What God Is to Me: Elisabeth Elliot (Part 1)

Bob Roane Joy and Peace, Loving and Trusting God, Theology

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert…, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Elisabeth Howard Elliot Gren (1926-2015) was a much loved Christian missionary, author, and speaker. Through her writings and recordings, she became a Christian mother to men in prison and to thousands of women and men in the outside world. Elisabeth’s radio program “Gateway to Joy” was aired 1988 to 2001 and re-broadcasts can still be heard. The program opened like this: You are loved with God’s everlasting love, that’s what the Bible says, And underneath you are Christ’s everlasting arms.1

Elisabeth wrote “quiet time notes” during her twenties, one was a string of Scriptures, reminding her who the Lord is and all He does for Jesus’ followers. She found these notes years later and was encouraged by reviewing these verses. I was blessed also by her list and hope that you are too. I saw it in The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter from 1999 and have used the Scriptures she gathered with people in pastoral counseling and prison ministry. Most of the Bible verses selected are Elisabeth’s and the comments are mine, sometimes recalling her radio teaching over the years. When Elisabeth writes of God of course she means the Lord of the Old and New Testaments, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the true God. He is the living God, the eternal King.2 As always, I interpret Old Testament passages in a Christ-centered way. That’s how Jesus taught us to read the Old Testament.

Meditate on these truths about our Lord and turn them into prayers and praises to Him. I number them to help discussion.

1. My Praise. Jesus is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen….Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. (Deut 10:21; Ps 150:2)

Remembering the Lord’s past favors encourages us to trust and obey Him now and to ask for His help in the present and in the future. What the Lord did once, He can do again. Nothing is too hard for Him. Praising God helps us love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.3 The Lord’s servants are to sing His praises to the world’s end; and in the next life forever.4

2. My strength, song, and salvation. The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. (Ps 118:14)

Psalm 118 is quoted many times in the New Testament. It tells of God’s rescuing help in dire times and of lessons the Psalmist learned from the tough experiences. Human allies ultimately fail us and only the Lord can chase away our fears and deliver us. Swarms of enemies surrounded the Psalm writer and seemed ready to overwhelm him. But prayer and trust in God’s power were the spiritual weapons that brought him victory over adversities. Christ says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”5 Elisabeth battled dementia for the last ten years of her life. She hung on to Jesus, knowing that His strong hand and arm were holding on to her.

3. My Shepherd. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing….The God of peace brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep. (Ps 23:1: Heb 13:20)

Drawing on Jacob’s words in Genesis,6 King David described God as a caring shepherd who protects His people from harm. We face trying, taxing, tense, terrifying times, but Christ leads us safely through them. Ultimately, He takes us home to Heaven. In John chapter 10, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd who knows the name of each and every one of His people and He died on the cross and rose from the grave to give us abundant and everlasting life that begins now and continues forever. Christ’s people listen to His voice and follow Him. We shall never perish; no one will snatch us out of Jesus’ hand. Let us tell others of the LORD’s unfailing love. Let us praise Him for all He has done for us. God has richly blessed His people because of His mercy and constant love.7 Elisabeth said, “If deep in our hearts we suspect that God does not love us and cannot manage our affairs as well as we can, we certainly will not submit to His discipline.” She quoted Frances Havergal’s hymn: We may trust Christ fully all for us to do; They who trust Him wholly find Jesus wholly true.

4. My Righteousness. In (Messiah’s) days we will be saved and will live in safety….He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness….He rescues us from the hand of our enemies and enables us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness all our days. (Jer 23:6; Luke 1:74-75)

Jeremiah knew that he was pointing ahead to Christ’s advent.8 Jesus would be an infinitely better king than David and fulfill all God’s promises and inaugurate the Lord’s new covenant.9 Christ will gather His followers from every nation, tribe, people and language and adopt us into God’s forever family. Hallelujah! What a Savior! The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.10 Elisabeth warned us not to work on our self-esteem, but to be confident in Christ, not ourselves. She quoted from J. I. Packer’s Rediscovering  Holiness: “Sin is an allergic reaction to God’s law, an irrational anti-God syndrome that drives us to exalt ourselves and steels our hearts against devotion and obedience to our Maker.”

Prayer for Confidence in Christ: Protect me, Lord Jesus. I trust in you for safety. You are my King. All the good things I have come from you. You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need. My future is in your hands. Make me thankful and glad in you, feeling completely secure in you. You will not abandon me to the world of the dead. You show me the path that leads to life. Your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever. Help me trust you more and more. I pray in your name. Amen.11

To be continued.

Notes (various translations used): 1 Quoting Jer 31:3 and Deut 33:27.   2 Jer 10:10.     3 Mark 12:30, quoting Deut 6:5.   4 John Boys (1571–1625).     5 John 16:33.     6 Gen 48:15; 49:24.     7 Isa 63:7.     8 1 Pet 1:10-12.     9 Jer 31:31–34; Ezek 36:24-28.     10 2 Thes 3:3.     11 Prayer adapted from Ps 16.