“Do the next thing.”

Elizabeth Elliott, Christian missionary, mother, teacher, and author, lived a full life that included what seems to be more than her fair share of suffering. She endured the long uncertainty of a 5 year courtship with a man who did not know if he should marry her. Finally, Jim did marry her and their marriage was sweet. Then, he was martyred 2 years later, leaving her a single parent. 

In pursuit of her calling to an Amazonian tribal people, she found herself in a terrible, unceasing conflict with another missionary that became so sharp she left Ecuador after 2 years of attempting to find reconciliation. She was criticized by many in the Christian world for her prolific writing and teaching that challenged the ‘victory speak’ and superficial Christianity she found in so many churches in America. Her second husband died after a long bout with cancer.

In later life, she slipped into Alzheimer’s disease, that robbed her of her sharp mind. But this was her creed“And I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons. And if we’ll trust Him for it, we can come through to the unshakable assurance that He’s in charge. He has a loving purpose. And He can transform something terrible into something wonderful. Suffering is never for nothing.” ― Elisabeth Elliot, Suffering Is Never for Nothing

I loved the biography of the first half of her life, Becoming Elizabeth Elliott, which I read this week. I wondered how she remained a vital, faithful, fruitful follower of Jesus through all the trials and sorrow. Her choice was simple – Do the next thing.” I don’t know any simpler formula for peace, for relief from stress and anxiety than that very practical, very down-to-earth word of wisdom. Do the next thing. That has gotten me through more agonies than anything else I could recommend.”  Each time life knocked her down, she stood up, asked God for direction, and made the most of the next opportunity.

IF we are engaged with our world, deeply committed to the calling of Christ, we will find ourselves going through hardships. We don’t have to go looking for them. We don’t have to pick a fight for Christ’s sake. We don’t have to try to be a martyr!  The choice of discipleship sets us against the world systems, our own ego-centric nature, and the Evil One. 

Even if we do not experience great tragedy, we will be faced with the call of Jesus to ‘come and die,’ to ‘take up our cross.’  Being His disciple is a choice that comes with a cost, always. If we are content to know just enough “Jesus” to feel that we are ready for Heaven if He calls us home (Not too soon, though) but not so much “Jesus” that it disturbs our comfortable lives, we will never become beautiful believers.

But, when we choose to serve, generously give our time and money not from our excess but as a priority, forgive, love, worship – all things that are costly to Self – we are building a true treasure. We will begin to radiate His light into our dark world. Our reward may not be recognition but God sees and rewards. Today?  Perhaps not, but certainly! 

Paul, writing to us, assures that the daily choice of discipleship, though hard, has rich returns. “Among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-7, NIV)

When we endure the hard, we become worthies of His Kingdom, men and women of note in Heaven! 

Ah friend, can you see beyond time’s horizon to hold onto the promise? 
Will you, by faith, receive the truth that God is just and that the sacrifices made will find His recognition? 

As Elizabeth Elliott would declare – “Suffering is never for nothing!”

This coming week in our time of Thanksgiving many are finding life more difficult than they might want it to be. There is uncertainty about the future.  We are in a troubled time of political and social change. As Christians, let’s deal with this without complaint. Even as we live in the reality of the ‘hard,’ we can stay steady in faith and offer genuine thanks to the God who never walks off, never abandons us, the God who stays!  We will pray, together, for Jesus’ life to be recreated us and in Him we will find life to the full as well the assurance of eternal life.

Here is the word from the Word.  “And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds. Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, NLT)

NOTE –  Thank you for traveling with me in these daily thoughts.
Next week, I’ll be taking a break from writing. 
CoffeeBreak will be back on Monday, November 30, and together we can make the journey of Advent.

Happy Thanksgiving!

________

The God Who Stays
(Matthew West worships our faithful, loving Father)

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now
I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
‘Cause I feel just like a lost cause
If I were You
I would’ve turned around and walked away
I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
‘Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

But (‘Cause) somehow You don’t see me like I do
Somehow You’re still here
You’re (From) the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done
Could separate my heart
(From the God who stays)

I used to hide
Every time I thought I let You down
I always thought I had to earn my way
But I’m learning You don’t work that way
My shame can’t separate my guilt can’t separate
My past can’t separate I’m Yours forever
My sin can’t separate my scars can’t separate
My failures can’t separate I’m Yours forever
No enemy can separate

No power of hell can take away
Your love for me will never change
I’m Yours forever

AJ Pruis | Jonathan Smith | Matthew West

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