Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Joyful Slave

"If you want to be a slave of Christ,  you have to BE a slave of Christ."  One of our elders used this seemingly repetitive phrase in a recent lesson.  I knew what he meant.  It's one thing to say we are his slaves, another to live like it.  A slave owns nothing.  Not her time, not her possessions, not her family.  Even her actions are proscribed by her master. A slave does her master's will, period.

This is the kind of attitude that Jim Elliot had.  In the mid 1950s, Jim and four of his missionary friends were killed in the jungles of Ecuador by the very people they were trying to convert.   Elisabeth Elliot, Jim's wife, wrote an account of the events in Through Gates of Splendor.  In reading the book, the thing that kept coming to the front of my mind was Jim's slave-like attitude.   I'm not talking the beaten down slave, but the one who joyfully does his master's work, forsaking all other things.

Even before making the commitment to a foreign mission field, Jim strove to eliminate all from his life that did not serve Jesus.  As a high schooler, he always carried his Bible along with his textbooks.  In college, he had many opportunities to excel in both academic and extracurricular activities, but he chose instead to focus on his Bible study and work for the kingdom.  His reasoning?  He feared "he might become occupied in nonessentials and miss the essentials of life."  As a result, his grades were often poor in classes that were not preparing him for missions, and he refused to run for campus office.  In a letter to his parents, he explained his reasoning:
The Lord has given me a hunger for righteousness and piety that can alone be of Himself. Such hungering He alone can satisfy, yet Satan would delude and cast up all sorts of other baubles, social life, a name renowned, a position of importance, scholastic attainment.  What are these but the objects of the "desire of the Gentiles" whose cravings are warped and perverted.
Jim had already made himself a slave of Christ, so when he felt called by God to bring the gospel to a previously unreached South American tribe, he was ready.  Although he had already met and felt a connection to young Elizabeth Howard, he chose to enter the mission field as a single man (they were later married in Ecuador). 

I don't want to give you the impression that Mr. Elliot was a dour, Puritanical man.  For him, being a slave to Christ was complete and utter joy.  As he was leaving via ship, his parents waving and weeping from the shore, Jim was excited and happy.
Joy, sheer joy, and thanksgiving fill and encompass me.  I can scarcely keep from turning to Pete and saying, "Brother, this is great!" or "We never had it so good." God has done and is doing all I ever desired, much more than I ever asked. Praise, praise to the God of Heaven, and to His Son Jesus.
In being Christ's slave, Jim Elliot gave up a lot.  He gave up a comfortable job in architecture (for which he had a talent) and a quiet suburban life and instead took up grueling days in equatorial heat, learning Spanish and preparing to teach the gospel to a violent jungle tribe.  In the end, he gave his life before he was ever able to tell them the good news.  Continuing the tradition of slavery for Christ, his wife Elisabeth eventually lived with the very tribe that killed her husband and taught them the good news of Jesus. 

Maybe you haven't been called to be a foreign missionary.  I haven't either, but I can still be a slave for Christ.  Like Jim, I can seek to get rid of those things in my life that take my focus off Jesus.  I can take joy in the job that Jesus gave to every Christian, that of following him and bringing as many people with me as I can.  I can see the minivan in the driveway not as my car, but as a resource to help others.  And I can help by supporting those who have been called to full time missions.  Together, we can have the same belief as Jim Elliot: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."  


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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