Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

To Gain What You Cannot Lose, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Elisabeth Elliot knows what it means to wait on the Lord. Today she has some wise counsel for young people who want to know God's will for their love life. Here's Elisabeth Elliot. 

Elisabeth Elliot: And here is the crux of the matter: Until the will and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand—let alone to accept—His Lordship.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, January 7, 2016.

Sixty years ago tomorrow, five missionaries were killed in Ecuador while trying to make contact with the Wodani [Auca] people. Then some of the family members of those martyrs did something extraordinary.

They went back to those who had speared their loved ones and shared the love of Jesus with them. The power of this story, the power of the gospel lived out in real life, added weight to the words of Elisabeth Elliot.

She told the first part of the story yesterday, and we'll hear part two today. But first, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will remember the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who went home to be with the Lord last year.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Most of us who've been influenced by Elisabeth Elliot knew her—or knew of her—in her older years. Remember, she didn't start the Gateway to Joy radio program until she was sixty-three years of age.

It's easy to look at a person in their prime of life, in their seasoned stage of life where they've had many years of track record of God proving Himself to be faithful and walking with Him and making choices to walk with Him.

We can look at our lives, those of us who are younger, and think, That's unattainable! To get to that place where I could trust and obey the Lord in that way. I just want to remind us that Elisabeth Elliot was once young; she was once a girl; she was once a teenager; she was once a college student in love with a young man who was making up his mind very slowly—Jim Elliot, that is—as to whether he was to marry Elisabeth.

She made one choice after another in those younger years of her life—as a young woman, as a young widow with a little girl faced with the loss of her missionary husband. What was she to do? How was she to respond?

Each of those moments was one choice where she had to lift her eyes up, the same way we do, and say, "Lord, show me what to do and give me grace to put the next foot forward." That was hard for her at times; that's hard for us at times, and I'm sure she didn't always respond in just the way she had wished.

She was human, so she had failures at times just as we do, but she learned to get to God for His grace. She learned to trust Him as He proved Himself trustworthy in one situation after another. I think the mistake is to look at a life like Elisabeth Elliot's, and just look at the whole bigger-than-life person, and think, This is somebody who's like in some other stratosphere!

We can forget that their life was comprised of many, many choices—to get to know God, to cry out to Him for grace, to "do the next thing," as Elisabeth Elliot often reminded us, and that the big picture of their life was the sum total of many, many little choices to say, "Yes, Lord!"

So that's a challenge to me today as I face little choices . . . What do I do with my time? How do I respond to this disappointment or loss? And that's where thinking about a sister and friend and fellow-servant like Elisabeth Elliot helps to point me in the right direction.

I remember reading about when she sat there in the jungles of Ecuador and learned that her husband wasn't coming back. She did the next thing, put the next foot forward, lifted her eyes to heaven, and found God's grace to keep pressing on!

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Let's get back to part two of this message that Elisabeth Elliot delivered at the conference KC '83.

Elisabeth: In Lillias Trotter's beautiful book Parables of the Cross, she describes the death/life cycle of plants, which illustrates the spiritual processes which must go on in us if we are to die to self and live to God.

This is what she says:

The fair, new petals must fall—and for no visible reason. No one seems enriched by this stripping, and the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender, not manward but Godward—an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped its true meaning. That is not worthy of the name, for no polluted thing can be offered. 

Did you ever see it like that? The loveliness of the flower has to go.

The test for Jim Elliot was falling in love. Anything wrong with that? He was swept off his feet by love for a girl—she had been attracted to him for a long time and had been wrestling with God over the same question of singleness. And, like Jim, had finally said, "Yes, Lord. If that's what You're asking, I'll do it. I'll be a single missionary."

I remember that commitment very well. I was that girl. I remember Memorial Day 1948, just before I was to graduate. Jim asked me to go for a walk with him. Jim Elliot, asking me to go for a walk? I nearly died. I could hardly breathe for excitement!

I tell you this because I want you to know that I've been where you are. I know your feelings. "Well, Betty," Jim said, "I guess we'd better get squared away about how we feel about each other." I nearly went through the sidewalk. "Feel about each other?" What gave him the idea that I had any feelings for him?!

I thought I'd been doing a terrific job of concealing my feelings. I wasn't just playing hard-to-get. I was determined to be just like Jim—impossible to get. I have to make a long story short, here. You can read the details, if you want to, in Shadow of the Almighty and in Passion and Purity.

Incidentally, somebody asked me this afternoon if Passion and Purity is for men as well as for women. I would say, "No," unless you happen to be a man who has some passions or has ever had any struggles with purity. In that case, it's for you. (laughter)

Anyway, Jim and I went to a park, and we sat on the grass and talked for seven hours. What were we to make of this tornado of passion we suddenly felt for each other? Did it mean God wanted us to forget all the agonies we went through in our singleness struggles and just fall into each other's arms?

We had a few weeks before graduation. We took some more walks; we did some more pondering and praying alone and some more talking together. One night we wandered into a cemetery and found ourselves sitting on a convenient marble slab, trying to sort through what God was trying to tell us.

