Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Dannah Gresh: Ever feel like the best you can offer God is not all that great? Here’s Elisabeth Elliot.

Elisabeth Elliot: How does a mother feel when her tiny little two-year-old comes into the house with a smashed dandelion clenched in his little sweaty fist . . .

Toddler: Flower, Mommy!

Elisabeth: . . . and he offers her the smashed dandelion?

Mother: Thank you! It's so pretty!

Elisabeth: It means everything in the world, because love transforms it.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of the trilogy Brokenness, Surrender, and Holiness, for Thursday, September 10, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: What would you say is the greatest type of suffering you're walking through right now? Have you ever thought of it as a gift from God? You say, “Whoa, hang on! That’s a bit much!” Well, in a moment you’ll hear how a woman who suffered much had that kind of attitude, and what a difference it made!

As we've been sharing with you, we're starting our twenthth year of being on the air, and throughout this year we want to do two things: We want to both look back and thank the Lord for His faithfulness through the years, and we want to look ahead and be excited for what He’s going to do through Revive Our Hearts over the next twenty years, if He tarries.

There's no way we celebrate what He has done in the past without talking about Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth never consider herself to be an extraordinary woman. But she's a woman who said, “Yes, Lord,” even when He asked her to go through some dark, difficult valleys. Toward the end of her ministry years, she passed the baton on to Revive Our Hearts. Her program, Gateway To Joy, which you may have heard over the years, was going off the air, and we were privileged to take its place on almost every station that carried Gateway To Joy.

The series we’re hearing this week is called “Suffering Is Not for Nothing.” If you missed any of the programs, be sure to go to Revive Our Hearts.com and get caught up. Or if you have the Revive Our Hearts app, you can scroll back to listen to the previous messages from Elisabeth.

Now, back to that thought about suffering being a gift. Let’s let Elisabeth explain. Here’s Elisabeth Elliot, from a message she gave in the late 80s.

Elisabeth: If God has given us a gift, it’s never only for ourselves. It’s always to be offered back to Him. And very often, it has repercussions for the life of the world.

Jesus Himself offered Himself to be bread for the life of the world. He said, “The bread that I will give is My body, and I give it for the life of the world.”

For a Christian, the pattern is Jesus. What did He do? He offered Himself, a perfect and complete sacrifice, for the love of God. And you and I should be prepared also to be broken bread and poured out wine for the life of the world.

Think of the gifts of others whom you know which have been a great blessing and joy to you. I think of the gift of music. I have a nephew who is a concert violinist. That’s a tremendous gift, but he doesn’t just play his violin all by himself in his little apartment. That gift is for the sake of the world. I believe that’s true of every gift that God gives to us in some way, which is not always apparent right at the beginning.

Among the great gifts of my life are my husband, my daughter, my grandchildren. There are times when I can be very selfish about those gifts, and yet I have to recognize that it’s not just for me. These that I think of as my own, must be held with an open hand and offered back to God along with my body and all that I am.

You’re familiar with Paul’s word, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is an act of intelligent worship” (see Rom. 12:1). I particularly like that translation—an act of intelligent worship.

Now, if I present to God my body as a living sacrifice, then that includes everything that the body contains—my brains, my personality, my heart, my emotions, my will, my temperament, my prejudices, my feelings—all the rest of it is presented to God as a living sacrifice. God has after all given me a body to live in. Everything in my life I begin to see as a gift, and I mean everything.

Now, that may seem like sheer poppycock to some of you, but I hope that in the context of the things that I have been saying, you’ll begin to see that everything can be seen as a gift, even my widowhood. I began very slowly to recognize after my first husband was killed that it was within the context of widowhood that God wanted me to glorify Him.

It was not my idea. It was something which God not only allowed, but in a very real sense, which I began slowly to understand He had given me because He had something else in mind. And this was a gift not just for me, but for the life of the world in some mysterious sense which I did not need to understand, because I could trust Him.

Now, again, let me help you with three things. I’ll try to tell you what I’m going to say, and then I’ll try to say it, and then I’ll try to tell you what I said, so that there may be a little bit close of a relationship between the things which I mean to say and what you hear me saying and what you got in your notebook and what you think I said when you talk about it tomorrow and when somebody says, “Did you go to hear that woman? Well, what in the world did she say?”

