31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Freedom and Discipline

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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.

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: The Face of Jesus

Elisabeth Elliot2This is from Elisabeth’s book, A Lamp For My Feet:

The face of Jesus:

marred more than any man–
spit upon,
slapped,
thorn-pierced,
bloodied,
sweating,
the beard plucked,
twisted in pain–

For my salvation.

A glorious face, now.

Let its light shine on me, O Light of Life.

Let Your radiance fall on me, Sun and Savior,

Lighten my darkness.

Then grant me this by Your grace:

That I, in turn, may give

“The light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6 AV)

As I see it in the face of Jesus Christ.

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: A Call to Older Women

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This excerpt is from the September/October 1989 issue of Elisabeth’s newsletter and is also in her book Keep a Quiet Heart. The first part tells of some older ladies who had been a godly influence in her life, and then she continued:

The apostle Paul tells Titus that older women ought to school the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, temperate, chaste and kind, busy at home, respecting the authority of their own husbands. That’s from Titus 2:4,5. My dear Mom Cunningham schooled me not in a class, or seminar, or even primarily by her words. It was what she was that taught me. It was her availability to God when He sent her to my door. It was the surrender of her time and offering to Him, for my sake. It was her readiness to get involved, to lay down her life for one anxious Bible School girl. Above all, she herself, a simple Scottish woman, was the message.

I think of the vast number of older women today. The statistical abstract of the United States says that way back in 1980, 19.5 percent of the population was between ages 45 to 65, but by 2000, it will be 22.9 percent. Assuming that half of those people are women, what a pool of energy and power for God they might be. We live longer now than we did forty years ago. The same volume says that the over 65’s will increase from 11.3 to 13 percent. There’s more mobility, more money around, more leisure, more health and strength.

Resources, which if put at God’s disposal, might bless younger women. But there are also many more ways to spend those resources, so we find it very easy to occupy ourselves selfishly. Where are the women, single or married, willing to hear God’s call to spiritual motherhood, taking spiritual daughters under their wings to school them, as Mom Cunningham did me? She had no training the world would recognize. She had no thought of such. She simply loved God and was willing to be broken bread and poured out wine for His sake. Retirement never crossed her mind.

If some of my listeners are willing to hear this call but hardly know how to begin, here are some suggestions.

First of all, pray about it. Ask God to show you whom, what, how.

Second, consider writing notes to or telephoning some younger woman who needs encouragement in the areas Paul mentioned.

Three, ask a young mother if you may do her ironing, take the children out, baby-sit so she can go out, or make a cake or casserole for her.

Number four, do what Mom Cunningham did for me. Invite somebody to tea. Find out what she’d like you to pray for. I asked Mom Cunningham to pray that God would bring Jim Elliot and me together. Pray with that lady.

Number five, start a little prayer group of two or three whom you can cheer and help. You’ll be cheered and helped, too.

Six, organize a volunteer house-cleaning pool to go out every other week or once a month to somebody who needs you.

Seven, have a lending library of books of real spiritual food.

Eight, be the first of a group in your church to be known as the WOTTs: Women of Titus Two. See what happens. Something will.

Here’s a quotation from a minister from the 19th century:

“Say not you cannot gladden, elevate and set free, that you have nothing of the grace of influence, that all you have to give is at the most only common bread and water. Give yourself to your Lord for the service of men with what you have. Cannot He change water into wine? Cannot He make stammering words to be imbued, filled or charged with saving power? Cannot He change trembling efforts to help into deeds of strength? Cannot He still as of old enable you in all your personal poverty to make many rich? God has need of thee for the service of thy fellow men. He has a work for thee to do. To find out what it is and then to do it is at once, thy supremest duty and thy highest wisdom. Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”

I do want to add this suggestion. Please don’t start another meeting in your church. That’s the last thing you need. But maybe it would make sense to just post a sheet of 11×8 paper on the bulletin board with WOTTs–Women of Titus Two–at the top. Let women sign up if they’re willing to be available to do any of those things that I’ve suggested. You might be surprised that there are really young women hoping and praying for spiritual mothers. You can be one.

While I appreciate all of this, I especially appreciate the last paragraph. We don’t need another organized program in the church. We mainly just need to be aware of the need to be used in this way and to be open to God’s leading, as she wrote in the first paragraph. I wrote more ideas on this topic in Mentoring Women.

See all the posts in this series here.

