31 Days of Missionary Stories: Jim Elliot’s Journals

I can’t not mention Jim and Elisabeth Elliot in a series like this. The first missionary book I can recall reading is Through Gates of Splendor, about Jim and four other men who were killed by the Indians they were trying to reach with the gospel, and the subsequent opening Elisabeth and Rachel Saint, sister to one of the other men, had with the same tribe. That touched off reading almost everything Elisabeth ever wrote plus many another missionary biography. Elisabeth, as many of you know, remarried after Jim died, lost that husband to cancer, and then remarried Lars Gren, but she kept Elisabeth Elliot as her pen name. She put out a newsletter for several years, and some excerpts from that and from some of her books were used in a daily e-mail devotional that used to be sent out by Back to the Bible. You can see those devotionals now on her website here. Lars posts updates every now and then here.

Incidentally, I just discovered that Jim and Elisabeth’s daughter, Valerie Elliot Shepard, wrote a children’s book about her childhood in the jungle titled Pilipinto’s Happiness. It is definitely going on my To Be Read list!

Journals of Jim ElliotSince I just reread and reviewed Through Gates of Splendor here at the end of June and included a lot of links and resources, I won’t repost that information, but I thought I’d include a few excerpts from Jim’s journals, as quoted by Elisabeth a a chapter titled “Not One Thing Has Failed” in her book Love Has a Price Tag. She edited and published the bulk of them in The Journals of Jim Elliot and included some excerpts and letters in her biography of him, Shadow of the Almighty, but here are just a few snippets. She explains:

Jim started his journal as a means of self-discipline. He began to get up early in the morning during his junior year in college to read the Bible and pray before classes. He was realistic enough to recognize the slim chances of fitting in any serious study and prayer later in the day. If it had priority on his list of things that mattered, it had to have chronological priority. To see that he did not waste the dearly-bought time, he began to note down on paper specific things he learned from the Word and specific things he asked for in prayer.

He recorded:

It is not written as a diary of my experiences or feelings, but as a ‘book of remembrance’ to enable me to ask definitely by forcing myself to put yearnings into words. All I have asked has not been given and the Father’s withholding has served to intensify my desires…. He promises water to the thirsty, satiation to the unsatisfied (I do not say dissatisfied), filling to the famished for righteousness. So has His concealing of Himself given me longings that can only be slaked when Psalm 17:15 [‘As for me I shall behold thy face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied with beholding thy form’] is realized.

Elisabeth writes:

“All I have asked has not been given.” Not, that is, in the way or at the time he might have predicted. Jim beheld the longed-for Face much sooner than he expected. It is startling to see, from the perspective of nearly thirty years, how much of what he asked was given, and given beyond his dreaming.

When Jim prayed for revival he was instructed by reading in David Brainerd’s diary how a revival came when Brainerd was sick, discouraged, and cast down, “little expecting that God had chosen the hour of his weakness,” Jim wrote, “for manifestation of His strength.”

 “I visited Indians at Crossweeksung,” Brainerd records, “Apprehending that it was my indispensable duty…. I cannot say I had any hopes of success. I do not know that my hopes respecting the conversion of the Indians were ever reduced to so low an ebb . . . yet this was the very season that God saw fittest to begin His glorious work in! And thus He ordained strength out of weakness . . . whence I learn that it is good to follow the path of duty, though in the midst of darkness and discouragement.”

Jim saw, in reading Brainerd, the value of his own journals. He also “was much encouraged to think of a life of godliness in the light of an early death…. Christianity has been analyzed, decried, refused by some; coolly eyed, submitted to, and its forms followed by others who call themselves Christians. But alas, what emptiness in both!

 “I have prayed for new men, fiery, reckless men, possessed of uncontrollably youthful passion–these lit by the Spirit of God. I have prayed for new words, explosive, direct, simple words. I have prayed for new miracles. Explaining old miracles will not do. If God is to be known as the God who does wonders in heaven and earth, then God must produce for this generation. Lord, fill preachers and preaching with Thy power. How long dare we go on without tears, without moral passions, hatred and love? Not long, I pray, Lord Jesus, not long.” I read these prayers now with awe–new men, new words, new miracles all granted as a result of this young man’s death.

He wrote in 1953 of watching an Indian die in a jungle house. “And so it will come to me one day, I kept thinking. I wonder if that little phrase I used to use in preaching was something of a prophecy: ‘Are you willing to lie in some native hut to die of a disease American doctors never heard of?’ I am still willing, Lord God. Whatever You say shall stand at my end time. But oh, I want to live to teach Your word. Lord, let me live ‘until I have declared Thy works to this generation.”‘

 Elisabeth concludes this chapter by marveling at how God answered Jim’s prayer “‘exceeding abundantly above all‘ that he had asked or thought” in so many who have been touched and spurred to consecrate themselves to God by the testimony of “the record of his young man-hood–the days which seemed so sterile, so useless, so devoid of any feelings of holiness, when God was at work shaping the character of a man who was to be his witness; the prayers which seemed to go unheard at the time, kept–as all the prayers of all his children are kept, incense for God–and answered after what would have seemed to Jim a long delay.”

 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.
Joshua 23:14

Here are a few other isolated quotes Jim Elliot is known for:

“I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you Lord Jesus.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

“Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.”

“When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.”

To those who thought he could be better used as a preacher at home, he wrote: “I dare not stay home while the Quichuas perish. What if the well-filled church in the homeland needs stirring?  They have the scriptures, Moses, and the prophets and a whole lot more.  Their condemnation is written on their bankbooks and in the dust on their Bible covers.”

“[He makes] His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this my soul—short life? In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him.”

(You can see other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

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11 thoughts on “31 Days of Missionary Stories: Jim Elliot’s Journals

  1. Pingback: 31 Days of Missionary Stories | Stray Thoughts

  2. Pingback: 31 Days of Missionary Stories: Pedestals? | Stray Thoughts

  3. Pingback: “Not a long life, but a full one” | Stray Thoughts

  4. Pingback: 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Book List and Memorial Video | Stray Thoughts

  5. Pingback: Review and Giveaway: Journaling for the Soul | Stray Thoughts

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