31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Freedom and Discipline

Elisabeth Elliot2

This is taken from a chapter titled “How to Be Free” from Elisabeth’s book All That Was Ever Ours. After discussing a friend of her daughter’s who was having trouble at home and believed “freedom meant doing what she wanted to do,” Elisabeth wrote:

…True freedom is not to be found in throwing off personal responsibility. The man who runs away from the truth will never be a free man, for it is the truth alone, sought within the circle of his commitments, which will make him free.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who epitomized true freedom in his acceptance, for God’s sake, of the prison cell and death, wrote: “If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses. . . . Only through discipline may a man learn to be free.”

Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward, of discipline. It is to be bought with a high price, not merely claimed. The world thrills to watch the grace of Peggy Fleming on the ice, or the marvelously controlled speed and strength of a racehorse. But the skater and horse are free to perform as they do only because they have been subjected to countless hours of grueling work, rigidly prescribed, faithfully carried out. Men are free to soar into space because they have willingly confined themselves in a tiny capsule designed and produced by highly trained scientists and craftsmen, have meticulously followed instructions and submitted themselves to rules which others defined.

Then Elisabeth wrote of her time in the jungle with the Auca (now known as Waorani Indians), where she “enjoyed a kind of freedom which even hippies might envy. But I was free only because the Indians worked. My freedom was contingent upon their acceptance of me as a liability and, incidentally, upon my own willingness to confine myself to a forest clearing where all I heard was a foreign language.”

…meaning in life…can be found only in God’s purpose, I believe, in what he originally meant when he made us. “If you are faithful to what I have said, you are truly my disciples (those who are being disciplined),” Jesus said. “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

There is one kind of freedom that Jesus was talking about in John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Spiritually we’re set free from sin and its penalty the moment we repent and believe on Jesus Christ as our Savior, and there is nothing we can do to “earn” it. But it would not have been possible without His setting Himself under the discipline of the cross. However,  in our sanctification, in our growing day by day in the Lord, it’s one of those paradoxical things that the more we submit to His discipline, the freer we become.

See all the posts in this series here.


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6 thoughts on “31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Freedom and Discipline

  1. I think many think of freedom as doing what they want all the time, but often this type of behavior ends up enslaving us and then we aren’t free at all. Good post.

  2. Yes… freedom is a gift – but it takes work to remain free (as Melanie said above!) So many experience a taste of freedom, thinking that is all there is. But to handle the fullness of what is offered to us, we must be disciplined in our pursuit of Him and as you said, the more we pursue Him – the freer we become!

  3. Pingback: 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot | Stray Thoughts

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