I said that it didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me to tell God that we wanted Him to handle this whole thing if we intended to keep our hands on. It was going to have to be hands off, turning it entirely over to the Lord.

You see, after graduation, there wasn't much chance we were going to be seeing each other because Jim had another year in college. He lived in Oregon. I lived in New Jersey. He was headed for South America.  I thought I was headed for Africa or, perhaps, the South Seas.

"Does it make sense to you?" I asked him. "Should we write?" He didn't say anything for a while. We sat there in silence, and finally he said, "You're right. It doesn't make sense. I know you're right because this morning the passage that I was reading in my Bible was about Abraham and Isaac."

"Abraham made the sacrifice. He tied the son down on the altar, and he raised the knife. I knew right then that God was asking me to give up the most precious thing in my life . . . you. Would I give it to Him or would I refuse? I said I'd give it."

"So that's where you're going to stay, Betty," he said, "on the altar—unless God shows me I don't need to make that final sacrifice." There was another long silence and then suddenly we realized that the moon had risen behind us and was casting the shadow of a stone cross between us on that slab.

In the book that I just mentioned, Passion and Purity, I've quoted the poem that I wrote in my journal on that occasion:

Hold Thou Thy cross between us, blessed Lord. 
Let us love Thee, to us Thy power afford
To remain prostrate at Thy pierced feet.
There is no other place where we may meet.

Set Thou our faces as a flint of stone to do Thy will.
Our goal be this alone.
 O God, our hearts are fixed.
Let us not turn; consume all our affections.
Let Thy love burn.

You need endurance; you'll have to pay a price. You'll find out about sharp storms and hot sweats. They don't always come in the form you envision when you think about the great heroes of the faith. I'm giving you just one example of the form it took for a couple of college students, thirty-six years ago.

We wanted, above everything else, the will of God. Here is the crux of the matter . . . And by the way, did you know that the word "crux" means "cross"? Did you know that the word "crucial" comes from the same root?

Until the will and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand—let alone to accept—His Lordship. The cross, as it enters the love life, will reveal the heart's truth.

I'm convinced that this is the point at which many young people refuse the cross, refuse to endure hardship. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists what we call heroes of the faith. You know the stories: Abel's sacrifice, Noah's ark, Abraham's long journey, Sarah's late pregnancy, Moses in the bulrushes.

But did you ever think about some of the mundane aspects of their heroism? Did you ever think about the jealousy of Cain and what it did to his brother, Abel? Did you ever think about the scoffing of Noah's neighbors as he was building that ark on dry land? Did you ever think about what Noah and his family endured when they got into the boat?! Think about the mewing and barking and roaring and clucking and grunting and whistling and chattering and peeping and hissing and quacking and trumpeting and growling and squeaking and snarling and mooing and braying and neighing and whinnying and howling and growling. I mean, talk about a racket—forty days and forty nights. Abraham endured.

Jim and I waited five-and-a-half years before God gave us a green light to get married. We didn't go through anything like those people I've just listed, but it was a form of endurance. It was tough enough for us at the time.

It was a test: Were we going to trust God during all those years of silence and separation and uncertainty? Mind you, we had no commitment to each other. I haven't time to tell you the rest of the story. I want to say this much. On our wedding day, the Lord gave us a verse from Isaiah: "This is our God. We have waited for Him." It was worth it! That brings me to the last point. Is it worth it?

One day in October of 1955, Nate Saint flew into our station to tell us that he had discovered some Auca houses. Within a very short time, Ed McCully (that politician from Wisconsin), Jim Elliott from Oregon, and Nate Saint instituted a program of dropping gifts to those Indians with the hope that they would be able to break down their hostility and prepare the way for an attempt to reach them.

You can imagine our excitement, our trembling, the prayers that went up. On the evening in January of 1956, just before these men left to go in to the edge of Auca territory (by this time they had been joined by Roger Youderian and Pete Fleming), they sang together that hymn, "We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and Our Defender."

A week later they were all speared to death. Why? Two of the men who killed them are friends of mine now. Their names are Minkaya and Gikita, and they made tapes for me, telling me everything about what had happened that afternoon on the beach.

They said they thought the men were cannibals. Why would God allow a thing like that to happen? He was their Shield, their Defender, and He let them get speared to death. What had happened? Can your faith cope with a set of facts like this?

There is a mystery here, but it is not unprecedented. Go back to Hebrews 11, and following all those wonderful triumphant accounts we read, "And others were tortured; they faced jeers and flogging, fetters and prison bars. They were stoned, they were [listen to this] sawn in two." Talk about endurance!

Is it worth it? Is it worth it? How many things can you think of that are worth suffering for?

We lived across the street from a high school, and I couldn't believe the forms of torture that those high school kids would go through in order to play football—just throwing themselves at those padded steel teeth, jumping in and out of rubber tires and going facedown into the mud. For what? Football.

How many things can you think of that are worth living for? I want you to listen, ladies and gentlemen, young men and young women: There is nothing worth living for unless it's worth dying for! Have you made up your mind?

There is nothing worth living for unless it's worth dying for.

The world was stunned when the news of the death of the five men hit the headlines. People did not know that there were still stone-age savages around. I suppose that's one of the reasons they were impressed.

