‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.’
Jim Elliot, one of the five men martyred by the Aucus of Ecuador in January 1956 wrote these well-known words in his diary just a few days before his death. Jim and indeed his four missionary friends, gave their lives, which they could not keep, for the sake of gaining Christ, whom they would never lose.
It is an extraordinary story and one that raised a mixture of amazement, admiration, misunderstanding and disbelief amongst people who had both followed their journey and those who had shown little interest. The fact is these five men will be remembered not only for their self-sacrifice and courage, but that they held nothing back for the cause of Christ. The world had truly been crucified to them and these men to the world.
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Union with Christ means He represented us in His death and resurrection. But it means even more, for it is a living union. Jesus is present with the believer, by the Spirit, the LORD lives in inward fellowship with His own. Paul doesn’t mean that the individuality of a person is suppressed, but that the person lives ‘in the flesh’ by faith. The union is a spiritual relationship of the utmost intimacy.
A reading of the journals of the martyred missionaries leaves no doubt that each man experienced a deep spiritual relationship with Christ of the utmost intimacy. Christ was their earnest desire and to obey Him, their greatest pleasure. All else, even their wives, took second place.
John 12:24-26 Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
These five men, united with Christ in life, willingly gave themselves as seeds fallen to the ground to become united with Christ in their death. But what fruit came from their seemingly senseless slaughter? Just a short time after, with her 10 month old daughter, Elisabeth Elliot, believing that her husband and his friend’s suffering was not in vain, made contact with the Aucus. She went as a missionary to serve the tribe that killed her husband, sharing Christ with them. And that is another remarkable story in itself!
The men did not love their lives even unto death (Revelation 12:11). Rather like Jesus, they humbled themselves, emptying themselves of the love of everything in the world and became obedient, to the point of death. However, unlike Jesus, they were not perfect, struggled with worldly temptations and sins that could easily ensnare them. But they considered both the sufferings of this world and all it’s pleasures not worth comparing with the glory that was to come in laying down their lives for Jesus.
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The story of the missionaries who gave their lives as an offering in service to Christ is challenging. It may even make us feel uncomfortable. Yet it’s a high, honorable calling. God’s calling to His Son. Jesus’ calling to us. For there is no greater calling than to lay down one’s life for another. Where are we positioned as we read this account? Are we growing closer to obediently following Christ? Do we love the pleasures of this world less and Christ more than we did this time last year? Are we growing in passion for Christ and indifference to the world? Are we advancing in our willingness to sacrifice whatever God asks of us? Do we exhibit a growing desire to love generously and sacrificially for others?
We are no fools if we give up the riches of this world and if need be, our own lives, to serve our LORD and Savior and gain an everlasting friendship with Christ and the riches of His eternal Kingdom.
‘Father fill me with an over-powering ocean of compassion to those who have yet to know You. May love be my motive, Christ be my inspiration, and the Spirit be my strength as I seek to let go of this world and strive to seek first Your Kingdom. Amen.’