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: The World Must Be Shown

Elisabeth Elliot2This is from Elisabeth’s book Keep A Quiet Heart:

When Jesus was speaking with His disciples before His crucifixion, He gave them His parting gift: peace such as the world can never give. But He went on immediately to say, “Set your troubled hearts at rest and banish your fears…. I shall not talk much longer with you, for the Prince of this world approaches. He has no rights over me, but the world must be shown that I love the Father and do exactly as he commands” (John 14:27, 30-31, NEB).

A young mother called to ask for “something that will help me to trust in the Lord.” She explained that she had several small children, she herself was thirty years old, and she had cancer. Chemotherapy had done its hideous work of making her totally bald. The prognosis was not good. Could I say to her, “Set your troubled heart at rest. God is going to heal you”? Certainly not. Jesus did not tell His disciples that He would not be killed. How do I know whether God would heal this young woman? I could, however, remind her that He would not for a moment let go of her, that His love enfolded her and her precious children every minute of every day and every night, and that underneath are the Everlasting Arms.

But is that enough? The terrible things in the world seem to make a mockery of the love of God, and the question always arises: Why!

There are important clues in the words of Jesus. The disciples’ worst fears were about to be realized, yet He commanded (yes, commanded) them to be at peace. All would be well, all manner of things would be well–in the end. In a short time, however, the Prince of this world, Satan himself, was to be permitted to have his way. Not that Satan had any rights over Jesus. Far from it. Nor has he “rights” over any of God’s children, including that dear mother. But Satan is permitted to approach. He challenges God, we know from the Book of Job, as to the validity of His children’s faith.

God allows him to make a test case from time to time. It had to be proved to Satan, in Job’s case, that there is such a thing as obedient faith which does not depend on receiving only benefits. Jesus had to show the world that He loved the Father and would, no matter what happened, do exactly what He said. The servant is not greater than his Lord. When we cry “Why, Lord?” we should ask instead, “Why not, Lord? Shall I not follow my Master in suffering as in everything else?”

Does our faith depend on having every prayer answered as we think it should be answered, or does it rest rather on the character of a sovereign Lord? We can’t really tell, can we, until we’re in real trouble.

I never heard more from the young woman. I neglected to ask her address. But I prayed for her, asking God to enable her to show the world what genuine faith is–the kind of faith that overcomes the world because it trusts and obeys, no matter what the circumstances. The world does not want to be told. The world must be shown. Isn’t that part of the answer to the great question of why Christians suffer?

I started to just share the paragraphs with the sentences I highlighted, but then as I reread through the whole piece, I couldn’t leave any of it out. My tendency in any trial is to ask for it to stop, now please. But God not only works in and through the trial in my own life, it is also a testimony to others…and not just to others on Earth. Ephesians 3:10 says, “ so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” God shows His wisdom in His dealings with us even to creatures “in heavenly places!” When I think of it, I try now to pray not just for quick deliverance (though in my flesh that would still be my desire), but that others may see Jesus through it all.

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31 Days with Elisabeth Elliot: Loneliness

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This is from Elisabeth’s book On Asking God Why, from a chapter entitled “Singleness Is a Gift”  drawn from the life of Amy Carmichael. Because of its length, I am not adding any commentary.

With all her heart she determined to please him who had chosen her to be his soldier. She was awed by the privilege. She accepted the disciplines.

Loneliness was one of those disciplines. How–the modern young person always wants to know–did she “handle” it? Amy Carmichael would not have had the slightest idea what the questioner was talking about. “Handle” loneliness? Why, it was part of the cost of obedience, of course. Everybody is lonely in some way, the single in one way, the married in another; the missionary in certain obvious ways, the schoolteacher, the mother, the bank teller in others.

Amy had a dear co-worker whom she nicknamed Twin. At a missions conference they found that in the posted dinner lists, Twin and a friend named Mina had been seated side by side.

“Well, I was very glad that dear Mina should have Twin,” Amy wrote to her family, “and I don’t think I grudged her to her one little bit, and yet at the bottom of my heart there was just a touch of disappointment, for I had almost fancied I had somebody of my very own again, and there was a little ache somewhere. I could not rejoice in it. . .I longed, yes longed, to be glad, to be filled with such a wealth of unselfish love that I should be far gladder to see those two together than I should have been to have had Twin to myself. And while I was asking for it, it came. For the very first time I felt a rush, a real joy in it, His joy, a thing one cannot pump up or imitate or force in any way. . .Half-unconsciously, perhaps, I had been saying, ‘Thou and Twin are enough for me’–one so soon clings to the gift instead of only to the Giver.”

Her letter then continued with a stanza from the Frances Ridley Havergal hymn:

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for thee.

After writing this, Amy felt inclined to tear it out of the letter. It was too personal, too humiliating. But she decided the Lord wanted her to let it stand, to tell its tale of weakness and of God’s strength. She was finding firsthand that missionaries are not apart from the rest of the human race, not purer, nobler, higher.

“Wings are an illusive fallacy,” she wrote. “Some may possess them, but they are not very visible, and as for me, there isn’t the least sign of a feather. Don’t imagine that by crossing the sea and landing on a foreign shore and learning a foreign lingo you ‘burst the bonds of outer sin and hatch yourself a cherubim.’ “

Amy landed in India in 1897 and spent the first few years in itinerant evangelism. She began to uncover a secret traffic in little girls who were being sold or given for temple prostitution. She prayed that God would enable her find a way to rescue some of them, even though not one had ever been known to escape.

Several years later, God began to answer that prayer…and in a few years Amy Carmichael was Amma (“Mother”) to a rapidly growing Indian family that, by the late 1940s, numbered about 900. In a specially literal way the words of Jesus seemed to have been fulfilled: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

In answer to a question from one of her children who years later had become a close fellow worker, Amy described a transaction in a cave. She had gone there to spend the day with God and face her feelings of fear about the future. Things were all right at the moment, but could she endure years of being alone?

The Devil painted pictures of loneliness that were vivid to her years later. She turned to the Lord in desperation. “What can I do, Lord? How can I go on to the end?”

His answer: ”None of them that trust in me shall be desolate” (from Psalms 34:22 KJV). So she did not “handle” loneliness–she handed it to her Lord and trusted his Word.

“There is a secret discipline appointed for every man and woman whose life is lived for others,” she wrote. “No one escapes that discipline, nor would wish to escape it; nor can any shelter another from it.”

Her commitment to obedience was unconditional. Finding that singleness was the condition her Master had appointed for her, she received it with both hands, willing to renounce all rights for his sake and, although she could not have imagined it at the time, for the sake of the children he would give her–a job she could not possibly have done if she had had a family of her own.

Many whose houses, for one reason or another, seem empty, and the lessons of solitude hard to learn, have found strength and comfort in the following Amy Carmichael poem:

O Prince of Glory, who dost bring
Thy sons to glory through Thy Cross,
Let me not shrink from suffering,
Reproach or loss .…

If Thy dear Home be fuller, Lord,
For that a little emptier
My house on earth, what rich reward
That guerdon* were.

 *recompense; something earned or gained

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: What Fits Us For Service

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This is from Elisabeth Elliot’s book A Lamp For My Feet:

What Fits Us For Service?

Is there any Christian who does not long for some special experience, vision, or feeling of the presence of God? This morning it seemed to me that unless I could claim such I was merely going through motions of prayer, meditation, reading; that the book I am writing on discipline will prove to be nothing but vanity and a striving after wind. The Lord brought yesterday’s word to mind again with this emphasis: it is not any experience, no matter how exciting, not any vision, however vivid and dazzling, not any feeling, be it ever so deep that fits me for service. It is the power of the blood of Christ. I am “made holy by the single unique offering of the body of Jesus Christ” (Heb 10:10), and by his blood “fit for the service of the living God.” My spiritual numbness cannot cancel that–the blood will never lose its power.

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: No Further Than Natural Things

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This is from Elisabeth’s book A Light For My Path:

“Well, it’s perfectly natural for you to feel that way,” I was telling myself when I was upset with the way someone had treated me. “It’s a normal reaction.”

It was a normal reaction for a carnal mind. It was not normal for a spiritual one. The carnal attitude deals with things on one level only–this world’s. It “sees no further than natural things” (Rom 8:5 JBP).

Is there a telescope that will bring into focus things I would not see with merely “natural” vision? There is. “The spiritual attitude reaches out after the things of the spirit.” It is a different means of perceiving. It will enable me to see what I could not have seen with the naked–that is, the carnal–eye.

It works. When I looked at that person who had offended me through the “spiritual eye,” I saw in him one of God’s instruments to teach me, instead of one of the devil’s to torment me. I saw something more. I saw a person God loves, and whom He wants to love through me.

We’re called to have a supernatural reaction, not a natural one, and we can only do that by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and power. My problem is that sometimes I want to give myself the excuse to “wallow” in what seems a justifiable natural reaction. But we can’t do that if we want to answer God’s call to live and walk as Christ did. May He fill me with His love every day, every moment of my life.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:2

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Ordinary Work

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This is from a longer article “The Mother of the Lord” in the November/December 1986 issue of Elisabeth’s newsletters (it may be in a book as well – some material from the newsletters came from one of her books or later found its way into a book). At first I was only going to quote the last paragraph before the final Scripture verse, but then decided to include the last few paragraphs. Most of us find our ministries in places that Mary did, hidden away at home, and her faithfulness there is an example to us:

The apostle Paul tells us we are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, NIV.) There is mystery there, but when I think of the life of Mary, I see some facets of that mystery that I missed when I read the apostle. Hers was a hidden life, a faithful one, a holy one–holy in the context of a humble home in a small village where there was not very much diversion. She knew that the ordinary duties were ordained for her as much as the extraordinary way in which they became her assignment. She struck no poses. She was the mother of a baby, willing to be known simply as his mother for the rest of her life. He was an extraordinary baby, the Eternal Word, but His needs were very ordinary, very daily, to his mother. Did she imagine that she deserved to be the chosen mother? Did she see herself as fully qualified? Surely not. Surely not more than any other woman who finds herself endowed with the awesome gift of a child. It is the most humbling experience of a woman’s life, the most revealing of her own helplessness. Yet we know this mother, Mary, the humble virgin from Nazareth, as “Most Highly Exalted.”

I am thanking God that unto us a Child was born. I am thanking Him also that there was a pure-hearted woman prepared to receive that Child with all that motherhood would mean of daily trust, daily dependence, daily obedience. I thank Him for her silence. That spirit is not in me at all, not naturally. I want to learn what she had learned so early: the deep guarding in her heart of each event, mulling over its meaning from God, waiting in silence for His word to her.

I want to learn, too, that it is not an extraordinary spirituality that makes one refuse to do ordinary work, but a wish to prove that one is not ordinary–which is a dead giveaway of spiritual conceit. I want to respond in unhesitating obedience as she did: Anything You say, Lord.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

You can read more of this article here.

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Forgiveness

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This is from from “As We Forgive Those….” from Elisabeth’s book Love Has a Price Tag:

To forgive is to die. It is to give up one’s right to self, which is precisely what Jesus requires of anyone who wants to be his disciple.

“If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Following Christ means walking the road he walked, and in order to forgive us he had to die. His follower may not refuse to relinquish his own right, his own territory, his own comfort, or anything that he regards as his. Forgiveness is relinquishment. It is a laying down. No one can take it from us, any more than anyone could take the life of Jesus if he had not laid it down of his own will. But we can do as he did. We can offer it up, writing off whatever loss it may entail, in the sure knowledge that the man who loses his life or his reputation or his “face” or anything else for the sake of Christ will save it.

Wow, not easy – but possible only by His grace.

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31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Transformation

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This is from Elisabeth Elliot’s book A Lamp For My Feet concerning Romans 12:1-2:

The primary condition for learning what God wants of us is putting ourselves wholly at his disposal. It is just here that we are often blocked. We hold certain reservations about how far we are willing to go, what we will or will not do, how much God can have of us or of what we treasure. Then we pray for guidance. It will not work. We must begin by laying it all down–ourselves, our treasures, our destiny. Then we are in a position to think with renewed minds and act with a transformed nature. The withholding of any part of ourselves is the same as saying, “Thy will be done up to a point, mine from there on.”

If God is almighty, there can be no evil so great as to be beyond his power to transform. That transforming power brings light out of darkness, joy out of sorrow, gain out of loss, life out of death.

Sometimes we boggle at the evil in the world and especially in ourselves, feeling that this sin, this tragedy, this offense cannot possibly fit into a pattern for good. Let us remember Joseph’s imprisonment, David’s sin, Paul’s violent persecution of Christians, Peter’s denial of his Master. None of it was beyond the power of grace to redeem and turn into something productive. The God who establishes the shoreline for the sea also decides the limits of the great mystery which is evil. He is “the Blessed Controller of all things.” God will finally be God, Satan’s best efforts notwithstanding.

We tend to want bad things prevented rather than transformed. That day will come, but it is not now. A friend once said she realized that if God were to wipe out all the evil in the world, He would have to wipe out all of us, for we all sin. I am thankful He transforms us rather than just doing away with us, and and we can trust Him to limit what He allows of evil and trust Him to somehow work it together for good (Romans 8:28) until the day when it is taken out of the way completely. It starts within my by “laying it all down,” rather than saying “Thy will be done up to a point.”

See all the posts in this series here.

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