Very few people realized that there could still be ordinary young men for whom obedience to Jesus Christ was quite literally a matter of life or death. There was plenty of editorializing about it. The secular press called them blankety-blank fools.

The Christian press did a lot of very glib explaining about why God would allow a thing like this to happen. The verse that brought assurance to me was 1 John 2:17: "The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following the will of God is part of the permanent and cannot die" (Phillips).

Ask the football star, who has finally made the cover of TIME magazine, if it's worth all those miserable afternoons in the slush. Ask Noah if the jeers of his neighbors bothered him very much after they got into the ark. Ask Ed McCully if he still wishes he had pursued that career in politics. Ask Abraham whether it was worth the agonies he went through when he went up the mountain.

Ask Jesus. Ask Him what it was like to leave the ivory palaces and come into this world of woe. Ask Him about Gethsemane and the cross of Calvary. What does the Book say about Him? "Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him endured a cross, making light of its disgrace, and has taken a seat at the right hand of the throne of God. He made Himself nothing."

Jim Elliot wrote in his diary when he was twenty-two: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Were those men really "out of their tree" to do what they did?

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

In Hebrews 12, Scripture says, "What of ourselves? With all these witnesses surrounding us like a cloud, we must throw off every encumbrance—every sin to which we cling-and run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, from Whom faith depends from start to finish" (paraphrased)

I don't what particular endurance God is asking of you right this minute. Perhaps it's in your love life, and the willingness to submit your longings and to wait patiently for God's best for you . . . to stay out of bed. 

God is saying, "I have something infinitely better for you than you can imagine. Will you trust Me? Will you wait? Will you obey Me?"

I promised you that I'd tell you what I was going to say, and then I would try to say it, and then I'd tell you what I said.

  • First I asked, what do you live for? Is it for yourself, the world, the devil, or is it for God?
  • Secondly, how do you get it? By obedience, by endurance, by blood, sweat, tears.
  • Third, is it worth it? Jesus, for the joy, endured a cross.

My husband and I live on the coast of Massachusetts. Do you know what motto is posted in every rescue station along the coast? "You have to go out; you don't have to come back." That, I believe, should be the motto of every Christian: "You have to go out; you don't have to come back."

Maybe I've come across to you tonight as tough, insensitive, dogmatic, ignorant of where you're at. I hope not. But in case I have, let me assure you that that Lord knows exactly where you're at. He loves you more than you could possibly imagine. He's got things up His sleeve that are so much better than your best dreams that it would blow your mind. But He asks you to trust Him. Jim Elliot often used to quote a poem written by Amy Carmichael of India.

He quoted this frequently when he spoke to student groups, and it is with these words that I close:

Hast thou no scar, no hidden scar, on foot or side or hand? I hear thee sung as mighty in the land. I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star; hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent; leaned me against a tree to die and rent by ravening beasts that compassed me. I swooned. Hast thou no wound?

No wound, no scar—but as the Master must the servant be, and pierced are the feet that follow Me-but thine are whole! Can he have followed far who has nor wound, nor scar?

Nancy: We've been listening to Elisabeth Elliot quoting that classic poem by Amy Carmichael, and reminding us that there is a cost to following Christ. Recently, Nate Saint's son Steve reminded me that this call is not just for those extraordinary heroes of the faith, but it's a call for all of us.

Steve Saint: It might seem like Jim Elliot and Nate Saint and Roger and Pete and Ed were super-Christians, but you know, they weren't. They were just common, ordinary men. And their five wives were common, ordinary women who distinguished themselves by their willingness to be used by God.

The message in this story is, "Hey, if you'll just let God, He'll make you a hero of the faith, too, and you don't have to go out and stand out." I mean, Dad and his friends died out in the middle of nowhere. They must have thought that they had failed, but God had a plan, and as we've seen that plan revealed over this fraction of a second of fifty years in God's time [at the time of that recording], it has become apparent that, "Hey! God did have a plan." It has had an incredible impact on people around the world.

I think that's the legacy: Just be a common, ordinary man or woman—just whatever God has made you—but allow Him to decide what kind of a vessel He wants and what He wants to use your vessel to do.

Nancy: That's Steve Saint, and we'll be hearing more from him tomorrow as he talks about the legacy of his dad and the other four martyred missionaries.

Let me ask you, if you were to die tomorrow, what kind of legacy would you leave? You may want to ask yourself the questions Elisabeth's been asking us this week: What am I living for? How do I get it? Is it worth it?

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, remembering the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who died last year.

We've also been marking the sixtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of five missionaries in Ecuador (sixty years ago this week). Their story will encourage you to live a life of surrender, completely giving up control of your life to the Lord.

We'd like to send you that story by sending Elisabeth's book Through Gates of Splendor. It's our way of saying thank you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for Through Gates of Splendor when you call 1–800–569–5959 with your gift, or visit

Tomorrow we'll look at the long-lasting effect of the lives of these five missionaries and their families; we'll hear from some children of these missionaries. And in an amazing turn, we'll hear how some of the very people who killed these missionaries came to know Christ.

Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker