Matthew 19:29 – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life (ESV).”
“Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliot has had a significant impact on my understanding of God’s will. The book chronicles a vivid illustration of what Matthew 19:29 looks like in action. In short, Elliot tells the story of five young missionaries: Jim Elliot (Elisabeth’s husband at the time), Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, Ed McCulley, and Nate Saint. “September 1955 was the month in which the Lord began to weave five separate threads into a single glowing fabric for His own glory.” It was then that each of these men resolved to reach a stone-age tribe in a remote region of Ecuador known as the “Waoranis” with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of danger and uncertainty, they bravely stepped out in faith, naming the mission “Operation Auca.”
While reading this heroic account of self-abandonment, one sobering truth kept stoking the furnace of my heart, mind, and soul: God’s will requires sacrifice.
“Operation Auca” was entirely inconvenient. Before the Waoranis would as much as hear the name of Jesus, three large obstacles had to be addressed. The first obstacle being that the Waorani language was both unknown and unwritten. This meant that each missionary would have to learn and help structure an obscure foreign language. Doing so meant sacrificing great amounts of time and mental energy. This didn’t stop them.
The second looming obstacle dealt with geographical access. Located in a remote eastern region of the jungles of Ecuador, the only way to access Waorani settlements was by foot or a fifteen-minute plane ride from a nearby missionary outpost. Nate Saint’s piloting experience with the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (whose aim was to transport evangelical missionaries, their supplies and their sick to and from remote missionary outposts) helped to swing the tiny window of access to Waorani civilization wide open. The men pressed forward with great zeal and enthusiasm. In the weeks leading up to their initial face-to-face encounter, Saint and the others were deliberate about building a bridge into the Waorani world and culture. As hard as it was, Saint would fly his bright yellow piper over Waorani territory, dropping them gifts in the clearings below. All the while, each of the five men maintained the conviction that if the Waoranis were worth reaching they were also worth knowing. Limited access didn’t stop them.
The third and most frightening obstacle of all was the violent reputation of the Waoranis towards outsiders. Especially white men. Previous expeditions into Waorani territory were typified by surprise attacks and bloody outcomes. No speculation surrounded this fact: outsiders were not welcome. Despite insurmountable odds, God was on their side. These audacious soul winners embraced the reality that in order to obtain God’s objective in this mission, they “had to be willing to be expendable” for Christ. This life-threatening obstacle didn’t stop them.
On January 8, 1956 each of the five men were killed in a spearing raid after an initial and seemingly friendly encounter with the Waoranis. Jim, Roger, Pete, Ed, and Nate paid the highest price in order to share the Gospel with those who had never heard it. Their sacrifice was not in vain. What began with the willingness to die to self resulted in the God-breathed life of many. Is this not how Jesus said it would be? Shortly after the death of her husband, Jim, God opened doors that only he could. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Elisabeth proceeded to convert the majority of the Waoranis to Christianity. Two of the men involved in the spearing raid are now Christians and the New Testament has been translated into their language.
Bottom line: living out God’s will is going to cost you something. You may find yourself asking the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” Based off of the authority of God’s word, I can tell you this much: His will involves personal sacrifice. Although the sacrifice packages itself in various forms through various people, it should always be clearly identifiable as just that, sacrifice. While I wouldn’t mind being wrong, most who read this blog are not called to frontier missions (engaging unreached people groups with the Gospel). That is okay. However, we must all realize that the call to sacrifice for God’s glory is indiscriminate among those who would call Him “Father.” For this much is true: those who sacrifice for His “name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
With the scriptures plainly before us and this example of great sacrifice in mind, I want to ask my brothers and sisters in Christ the very question God is challenging me with: What sacrifices could you start, or continue making that would most glorify Christ’s name? Regardless of what they may be, this is God’s will for our lives.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Elliot, E. (1996). Through Gates of Splendor. Massachussetts. Hendrickson Publishers.