Jim Elliot was born in October of 1927, residing in Oregon. His parents were very faithful followers of Christ, and he was brought up to know and love the Lord, his parents encouraged all of their children to live completely for Christ, no matter where that led, and to be sold out for Him, adventurous, and ready to go anywhere that He called them to go. He was extremely smart and charismatic, and was a very talented speaker. In 1945, he began attending Wheaton College, a private Christian college in Illinois. “Believing in the value of physical conditioning and discipline, he joined the wrestling team during his first year. The following year, he refused a staff position within the college that would have given him a free year of tuition but also a significant time commitment and what he considered foolish responsibilities. He was not even fully convinced of the value of his studies, considering subjects such as philosophy, politics and anthropology to be distractions to one attempting to follow God. After a semester of relatively low grades, he wrote to his parents that he was unapologetic, deeming study of the Bible more important.”
Throughout the years, he began to do mission work, after meeting a missionary to Brazil. He decided shortly after this that God was calling him to become a missionary. He majored in Greek, with the hopes that it would help him in his own Bible studies, and help him translate the scripture properly for others.
He believed that romantic relationships often just distracted people from their devotion to the Lord, and was content to live a single life unless the Lord told him to do otherwise, until he met Elisabeth Howard. (You all will be slightly familiar with her, later Elisabeth Elliot, from the quotes and stories I’ve posted from her on this blog.) For months and months, they continued talking, letting each other know that there was attraction, but he was not willing to put any attention towards a relationship until he felt that he had started working towards what the Lord had led him to do first – mission work. He said that until then, he knew that God wanted him to be focused completely on Him and this work. He went to Camp Wycliffe, and while he was there, he practiced the skills for writing down a language for the first time, also working with a former missionary to the Quechua people. The missionary told him that the Huaorani, a group of Ecuadorian indigenous people, were considered dangerous to outsiders. Jim Elliot was unsure about where God was leading him, but he considered both Ecuador and India. He chose to go in another country because he considered his own church well fed enough, he felt that he would make a bigger difference elsewhere.
After he finished his linguistic studies, he applied for a passport and began making plans, along with Bill Cathers, a friend, to leave for Ecuador. His plans had to be changed when Bill told him that he planned to marry, which would make it impossible for him to come along. Jim had to begin looking for another person to accompany him, and he later found Pete Fleming, a graduate from the University in Washington. He had a degree in philosophy. He talked with Elliot often, and before long, he was convinced that he was being called to go with him. In this time, Elliot also visited his friends in the East Coast, including Elisabeth Howard. He continued to desire a relationship with her, but knew that before marriage, he needed to go to Ecuador without her.
They arrived in Ecuador in February of 1952, with the desire to evangelize the Quechua Indians. They stayed in Quito first before moving to the jungle, they took residence at Shandia Mission Station.
He married Elisabeth Howard on October 8th, 1953. They took a brief honeymoon before returning to Ecuador. They had one child together, Valerie. While working with the Indians, he also began preparing to reach the Huaorani. Elliot and four other missionaries made contact from their plane with the Huaorani, using a speaker and a basket to pass down gifts to them. Several months later, the men decided to build a base near the Indian village. They had several friendly encounters with small groups of Huaorani there. They were encouraged by these encounters and decided to make plans to visit them, not knowing that Naenkiwi had lied about their intentions.
On January 8th, 1956, a group of about 10 Huaorani warriors killed Elliot and his companions. Elliot’s body was found downstream, along with the other four men.
In his journal entries, he often talked about how he knew that God’s will was more important than his own life. How different would this world be if all Christian’s realized this? If we all saw the importance of His plans for our lives, not only that, but actually lived His will out? Reading some of Elisabeth’s books on Jim, and reading his journal entries and various quotes makes me wonder if we would all be willing to give up the desire that we have to get married, have kids, get a good job, make a lot of money, have a beautiful house, have expensive cars, travel, go to college, make lots of friends…how many of us would give up everything we want in this life, just to please God? How many of us could honestly say that they would give up anything just to grow closer to the Lord? Not many.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
― Jim Elliot
Everything we have in this life, whether it’s material things, or if it’s things like friendships, romance, and so on, is temporary. The only thing we have that is eternal is the relationship we have with our Father in Heaven. Why do we consider these temporary things to be so important? Why do we allow them to take up so much space in our hearts? We knock God off of His throne, and we put our stuff on it. It is foolish.
Jim Elliot helped open my eyes to many things, made me realize that, sometimes, God will ask you to give up things, lay them at His feet, and give everything to Him. Sometimes, He will ask you to give up the thing that is the most important to you, in order for you to realize that He is the only thing that should matter that much to you. In several of Elisabeth’s books, she talks about how her and Jim gave up the desire they had to be married, and left that decision up to God. They wouldn’t do a thing without knowing that He was okay with their choices. How many of us would be willing to let go of that desire to be with the person you love, to let go of the desire to be married, to have children, in order to make God the first priority? It made me think of myself – one of my biggest desires is to be a wife…would I be willing to let go of that if God told me that He needed me to stay single? To be focused completely on Him? Would I be okay if He asked me to give up my dreams of college? Of becoming a therapist? Of having a family? Would I be willing to say, “Yes, Lord.” if He asked me to go to another country to serve Him? If He asked me to live a hard life, if He asked me to give away everything I hold dear.
Would I be willing to die for Him?
There is a great deal of things that we could learn from people like Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Are we willing to learn? Or, a better question – what are we willing to do for Jesus? What are we willing to give up? Is there something that you would refuse to give up for Him?
Who is more important? Us? God? Who’s plan for our life is more important? Ours? The Lord’s? We know the answer, but are we willing to live it?