 2-3 days a week in the office, I’ve been reminded of Mark 1:35, which says: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Jesus got up early after a very busy night, which Mark describes in verses 33 and 34: “That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”

I am not naturally a morning person, and finding time has been harder, but as I’ve written: “whether you’re working at a job, at home, retired, a student, a parent, or in any role in this world, as God’s creativity was to be reproduced by Adam and Eve, the character of Jesus is being developed in His people in this world.”  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[1]  If even Jesus needed daily prayer and time to listen to the Father to get His work done, how much more do we all need that time?

My post-pandemic routine is different than my pre-pandemic routine, and daily time with God is not about the means, but the end.  He has work for each of us to do, and whatever your means of having relationship with the Father, making time to spend with Him is vital for approaching each day as an act of worship and service.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14


[1] Ephesians 2:10

His Master’s Voice (aka This Blog Doesn’t Need Another Mascot)

You may not know him by his name, but you’ve probably seen Nipper the dog.  He’s quite famous, although he died in 1895.  Nipper, of course, is the dog from the painting “His Master’s Voice” where he is listening intently to a gramophone.  The picture became a popular logo for many companies, including RCA to sell record players, because the dog looks like it thinks his master is in there talking to him.  The RCA recording technology is so clear!

“His Master’s Voice”, an 1898 painting by Francis Barraud. From Wikipedia Commons.

“His Master’s Voice” is also a good introduction to some posts I’m working on about hearing our Master’s voice.  We might like to be like Nipper, and every now and then we might get a glimpse of what that’s like, but we’re unlike the painting a lot of the time.

For one thing, most dogs are naturally loyal and want to please their masters.  That’s why Nipper loves the gramophone so much.  A funny thing about dogs is that they don’t care what their masters believe.  They won’t discuss philosophy with them.  Not that their master’s philosophy doesn’t matter to the dog, because if their philosophy includes cruelty to animals, that’s very bad.  Dogs just don’t think at that level.  On the other hand, dogs are very, very excited and eager to hear you tell them to do something.  Cats of course are very different – I have two of them – and they’re too often a better picture of how I really relate to my Master in heaven than Nipper is.

The other point is that dogs have great hearing.  The painting has no sound, but you get the idea that, no matter how much noise was going on around him, Nipper would be right there, trying to find his master in the gramophone.  In contrast, people are bombarded with loud voices from all directions and usually aren’t as good at filtering the good from the bad.

Centered on the story of Gideon from the book of Judges, I’ll be sharing a few posts soon about how difficult and messy listening for God’s voice really is.  I’m trying to figure it out every day.

Ebenezer, looking concerned

Lastly, if you see Ebenezer (a squirrel and the blog’s mascot), tell him Nipper is only here for a short visit.  Also remind him that in heaven, even the dogs and squirrels will lie down together in peace.

Coda
One of my favorite song lyrics of all time is:
“I’m looking past the shadows of my mind into the truth; And I’m trying to identify the voices in my head; God, which one’s you?”

It’s from a 2000 song called “Breathing” by Lifehouse.  They probably didn’t have Nipper in mind when they wrote it, but it’s about us all wishing we could pay better attention to our Lord, to know His will, or sometimes just to be present with Him.

You can read the lyrics here, or if you have 4 ½ minutes, listen here.  Apologies for any ads on these sites.


The next post in the series is here

God Equips Those He Calls

Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

When Jeremiah was called to serve as a prophet, God told him he was literally made for it, as covered in a recent post, but Jeremiah’s response was not an enthusiastic one.  Jeremiah 1:6-8 records this exchange:

“Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’  But the LORD said to me,
            ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
            for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
            and whatever I command you, you shall speak.’”

Even though God had just said “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah objects that he was too young and did not have the natural ability required for the job.  Maybe he doubted anyone would listen to him, so God must have the wrong guy.  God doesn’t disagree that Jeremiah was young (he already knew that), but knows that God’s ability is what matters, not Jeremiah’s.  God knew that someday you and I would be reading Jeremiah’s words regardless of his own youth or ability.  God never picks the wrong person for the job.

But if “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”[1] why does the Scripture tell us that one of its own authors doubted and questioned God Himself?

The answer of course, is “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  We should learn not only from Jeremiah’s prophecies to the people of his time, but also from His experience with God.  In hindsight, we think that because Jeremiah is a book of the Bible, of course he was able to do the work God gave him, but in the moment of his call, Jeremiah had no idea.  So, when we think our ability is not enough the job at hand, we should remember Jeremiah’s youth and remember that “God does not call the equipped; He equips the called,” as the saying goes.  Jeremiah learned this from his own experience, and we may learn from it as well because the Bible records it.

Also, God shows us Jeremiah’s flaws to comfort us when we feel inadequate, not only in ability but also in faith.  Even if we know that “God does not call the equipped; He equips the called,” we don’t always act on that knowledge.  Jeremiah doubts not only his call, but there are other examples, including when he questions why he should buy a field the Babylonians were about to seize.[2]  Doubt is not something that only some Christians feel – we are not alone in our weakness.  Even the Bible’s own authors had doubt because they could not see as God sees.

God is patient when we are honest with Him about our doubts, but He is also honest with us when He says we were literally made to serve Him.  No Christian is inadequate for the work God gives them, for in His power He accomplishes what He wants. He has no doubts and is faithful in providing everything we need.

Sometimes God sends us before we think we are ready, so we can learn to put our confidence in the right place like Paul, who wrote: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13


[1] 2 Timothy 3:16
[2] The story is in Jeremiah 32, which I covered in an earlier post, here.