She Trusted and She Obeyed: A Tribute to Elisabeth Elliot

When I received the news that Elisabeth Elliot had gone to be with the Lord, I wept. It's hard to describe the multitude of thoughts and emotions that those tears represented.

To think of Elisabeth at Home with Christ makes the thought of heaven all the richer and sweeter.

There is a great sense of joy that Elisabeth has finished her race and is in the presence of the Lord Whom she served faithfully for so many decades. She has received that welcome from Christ that we all long to hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord." And she has been reunited with Jim Elliot, Addison Leitch (her second husband who died of cancer), and a host of other heroes of the faith who have gone before.

To think of Elisabeth at Home with Christ makes the thought of heaven all the richer and sweeter.

At the same time, I feel a real sense of loss and sadness that so stalwart a soldier of the faith and of the cross, should be taken from us. We know that day comes for everyone, and Elisabeth lived a long, fruitful, surrendered life. But the mark she has left on so many who have read her books, listened to her radio programs, heard her speak, and been encouraged to emulate the example of her life over these years, cannot be measured.

Her first husband Jim Elliot was martyred in 1956, less than three years before I was born. I grew up hearing the story and being inspired not only by those five young men who gave their lives for the sake of the gospel, but also by the account of how Elisabeth returned to Ecuador with her young daughter, to continue the work she and Jim had begun—staying the course of what God had called them to do in making Christ known to the nations.

Elisabeth kept coming back to this message: God doesn't exist to meet our needs. Ultimately, He is God; He is worthy of our obedience, our worship, and our surrender to Him as Lord.

Throughout the twists and turns of her journey over the next six decades, Elisabeth steadfastly demonstrated what it meant to simply "trust and obey." Because she viewed God as being altogether sovereign, faithful, wise, and good, even when she could not fathom His plan or His purposes, she knew He could be trusted. The appropriate response was to obey Him. So in an era when people want God to be a cosmic dispenser of their comfort, wishes, and needs, Elisabeth kept coming back to this message: God doesn't exist to meet our needs. Ultimately, He is God; He is worthy of our obedience, our worship, and our surrender to Him as Lord.

Elisabeth never aspired to human greatness, heroism, or recognition. Day after day, year after year, she just kept walking faithfully in the pathway of trust and obedience. When as a young wife with a ten-month-old child she received the news that Jim had been killed, she didn't expect to become a headliner personality in the evangelical world. It was God who wrote the script for her life and chose how He was going to use her.

In the years following Jim's martyrdom, Elisabeth began sharing her story as God gave her opportunity. The Lord multiplied it to reach and bless millions. What the enemy intended for evil, God used for incalculable good.

People from all walks of life have been inspired to know and follow Christ as Jim and Elisabeth Elliot did.

Countless young people who read Elisabeth's account of Jim's life and death (Through Gates of Splendor) and her published excerpts of his journals (Shadow of the Almighty) responded by saying, "I want to follow that kind of Christ." Only the Lord knows how many have been called to serve Him around the world since 1956. People from all walks of life have been inspired to know and follow Christ as Jim and Elisabeth Elliot did.

On a more personal note, my own life and ministry stands on the shoulders of this remarkable woman of God. I don't know that any other author of our day has had a greater influence on my walk with the Lord.

In 2000, having only met her once, I felt prompted to ask if she would write the foreword for Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, as she embodied its message as well as anyone I knew. She graciously agreed to my request.

Then in 2001, Revive Our Hearts was launched as the successor to Elisabeth's Gateway to Joy, a radio program that touched a generation of Christian women in a profound way. Women all across this country have told me of the impact that Elisabeth's witness, her radio program, and her books had in their lives. Many of them grew up listening to her as young women, and she shaped their view of womanhood, of God, and of the gospel. Most of them had never met Elisabeth, but they felt like they knew her. They thought of her as their spiritual mother, mentor, and friend.

Those who listened to Gateway To Joy will remember that Elisabeth opened each program with these words, "You are loved with an everlasting love. That's what the Bible says. And underneath are the everlasting arms. This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot."

"You are loved with an everlasting love. That's what the Bible says. And underneath are the everlasting arms."~Elisabeth Elliot

Isn't that a great way to summarize Elisabeth's life and influence? We thought of her as our friend, and she thought of us as hers. She reminded us day after day that we are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting Arms. She kept pointing us back to Scripture and to the love of God, which is enough to sustain us and carry us through every situation, every season, every circumstance of life.

It would be a mistake to look at Elisabeth and only see a bigger-than-life person and think, This is somebody in another stratosphere. We forget that the impact of her life flowed out of ordinary choices, day after day, to get to know God, to cry out to Him for grace, to do the next thing—that the big picture of Elisabeth's life was a sum total of saying again and again, "Yes, Lord."

When she sat there in the Ecuadorean jungle and learned that her husband wasn't coming home, she did the next thing, put the next foot forward, lifted her eyes to heaven, and found God's grace to keep pressing on. She never considered herself heroic or special or extraordinary. She seemed that way to us, because so few people make those choices. But the same could be true of each of us—that when the story of our lives is told, people will say, "She trusted and she obeyed."

I'm deeply thankful for the example of this life lived for the glory of God.

While I rejoice that Elisabeth is with her Savior, she leaves behind a great void. Not long ago I said to a friend, "As these older servants of Christ pass from the scene, the responsibility is falling on us to lead the next generation in the pathway of faithfulness and truth." Now that she is gone, I feel a stronger than ever call to proclaim the ways and heart of Christ to those who may not be familiar with Elisabeth Elliot, but who need to know and love and trust and serve Him as she did.

I will miss Elisabeth. I'm deeply thankful for the example of this life lived for the glory of God. She has left a rich legacy through her writings—I plan to reread many of her books in the days ahead, and urge you to do the same, whether they are familiar or new to you. 

May the message she has written on so many of our hearts be one we write on the hearts of those who are coming behind us. And may He find us faithful, as was our friend Elisabeth Elliot—all the way to the finish line.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb. 13:7-8)

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About the Author

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 for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored nineteen books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), and Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. Her books have sold more than three million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

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