Under this heading of “Offering,” let’s put down three things.

Number one: Everything is a gift.

Number two: There are several kinds of offerings which I can make to God.

Let’s shorten that down and simply say that we want to think about an offering as a sacrifice.

When I use the word sacrifice with regard to my own life, sacrificing my body for example as a living sacrifice, presenting my body as a living sacrifice; the emphasis is not on loss and desolation and giving up. The emphasis is on the fact that God has given me something which I can offer back to Him. We’ll come to that a little bit later.

And number three: The greatest is the offering of obedience. I’ll start with that as the heading.

Number one: Everything is a gift.

Number two: Offering as a sacrifice.

Number three: Offering of obedience.

When I get up in the morning, I do try to make it a practice to do some of my praying first thing in the morning. It’s a good thing to talk to God before you start talking to anybody else. I try to begin my prayers with thanksgiving.

There’s always a long list of things to be thankful for, and one of them is that I can get up in the morning, that I can be in a comfortable place looking out over a very beautiful view. I thank God for the sleep of the night, for health and strength, and for work to do. I’m very grateful for work. I think about somebody like Joni Eareckson and what Joni wouldn’t give to just have a chance to wash dishes maybe one time or do the worst job that you and I might hate. Thank God that you can get up.

I thank Him for my house and my husband and my health and the money that we have and the food that we have and the clothes for our backs and my grandchildren and my daughter and on and on and on. You all have equally long lists, I’m sure.

But then I don’t always find it easy to include on that list the thorn in the flesh, the word that my husband spoke to me which hurt me—yes, he does that once in a while. I’m married to a sinner. I don’t know what you other married women are married to, but as far as I know, there really isn’t anything else to marry. (laughter) It’s always a good exercise for me to remember that my poor husband is also married to a sinner.

So I thank God for that husband, with his imperfections—which are not very many. I thank Him for the particular set of gifts that He has given me in that man, which I can offer back to God with thanksgiving.

When Joseph was taken into captivity, he could not possibly have imagined what God had in mind years later. But in Genesis 45:8, we read Joseph’s words to his brothers. “It was not you that sent me here, but God.”

What looked like a horrible thing—jealous brothers, hating their younger brother, wanting to get rid of him, deciding to kill him, then realizing they could make some money out of him, selling him into captivity. He goes down into Egypt and is made a slave and eventually ends up in prison and one thing and another. Does that look like a gift from God? And yet he says, “It was not you who sent me. It was God.”

Paul said, “There was given to me a thorn.” (see 2 Cor. 12:7)

Jesus refers to the cup which His Father had given Him. (see Mark 14:36)

Now, all of these things represent great suffering, not trivial things at all. Joseph was able to say when he named his son Ephraim, “God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen. 41:52).

It’s not the experience that changed him. It was his response. And Joseph trusted God.

Now, what is God’s intention when He gives you and me something? He is giving me something in my hands to offer back to Him with thanksgiving.

I remember when I was a little girl wanting to buy Christmas presents for my parents, and I had no way at all of earning money. My brothers had paper routes and earned maybe 25 cents a week or something like that, back in the Depression days. But I had to depend on an allowance. So I would have had absolutely nothing to give to my mother for Christmas if my mother hadn’t given something to me first.

And that’s the way it is with us with God, isn’t it? We are totally destitute. Everything that we have comes from Him. We have nothing to offer except what He has given us. There’s an old prayer of thanksgiving at the offering time, “All things come from Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.”

We receive it from Him. We accept it in our hands. We say, “Thank You.” And then we offer it back. This is the logical sequence of the things which I have been talking about. Everything is a gift. Everything is meant to be offered back.

This lesson became a powerful, life-changing, transforming lesson during the time of my husband’s illness. When I was awake in those wee small hours of the night, which Amy Carmichael called “the hours when all life’s mole hills become mountains,” my mind would be filled with vivid imaginings of the horrible things that were going to happen to my husband between now and death.

Now, death was the unarguable conclusion of what my husband had, medically speaking. There was no possibility that he was going to survive. So I had faced that fairly squarely, but the doctors were predicting hideous mutilations that they were going to practice on him between now and death, and I felt I could not stand it. In those wee small hours, I began to cry out to the Lord.

It came to me with great clarity one night, I suppose about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, that my agony, my anguish, which was vicarious for my husband, was something which God had put in my hands to offer back to Him. It was a gift.

Now, let’s think about this second thing: The idea of sacrifice.

There are many occasions in Scripture where the word sacrifice is used. It was a very important part of the Hebrew life back in Old Testament days. Blood sacrifice was a daily occurrence in the tabernacle, and the people’s whole lives were controlled by the rituals of sacrifice.

But the Old Testament also speaks of the sacrifice of thanksgiving in Psalms.

And the verse that came to me in those hours of fear was “a broken and a contrite heart I will not despise.” The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. “A broken and a contrite heart I will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

I’m talking to people, I’m sure, who have a broken spirit, a broken heart. God will not despise that offering if that’s all you have to offer. I felt as if I was destitute, like the widow of Zarephath.

Remember the story of how Elijah was fed by ravens for a time, and then God told him that the ravens were going to stop and that he was to go down to a place called Zarephath where there was a widow who would feed him. Now, I don’t think we can begin to imagine the absolute dereliction of a widow in those ancient times, but she was the most helpless and poor of all. Now, why in the world would God Almighty, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, choose a destitute woman to feed His prophet Elijah?

And you remember, when Elijah reaches Zarephath, he finds this woman out gathering a couple of sticks, and he asks her for a drink of water. Then he asks her for the most unreasonable request imaginable. He says, “Bake me a cake.”

Well, if she were speaking modern English, she would have said, “Surely you’ve got to be kidding! I’m out here gathering two sticks so that I can bake the last handful of flour and the last few drops of oil into a little cake, which is the only thing that stands between me and my son and death. We are starving to death, and you ask me to bake you a cake?!”

But the woman recognized that this was a man of God, and so to her it was a matter of obedience to God. She baked him a cake. She believed his word that the cruse of oil would not fail, nor would the barrel of meal be empty.

What had God done in sending the prophet to a destitute woman? He had put into that woman’s hands something to offer back. But what a pitiful offering! One little handful of flour, a few drops of oil?

Do you remember when the little boy brought his lunch to Jesus—or the disciples extorted that lunch from him, who knows? We don’t really know whether that little boy gave it up willingly or what happened. I’ve often wondered about that little boy. (laughter) But anyway, he had five loaves and two fishes, which the disciples brought to Jesus. He put it into Jesus’ hands, and one of the disciples said this, “What is the good of that for such a crowd?”

Now, I’m speaking to some of you who feel as if you have nothing whatsoever to offer to God. You don’t have any huge sufferings, perhaps. You don’t have any great gifts. You were behind the door when they gave out the gifts. “And poor little me, I can’t sing, and I can’t preach, and I can’t pray, and I can’t write books, and I can’t be the hostess with the mostest. So I really can’t serve the Lord. But if I had so-and-so’s gifts, then it would be a different story.”

I don’t know who I’m talking to, but I’m sure that there are some of you who would be saying, “What is the good of my offering for such a crowd? You’re telling me that I have something which is going to matter for the life of the world?”

And I say, “Yes, that’s what I’m telling you because God takes a widow with nothing. God takes a little boy’s lunch, and He turns that into something for the good of the world because that individual let it go.”

I began to see—again, very dimly, and don’t imagine that I was some kind of spiritual giant to see this thing. It was the Holy Spirit of God that said to me, “Give it to Me. Let it go. Offer it up—a sacrifice—something in your hand to give to Me.”

How does a mother feel when her tiny little two-year old comes into the house with a smashed dandelion clenched in his little sweaty fist, and he offers her the smashed dandelion? It means everything in the world because love transforms it. That’s what this is about. Suffering and love are inextricably bound up together. And love invariably means sacrifice.

We talked about the sacrifice of fathers and mothers.

What about the sacrifice of husbands and wives?

What about the sacrifice of those who are prepared to be single for the rest of their lives for the glory of God?

I think of Amy Carmichael. She believed that God was actually calling her to remain single, and it scared her. She felt that she might perhaps be desolate with loneliness. God brought to her mind the words, “None of them that trust in Me shall ever be desolate.” And out of that offering, that brokenness, that living sacrifice, which was the life of Amy Carmichael, came a great missionary work which continues to this day.

Amy Carmichael, a single woman, became the mother of thousands of Indian children. There was a time when the family that she founded as The Dohnavur Fellowship, little children rescued from temple prostitution, that family numbered over 900 people at one time. And she worked there for fifty-three years.

She wrote these words in one of her poems,

If Thy dear home be fuller, Lord, because a little emptier my house on earth,
What rich reward that guerdon were.

You and I have no idea what God has in mind when we make the offering, but everything is material for sacrifice. Again and again I’ve had people say to me, “How do you handle loneliness?”

And I say, “I can’t handle loneliness.”

“Well, didn’t you spend a lot of time alone in the jungle?”

“Yes, I did. I spent many more years alone than I did married.”

“Well, how did you handle it?”

“I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had to turn it over to Somebody who can handle it.” In other words, my loneliness became my offering.

And so, if God doesn’t always remove the feeling of loneliness, it is in order that every minute of every day, perhaps, I have something to offer up to Him and say, “Lord, here it is. I can’t handle this.”

Now, I don’t know what your emotions may be that you can’t handle, but I believe that everyone of us knows something about loneliness. The singles always imagine that married people are not lonely, but I can testify that there are different kinds of loneliness. They are just one example of the offering that I’m talking about today.

I have never forgotten what a missionary speaker said in chapel when I was a student. We had compulsory chapel five days a week at Wheaton College. So we heard hundreds of speakers, and we remembered practically nothing of most of them. But I have never forgotten what this woman said.

She spoke about the little boy bringing his lunch to Jesus, and she said,

If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it may be because pieces will feed a multitude when a loaf would satisfy only a little boy.

What have you got in your hand to give to Him? Is it a gift that you recognize as a gift—a talent, for example?

Is it the willingness to be a mother and to take the criticism of the women who say that a woman that’s got half a brain would put her children in somebody else’s care and get out and do something “fulfilling”?

Is it the willingness to take the flak from the rest of the world about something which you’ve decided to do for Jesus’ sake?

Is it the willingness to be unrecognized, unappreciated?

You know, we’ve got a very twisted idea of this word “ministry.” We think that a ministry means that it’s a very short list of things—preaching or singing or doing a seminar or writing a book or teaching a Sunday school class. Of course, those are ministries. They’re forms of service. But the word ministry just means service, and service is a part of our offering to God.

People would think of my ministry as being my missionary work, my writing, my speaking. But, you know, I don’t spend most of my life standing at a podium. I spend most of my life sitting at a desk, standing at a sink, standing at an ironing board, going to the grocery store, sitting in airports, doing a whole lot of things which are not anything for which I expect to get medals. They are moments to be offered to Jesus.

Do the next thing, which brings me to my third point: The offering of obedience.

When my brother Tommy, was a little boy about three years old, one of his favorite forms of play was to take all of the paper bags out of the drawer in the kitchen where my mother kept them and spread them all over the floor. Well, my mother permitted that with Tommy. He was number five. I was number two, and I don’t think I would have gotten away with it. (laughter) She learned a lot of things by that time, and I’m sure she was tired. But anyway, she said, “You may do that on one condition: That you put the bags back in the drawer before you leave the kitchen.”

Well, he understood that perfectly well—children usually understand far more than we think they do. So she came to the kitchen one day, and there were the paper bags all over the floor, but no sign of Tommy. She found him in the living room where my father was playing the piano, playing hymns. And my mother said, “Tommy, I want you to come and put the bags back in the drawer.”

And he looked up with a smile that was the most innocent and seraphic sweetness, and he said, “But I want to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’” (laughter)

And my father stopped playing the piano and took the opportunity to press home a profound lesson: “To obey is better than sacrifice.” And I’m sure he used terms which Tommy could understand.

It’s no good singing “Jesus Loves Me” when you’re disobeying your mother. And the highest form of worship is obedience. What do I have to offer to God which is more important than my obedience?

There’s a great lesson on this from the book of Ezekiel, hidden back there in the 24th chapter.

God said, “Son of man, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of mourners” (vv. 16–17 paraphrased) In other words, forget all the ritual signs of mourning.

And Ezekiel says this: “I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded” (v. 18)

Very short description of some pretty important things.“In evening my wife died. And the next morning I did as I was commanded.”

I have discovered that there is no consolation like obedience. When I was trying to offer up my feelings to God in those wee small hours of the morning, I thanked God when it was time to get up because there were all kinds of just simple, ordinary, down-to-earth things to do—do the next thing.

God gave to the widow of Zarephath and to the little boy and to Ezekiel something to give back to Him—something which would matter very much to others. God enabled Ezekiel to give his sorrow back to Him and to get up and do what he was commanded to do for the life of the world. It wasn’t just Ezekiel that God was interested in right there. God wanted to make Ezekiel into broken bread and poured out wine for the life of the world.

Let me ask you: Who are the people who most profoundly influenced your life? Those who have most profoundly influenced my life are without exception people who have suffered because it has been in that very thing that God has refined the gold, tempered the steel, molded the pot, broken the bread, and made that person into something that feeds a multitude of whom I have been one of the beneficiaries.

I had a wonderful letter from a woman, an older woman, who told me that back when she was a little girl in the Depression, her father died. None of his friends came to the funeral. She had to wear a borrowed dress. The house was mortgaged. Her mother was left a widow with seven children. And the lawyer who was supposed to be handling her financial affairs stole the inheritance.

And the lady said this: “When we went back to the house after the funeral, my mother picked up a broom and began to sweep the kitchen. And I look back on that now, and I realize it was the soft, swish, swish, swish of that broom that began the healing process. My mother was a destitute woman, and when people asked her years later, ‘How did you ever make it?’ She just said, ‘I prayed.’”

Well, she didn’t just pray. She prayed, and she did the next thing—she picked up the broom.

And so I say to you today: God has put something in your hand which you can accept. You can say, “Thank You, Lord.” And then you can offer it back to Him.

Let me give you another verse that encourages me tremendously: Psalm 119, verse 91, says, “This day, as ever, Thy decrees stand fast for all things serve Thee.”

What’s happening in your life today? Is it good? Then it’s easy to thank God for, isn’t it? Is it bad? If you can remember that, “This day, like every other day, His decrees stand fast.” Those eternal verities are unshakable. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. The man who is following the will of God is part of the permanent and cannot die.

I encourage you to make an offering of your sufferings.

Ugo Bassi said this,

Measure your life by loss and not by gain;
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth,
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice;
And he that suffereth most hath most to give.

Nancy: I've heard that quote many years ago, and it is one that I have on my desk. Sometimes the hardest words to hear are also the ones we most need to hear. Elisabeth Elliot is now with the Lord and free from suffering of every kind. But while she was still on earth, she modeled for all of us that kind of thankful attitude, even when her life was far from easy. And it’s something she used to talk about a lot on her program Gateway To Joy, which predecessed Revive Our Hearts.

We’re enjoying hearing from many listeners who remember that handoff back in 2001. Cynthia recently wrote us to thank us for some Scripture memory cards she received from Revive Our Hearts. But in her email, she also said this:

Thank you for all you do to draw my heart to Christ through the podcasts, blogs, Instagram posts, and so on. God has used you to tether and pull my heart toward Him since the day I transitioned from Gateway To Joy to Revive Our Hearts. I recommend the Revive Our Hearts/True Woman resources to so many people!

That’s so encouraging to hear. Cynthia, thanks for spreading the word, and thank you for sticking with Revive Our Hearts after the much-loved Gateway To Joy went off the air.

If you want to learn more about the life of Elisabeth Elliot, you’ll find a treasure trove of new material and information in the new, authorized biography Becoming Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth showed so much courage in the face of extreme difficulties. And as I already mentioned, her life was characterized by a remarkable sense of gratitude and trust.

This month, we’ll send you a copy of Becoming Elisabeth Elliot for a suggested donation of $30 or more. The author of that book, Ellen Vaughn, will be on Revive Our Hearts next week to tell us more. I hope you’ll be able to tune into that interview, starting Monday.

Again, check out more about the biography on Elisabeth Elliot at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask about it when you call us at 1–800–569–5959.

How can our pain and difficulties become something beautiful in God’s hands? That’s what Elisabeth will address tomorrow. Thank you for listening today. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to remember that there is no consolation like obedience. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the KJV unless otherwise noted.

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

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