Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leaving Self Behind (Elisabeth Elliot)

Transcription for September 27, 2013

Leslie Basham: Do you ever claim to be “struggling” with some decision? Elisabeth Elliot says sometimes the answer is just to obey what you know is right.

Elisabeth Elliot: Do you know what struggling means, ladies, in a case like that? Struggling is simply delayed obedience.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, September 27.

All week, Nancy’s been speaking on obedience. Next week, we’ll hear a dramatic story about a man who had to take some radical steps in order to obey the Lord. He was even willing to accept jail time to do it. But today, we’ll pause and hear from Elisabeth Elliot talking about obeying the Lord in one specific area, forgiveness. Here’s Nancy to introduce today’s message.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Elisabeth Elliot is a woman who knows what it means to be a forgiver. In 1956, after she had been married for just twenty-seven months, her husband, Jim Elliot, was martyred by the Auca Indians along with four other missionaries. Months later, Elisabeth returned to that tribe with her baby daughter and continued to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those very people who had been responsible for the death of her husband.

Only an understanding and a commitment to God’s principle of forgiveness could have enabled her to take that kind of a step. What we’re going to hear today from Elisabeth Elliot is not just head knowledge; it’s a life message for her. Let’s join Elisabeth Elliot as she speaks to a group of women on the subject of forgiveness.

Elisabeth: Baron von Hügel wrote: “The law of suffering and sacrifice is the one way to joy and possession. To forgive someone is an act of sacrifice. It is to give up your right to yourself.”

I had a phone call from a friend one morning and she said, “Elisabeth, I need your help.” And she told me this long story about how she and her husband had another couple who had been very good friends for years. But then they made the terrible mistake of going on a vacation together. I’ve heard there are some disasters that happened when they did that.

I don’t know what it was, can’t remember what she told me. But everything fell apart on that vacation, and from that time on, this woman had not spoken to her until just yesterday. She said, “You know, she called me, Elisabeth. Can you believe this? She called me to ask me if I would be godmother to her new baby.” This woman said, “Do you think I have to say ‘yes’ to that after what she did to me?”

“Well,” I said. “I’m certainly not going to tell you that you have to be the godmother to her baby. That’s none of my business. But I do know what you have to do.”

And she said, “What’s that?”

I said, “You have to forgive her, don’t you?”

“Forgive her after what she did to me? Did you hear what I told you about her? I mean, it was awful. I mean, everything just fell apart. And then she has the guts to come and say ‘Would you be godmother to my baby?’”

So I said, “Well now, wait a minute? What does Jesus say about forgiveness?” There was just a dead silence.

“Well, I don’t know.”

So I repeated the words that she knew perfectly well, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12).

She said, “Is that what it says?”

I said, “Yes, and furthermore, when Jesus finished that prayer, He turned to His disciples and He said, “If you do not forgive your brother from your heart, neither will my Father in Heaven forgive you.”

There was a thunderous silence. “Is that what it says?”


Now you know that is simple, but it’s not easy. Let’s not ever confuse simple and easy. There are a whole lot of things that are very hard to do, but they are perfectly simple because God is telling you, “This is what I want you to do.”

That’s a lesson that you mothers have to teach to your tiny, little children. It’s a very simple thing to tell a child to go to his room until he can come back with a happy face. That’s what my mother used to say. “I don’t like that face you’re putting on, and we don’t want to have to look at that. You go to your room until you find a happy face.” Well, that child knew perfectly well that he had to go to his room, but it took a long time to find a happy face.

Why not let yourself be wronged?

Amy Carmichael has a wonderful story, a beautiful story of a certain man who was a Hindu in a village which was thoroughly Hindu, and he became a Christian. And of course, the word got around. He was hated by the people because of his testimony.

So one of the men just decided he would test the reality of this Christianity thing. He demanded the use of this Christian man’s bullock and cart. And the Christian said, “Take my bullock and my cart and take the fodder for the bullock as well.” The Hindu was astounded, shocked, and ashamed. He was too ashamed to go ahead and do what the Christian had told him he could do. But it didn’t take very long before he became a Christian because of that outrageous response.

Jesus in Matthew 5 tells us to do some outrageous things, doesn’t He? If somebody takes your coat give him your cloak. If somebody wants you to go one mile, go two miles. So why not let yourself be wronged? Matthew 16 tells us that we are to leave self behind.

Ephesians 4:32 is another passage that I want us to look at. Start with verse 31: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” I like the bluntness of the New International Version here. “Get rid of all bitterness.” I can hear some of you saying, “Well, I’ve really been struggling with that for a long time.” And you know what “struggling” means, ladies, in a case like that? What does it mean?

Margaret Ashmore knows exactly what it means. She’s heard me say it more than once. “Struggling” is simply delayed obedience, most of the time. Now, I know there are exceptions to that. There are other ways in which we struggle. The apostle Paul struggled with the churches that he was responsible for. If we examine our consciences deliberately, clearly, and in the presence of God, I think we’re going to find out that a whole lot of what we call “struggling” is delayed obedience.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, [how?] just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Now, how was that? He had to die, didn’t He? He had to go to the cross and die. And if it hadn’t been for that, where would we be?

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old cross, where the dearest and best,
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.
’Til my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

“Be imitators of God . . .” This is chapter 5 now, verse 1 from Ephesians. “. . . . therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (vv. 1–2). 

I was watching TV one night as I was getting supper. We have a tiny little TV set that sits on the kitchen counter, and that’s about the only time I have time to watch anything. I was watching one of those talk shows that had a particularly sardonic man who was in charge of that particular talk show. This was a number of years ago. As I switched on the TV, I looked at the screen which was filled with the very earnest face of a young man who happened at that very moment to be saying, “I forgive them.”

Well, I looked again to see what channel I was on. I couldn’t believe that I would hear anything like that on that kind of a program. Someone in the audience leaped to her feet and said, “That’s sick. After what they did to you, why would you forgive them? What you’re doing is condoning their evil. I don’t see why you want to condone their evil.”

And the young man said, “I didn’t say I condoned it. I said I forgive them.” And as the program went on, I realized that I was looking at the young man that was beaten almost to death in the LA riots a number of years ago. He was a truck driver. He was drug out of his truck and beaten practically to death. So here he is looking straight at the audience and saying, “I forgive them.”

Well, this same woman jumped up again and said, “I don’t care what you say. That’s just outrageous. Anybody who would forgive somebody for something like that, there has got to be something wrong with your head.”

Whereupon, a very beautiful lady stood up. She was very poised, and with a quiet voice she said, “I would just like you to know that I am the mother of the man who beat this man here. I just want you to know that what my son did to him was a terrible thing. It was a wrong. But you know, in the court case, as soon as the verdict was pronounced and we were in each other’s arms, this young man who is saying ‘I forgive him’ and I understand this because we’re Christians. That’s forgiveness.”

Why not be wronged? Why not just go ahead and be wronged? Well, that’s what the Bible says.

Many of you have heard the story that Corrie ten Boom’s told about how she was speaking one time in Germany long after the war. In the back of the room she saw the German guard who had been responsible for starving her sister to death.

She said, “At the end of the meeting, to my dismay, I saw this man coming down the aisle with his hand outstretched. I just sent up an S.O.S to the Lord. I said, ‘Lord, I cannot shake hands with that man.’ By the time he got to me, my hand shot out. In that split second, God gave me grace to say, ‘I forgive you.’”

And of course, she found out that he was a brother in Christ. He was coming to ask her forgiveness.

How long does it take? Are you going to say, “Well, I’m not going to say it until I can mean the words” which very often just means, “until I can feel good about it”? Now let’s remember ladies, and this is one of the things very important for women to remember. We are very much likely to major in the emotional side of things rather than the will. God has given to all of us will and emotion. Which one rules your life?

You know I’m much too old to have ever heard of PMS back in the days when I was that age. There was no such thing as PMS, so we didn’t have any excuses to be nasty. Of course, I don’t know what all is involved in that. I just hear it. It goes around my head all the time. People talk about “Well, there are certain days of the month when my family just can’t talk to me. I don’t want to talk to them.”

Then there are people who say, “I can’t talk to anybody until I have my coffee.” What are you, some kind of a bear? Do you have a right to be snotty and nasty just because it’s six o’clock in the morning and you haven’t had your coffee yet?

I mean, all of this has something to do with what it means to have a gentle and quiet spirit, to be Christ-like, to exhibit the Christ life in our homes, not just in our church, not just in our neighborhood, but primarily in our homes. If your children don’t see it there, if your husband doesn’t see it there, we’re in trouble.

So in Colossians 3:13 we are told that we have to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” Now, that part is hard enough. How about the last half? “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

This means lay down your desire for vindication. “But she was wrong! Why do I have to forgive her?” I’ve given you all the reasons from Scripture.

I am to lay down my desire for vindication. I would like to be vindicated. I would like it to be known that I was right. But God doesn’t give me that privilege. I am to lay down my desire for vindication. I am to lay down my right to an apology. Now, that’s a tough one. You may have a right to an apology because the person really did wrong you, but how about just getting rid of the burden?

Get rid of asking yourself, “When is that woman ever going to realize what she did to me?” Chances are she is not going to realize it, and she’s not interested in realizing it, and she’s forgotten all about it, perhaps. So why lug through life all that terrible burden of vindictiveness and bitterness?

I’m sure that all of us know somebody who is just like a tiger in a corner. We had one in our church. She was a woman that lashed out like a tiger with everybody that came near. We were all scared to death over her. Nobody wanted to get near that poor woman. I mean, she was so angry, and nobody seemed to be able to figure out what it was.

I remember one time I was sitting right behind her in church, and she had just taken off her coat. She flopped the coat over the pew in front of her, and the coat fell off on the floor. She was so angry that she grabbed that coat and she just threw it against the pew in front of her as if it was the fault of that coat. I mean, that’s how angry she was. But there was no question that she was filled with undealt with bitterness.

Lay down your desire for vindication. Lay down your right to an apology. Lay down the pleasure that you might get from that person’s humiliation. And let’s be honest with ourselves. It would be very pleasant if the person who wronged us was humiliated by it. Lay down your will. In other words, “Bring every thought, under obedience to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Every thought is to be brought under obedience. 

Romano Guardini said, “Forgiveness is renouncing the right to administer justice to one self.” Put that down in your book. Would you? Renouncing the right to administer justice to one self. Relinquishment of the wish to see punishment meted out to others. It is very soothing isn’t it to see punishment meted out to somebody else who has done you in.

“Forgiveness is quitting the questionable territory of desires. Pain for pain leads to the open country of freedom. Forgiveness reestablishes order by acquitting the offender and thereby placing him in a new and higher order of justice. He who insists on rights [and this is the most important part], he who insists on rights places himself outside the community of men. He would like to be judge of men rather than be one of them. Only forgiveness frees us from the injustice of others.” Only forgiveness frees us from the injustice of others.

And now let me give you just four points very quickly which will show you how to forgive.

Number one: Receive the grace. You won’t be able to forgive unless you receive the grace. Matthew 18:21–35. I love what Corrie ten Boom says. “When God casts our sins into the depths of the sea, He puts up a sign that says ‘No fishing.’”

Number two: Acknowledge the wrong. Be straight forward with God. Acknowledge the fact that this person has wronged you. That’s an important step. If you don’t acknowledge the wrong, you don’t have anything to forgive.

Number three: Lay down all your rights. “Lose your life for my sake,” Jesus said. Forgiveness is the unconditional laying down of the self. That’s all under number three now. Lay down all the rights.

Number four: What to do to and for the one who has wronged you? What shall I do? Okay. I’ll give you a, b, c and d under this four.

a) If he asks forgiveness, forgive him. You don’t have to write that down. That’s so simple. If he asks forgiveness, of course you say “yes.” As we forgive those who trespass against us.

b) If he doesn’t, you go ahead and forgive him in a private transaction before God. If he does not forgive you, forgive him in a private transaction before God.

c) Pray for him. Opposition will be melted as you pray for him.

d) And this is probably the toughest thing of all. Ask for grace to treat him as if nothing had ever happened. Ask for grace to treat that person as if nothing had ever happened.

When I had a very, very painful situation with a family member, God reminded me that what I needed to do was stand with Christ for her instead of with His adversary against her. Ask for grace to treat her or him as if nothing had ever happened. And forgive that person even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. What relief, what peace.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because w
e (and we could put in here have not forgiven somebody)
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

I trust that there will be some today who will be relieved of that crushing burden. Go to the foot of the cross. It’s amazing how things look so much simpler and so much quieter when we go to the foot of the cross.

Nancy: We’ve been listening to Elisabeth Elliot with some very direct and penetrating words about the subject of forgiveness. After years of ministering to women all across this country, I can say that one of the most deadly and destructive and common issues we face as women is this whole matter of bitterness and our refusal to let it go, to be willing to be wronged if necessary, and to extend forgiveness to others as Christ has forgiven us.

Elisabeth has challenged us by saying, “Sometimes when we say, ‘I’m struggling,’ what we’re really saying is, ‘I just won’t obey God.’” For most of us, the issue isn’t so much that we can’t forgive as that we won’t choose to forgive. Now, I’m not saying that choice to forgive is an easy one. But it’s one that we’ve got to be willing to make if we’re going to walk in freedom.

So who is it that you need to forgive? Who is it that’s sinned against you, that’s wounded you  (maybe wounded you deeply)? Maybe it’s someone in your past, a parent, a sibling, a former friend, an ex-mate, and you’re still carrying that deep heart wound. Can I just say there is no way that you will ever walk in the freedom and the fullness and the fruitfulness that Christ intends for you until you’re willing to say, “Father, I forgive. I choose to forgive, to clear their record, to let it go.”

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written on the subject of forgiveness in the workbook Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. When your heart is revived, you’ll want to seek and grant full forgiveness. You’ll also want to come to God in humility. You’ll have a new passion for honesty. You’ll have a heart for holiness and obedience. Nancy Leigh DeMoss and co-author Tim Grissom write about all these in Seeking Him.

It would be a perfect study on your own as part of your quiet time or in a group. We’d like to send you a copy of Seeking Him when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call us at 1–800–569–5959 or visit

On Monday, we’ll hear from a man who experienced the joy of revival. He was wanted in Canada and was on the run from authorities in the U.S. when God grabbed a hold of his heart. Hear the story next week on Revive Our Hearts.

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




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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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