One of my heroes is Jim Elliott, a young missionary martyr who died while attempting to reach an Amazonian tribal people with the Gospel of Christ in 1956. Words from his journal, written when he was a young adult, have inspired me including this well-known line: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” I am currently reading the authorized biography of his wife, Elizabeth, a woman who writing has also fed my soul. I was privileged to hear her speak several times in years past before her death.
Jim was, in my mind, a special kind of Christian; one who lived in perpetual fellowship with the Lord, who never waffled on a commitment, who knew the will of God for his life and walked in it flawlessly – except that he wasn’t!
While reading the book (Becoming Elizabeth Elliott) yesterday, I laughed and cried while discovering authentic human dimensions I had not known before in these two saints. No, there were no scandals or huge character flaws in evidence. There were inconsistencies of confession, self-doubts, longings for comfort, insensitivities to the feelings of others bordering on arrogance, and times when they were confused about the best way to serve God. In short, they were real people ‘working out their salvation’ everyday!
We all need our heroes and examples – men and women who help us to understand what it means to serve God whole-heartedly, don’t we? There is a dangerous side to that. In books and films we see them in one dimension. We lift them up to places above the experiences of ordinary Christians like ourselves which can make us feel like second-class Christians wondering why we cannot live in the same daily ‘glory’ that they found. The truth is they did not live in some kind of unique holy glow either. When we read their stories we tend to focus on the high points, the days of discovery, while ignoring or glossing over the months of waiting, wanted, and wondering!
Are you tripping yourself up by living in comparison to another Christian?
Are you wondering why you cannot be as good as they are?
Do you question God why He has not given you the wonderful experiences of your hero of faith?
God finds us where we are, loves us deeply as we are, and asks no more or less from us than to seek Him with our whole heart. Will we always ‘get it right?’ The answer is obviously NO. We will get distracted. We will be tempted and sometimes fail. We will sometimes confuse our agenda with His will, getting it sincerely wrong! Yet He is patient with us, leads us, forgives us, heals us, uses us. Best of all, in His amazing providence, He can take even our ‘mistakes’ and use them for His purposes.
In my reading yesterday, I realized anew that when I stand before Jesus to ‘report in’ at the end of my life, He will not ask me why I wasn’t more like Jim! He will ask me what I did with the opportunities of the life I lived. He will see Jerry with love and grace. And yes, He will see the successes, the failures, the triumphs, the defeats with perfect clarity.
God does not award grades ‘on a curve.’ He asks our faith, our commitment, our confession. Our true assurance is not that we were ‘just like Jim,’ but that because of His grace we are just like Him. What a wonderful thought.
Here is a word from the Word.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. …
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:2-10, NIV)
There Was Jesus
(Zac Williams and Dolly Parton remind us of His grace!)
Every time I tried to make it on my own
Every time I tried to stand and start to fall
All those lonely roads that I have traveled on
There was Jesus
When the life I built came crashing to the ground
When the friends I had were nowhere to be found
I couldn’t see it then but I can see it now
There was Jesus
In the waiting in the searching
In the healing and the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute every moment
Of where I been or where I’m going
Even when I didn’t know it
Or couldn’t see it
(There was Jesus)
For this man who needs amazing kind of grace
For forgiveness at a price I couldn’t pay
I’m not perfect so I thank God every day
There was Jesus (There was Jesus)
There was Jesus on the mountain in the valleys
(There was Jesus) in the shadows of the alleys
(There was Jesus) in the fire in the flood
(There was Jesus) always is and always was
No I never walk alone You are always there
(Never walk alone)There was Jesus
(There was Jesus)
(There was Jesus)
Casey Beathard | Jonathan Smith | Zach Williams
© Anthems of Hope (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
CCLI License # 810055