I have grown up with Jim, even though I’ve nev­er met him. Mom would recount his sto­ry over and again through­out my child­hood and ear­ly teens, with the result that his life and strug­gle to fol­low God have left a very vivid impres­sion in my mind.

Jim Elliot was born Octo­ber 8, 1924, in Port­land, Ore­gon, and spent his entire life run­ning after God. He was­n’t rich or famous–in fact, the most fame he acquired was on Jan­u­ary 8th, 1956, when he and four oth­er mis­sion­ar­ies were speared to death by Auca indi­ans in the jun­gles of Ecuador. He was only 31 years old.

Jim wrote a well-known quote in one of his numer­ous journals:

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

And the pow­er behind that quote is that he wrote it not only with his pen, but with his entire life.

On a Sat­ur­day in 1985, my par­ents vis­it­ed Wheaton Uni­ver­si­ty in Wheaton, Illi­nois. Jim had gone to col­lege there forty years before. With only a few min­utes before the Archives closed for the day, they were brought a box of Jim’s per­son­al effects and arti­cles which were archived there.

Among the var­i­ous items was a small, thin-ruled cash jour­nal which appeared bad­ly water-dam­aged. As my dad picked it up and opened it, they could see that this was Jim’s last per­son­al journal—the book that had been on his per­son when he was speared.

Jim had filled the book with his notes and thoughts, scrib­bling across the columns. The ink had fad­ed and run togeth­er from the water marks, and there were holes in the pages from the sand, mak­ing the jour­nal most­ly unreadable.

Dad recent­ly told about how, as the pages opened, a few grains of sand fell out onto the table, and he real­ized that the sand was from the same beach on the Curaray Riv­er on which Jim, Ed, Pete, Nate and Roger died.

Just a few grains of sand, made sacred by the sac­ri­fices of five men.

His wife, Eliz­a­beth Elliot, writes in his biog­ra­phy The Shad­ow of the Almighty,

When the beach was dis­cov­ered on which Nate felt sure a land­ing would be pos­si­ble, the plans of going down the Curaray Riv­er by canoe were dis­card­ed, and also the neces­si­ty of a woman’s going. I knew that Jim would be leav­ing with­out me, and we began then to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­i­ties of his not returning.

If God wants it that way, dar­ling,” he said, “I am ready to die for the sal­va­tion of the Aucas.”

How does a young man—or any man, for that matter—face death so readily?

It comes through prepa­ra­tion. Jim had been learn­ing how to die for most of his life. You can get a pic­ture of this if you read through his biog­ra­phy, and even more so if you read The Jour­nals of Jim Elliot, a com­pi­la­tion of his numer­ous jour­nals. He spent every day prac­tic­ing how to lay his life down for the Will of his Lord, strug­gling with his self and sin, giv­ing up his life over and over again, until the ulti­mate real­iza­tion of that Will on the sands of the Curaray.

So the ques­tion is, how are we learn­ing how to die? Do we rec­og­nize the strug­gle between giv­ing up or keep­ing our life in the myr­i­ad of small tests which are before us every day? Those small tests mat­ter a lot. Just ask Jim. Because he proved faith­ful in the small tests, he aced the big one.

1 comment

  1. Nice post about a well-known Chris­t­ian mar­tyr. One of my favorite Jim Elliot say­ings is, “For­give me for being so ordi­nary while claim­ing to know such an extra­or­di­nary God.”
    When I was a small child I knew Jim well, even lived in his home with him and his fam­i­ly for a peri­od of time.
    May God bless your life!

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