Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned….For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Elisabeth Elliot was a Christian missionary. During her time in Ecuador, she wrote Through Gates of Splendor (about the missionaries, including her husband, who were killed), Shadow of the Almighty (about the life and work of Jim Elliot), and The Savage, My Kinsmen (about her life among the Indians). In total, she authored nearly 30 books.
Elisabeth gathered most of the Scriptures below as a young woman and I have written comments on them, sometimes recalling her radio teaching over the years. Elisabeth said: “The heart which has no agenda but God’s is the heart at leisure from itself. Its emptiness is filled with God’s love. Its solitude can be turned into powerful and effective prayer.”
Christ is My Shield and Strength
Jesus is a shield around me; He bestows glory on me and lifts up my head….The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song. (Psalm 3:3; 28:7)
On the night before they left to evangelize the Huaorani tribe, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and three other young missionaries sang this hymn:
1. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender. We go not forth alone against the foe. Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender, We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
2. Yea, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation, In Thy dear Name, all other names above, Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation, Our Prince of Glory, and our King of Love.
3. We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling, And needing more each day Thy grace to know. Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing, We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
4. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender. Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise. When reigning in the Kingdom of Thy splendor, Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
Stephen and Shields
Those missionaries remind me of Stephen the Deacon who was stoned to death for preaching Christ’s gospel in Jerusalem. As Stephen was dying, he looked up to Heaven and saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand, ready to receive his soul.1 Christ also received the five missionaries into Heaven at the moment they were martyred. Scripture says, “Precious in the Lord’s sight is the death of His saints.2 Jesus doesn’t promise us endless life here on earth, but an eternal dwelling with Him in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.3 Do we trust Christ enough to die for Him in service? And to live for Him?
Two types of shields from Bible times have been found by archaeologists. A large body-length shield protected the entire body, but mobility was hard. A torso-length shield was more common for soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Both point to the Lord as our Protector. He will never fail us.
Lifting our heads in Psalm 3 means that Christ shares His victory with us, even though we are weak and helpless on our own. Praise God, Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.4 And if we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His resurrection. Lord, help us not to shrink from serving you!
Christ is The Strength of My Heart and My Portion
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance) forever….As for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds….Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Psalm 73:25-28; Acts 20:32)
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph who felt that life was unfair when wicked people were prospering. He felt that way a thousand years before Christ and most of us feel the same in the 21st century. Asaph was tempted to wonder if was worth it to live a Christ-pleasing life. But then he went to worship God (Father, Son, and Spirit) along with the Lord’s people. And then God gave him an attitude adjustment. Spirit and truth worship is more than just going to church. Real worship is a meeting with God and He changes our perspective when we encounter Him. When Asaph came into God’s presence, the Lord re-taught Asaph to look at things from an eternal viewpoint, which clarifies life’s issues and reveals spiritual realities. Asaph recognized the superficiality of worldly wealth and power. And he re-realized that God is the only true source of everlasting life and joy. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot understood that also. Do we?
Treasure and Pearls
Psalm 73 reminds me of Jesus’ two parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl merchant.5 Christ is the King of heaven’s kingdom, so He is the priceless treasure and He is the pearl of supreme value. In both parables, the searchers were so overjoyed to find the most valuable thing, they gladly sold everything else to get it. Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” He may have been thinking of Christ’s words in Luke 9:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very soul? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His glory with the holy angels.6
Prayer for Faithfulness to Christ: Lord Jesus, help us to value you and your kingdom most of all. Help us not to be foolish. Help us not to store up treasures on earth that will not last, but to store up treasures in heaven. Help us act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you. We don’t know what trials and troubles await us tomorrow, but we know that you hold us in your hands. Help us to never forget your blessings we have in this life, and those we receive when we die, and those you will give us when you return for us. You are always faithful to us; help us to be faithful to you. You hang on to us; help us to hang on to you. Keep filling us with your Holy Spirit and with His righteousness, peace, and joy. We pray in your name. Amen.
To be continued.
Notes (various translations used): 1 Acts 7:55. 2 Psalm 116:15. 3 2 Pet 3:13. 4 1 Cor 15:20. 5 Matt 13:44-46. 6 Luke 9:23-26.