Monday, June 13, 2016

BookPastor >> "Faith That Does Not Falter" (Elisabeth Elliot)

TITLE: Faith That Does Not Falter
AUTHOR: Elisabeth Elliot (selections)
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers, 2003, (90 pages).

The late Elisabeth Elliot was a tall figure in the missionary world. She passed away on June 15th, 2015. She maintained her last name of her first marriage to the martyr Jim Elliot, who was speared to death in Ecuador by the very natives he was trying to reach. Upon her return to North America, Elisabeth honed her writing and speaking skills to become one of leading advocates for world missions and renewed faith in God's providence. She showed us what it means to trust God, why we need to grow and how we can make a difference in this world. This gift booklet contains selections of her writings, culled from seven books:
  1. All that was ever ours
  2. Discipline: The Glad Surrender
  3. God's Guidance
  4. On Asking God Why
  5. Passion and Purity
  6. Quest for Love
  7. The Mark of a Man
She begins with a passionate plea to believers, especially when terrible things happened. Do we trust God or do we defy Him? There is no middle. Based on this premise, the selections are arranged according to three themes. The first theme is about "Following God." There is no point in saying that we are followers of God when our actions demonstrate otherwise. When we say that God is sovereign, how do our choices reflect that? We are given the promise that we can become the children of God if we obey. She writes:

"The Bible does not explain everything necessary for our intellectual satisfaction, but it explains everything necessary for our obedience and hence for God's satisfaction." (14)

Following God means meeting God face on by reading His Word. Do we read with a desire to obey or are we content with picking and choosing which to obey? For God is looking for worshipers who are willing to trust God instead of thrusting God with our whims, our wishes, and our wants, with no regard for the things that matter to God. It means recognizing who God is through our lifetime, not just a moment in time. God will guide and we must trust God to show up according to His time, not ours. The more consistent we are in walking with God regardless of his speaking or his silence, we can better sense the divine whispers and holy groans the Spirit utters. As we follow God, we become familiar with how God works. We learn that when God calls us, he calls us within the framework of him knowing our exact frame.

"Jesus does not by any means disregard the sort of person we are when He calls us to do His will. He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. He knows the weaknesses and strengths, the tastes and fears and prejudices and ignorance and experience of each of us. What he wants to make of us, if we are willing to be made over, is sure to bear a relationship to what we are when we first come to Him. It is within His power to transform. It is for us to submit to the transformation." (20-21)

About God's calling, instead of asking "How do we know that we are called?" learn to ask: "How do I know I am NOT called?" This paradigm shift is a needed nudge for those of us who prefer to sit on our laurels and wait indefinitely to delay doing the good that we ought to do, when we are fully able to. Taking a risk is essentially a step of faith. As we follow after God, we learn to recognize God's voice, like Mary who responded to the angel's voice. We learn to be responsive and not be too busy with our own things till we forget God's gentle movement in our hearts. God are sensitive to God's timing. Many of us need to remember that God's timing is God's to decide, not ours. Very perceptively, Elliot asserts that "We will know when we need to know, not before." Those of us with difficult struggles will start to question God. There is a proper way to do that. God does not forbid us from asking questions. There is a difference between asking questions of God and questioning God. The former is a desire to know the reasons behind certain circumstances while the latter comes from an accusatory spirit. Beware. The devil has another nickname: Accuser. Even in moments of loneliness, we can still follow after God. We can do the following:

  • Remember that God is with us. We are not alone
  • Learning to give thanks curb our focus on self
  • Refuse to give in to self-pity
  • Accept our loneliness at stages of our lives
  • Offer our lonely moments to God
  • Do something for others
The second theme is on Life's Mysteries. Faith is a mystery. It is a gift. It is less about reasoning but about responding. 

"If we believe that God is God, our faith is not a deduction from the facts around us. It is not an instinct. It is not inferred from the happy way things work. Faith is a gift from God, and we must respond to Him with a decision: The God of the universe has spoken, we believe what He says, and we will obey. We must make a decision that we will hold in the face of all opposition and apparent contradiction." (38)

Change is also a mystery. Many people are creatures of habit but screamers against change. We like monotony and routine even when it is boring. We life to do the same things over again because it is safe and comfortable. The fact is, change is something that can refresh and rejuvenate us. With change, we are offered a chance to dig deep into our inner beings to depart from the familiar ways of the world and to arrive at the unfamiliar workings of the Spirit. Evil is also a mystery. Why must there be darkness? Why didn't God make everything sinless and perfect? In fact, God is showing us something greater. When one chooses goodness and holiness in spite of sin and darkness, one would have become totally free indeed. The Incarnation is a mystery. Why would God come down from heaven and to suffer with us? The truth is, He invites us to share in the fellowship of His suffering, that we may testify that God is with us in both good times and bad times.

"We cannot know Christ and the power of His Resurrection without the fellowship of His suffering." (47)

When we take up our cross, we begin to appreciate what Christ Himself had personally experienced. No longer will we be content to say to God, "Do you understand me?" but to confess before God, "Lord, you have already understood. It's I who still do not even understand myself!" Elliot equates discipline with obedience. She writes that "Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the Call of God."

When our hearts are broken, we can be shaped into the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29); learn to trust Christ (2 Cor 1:8-9); learn to obey Christ (Ps 119:67,71); bear fruit for Christ (John 15:2); be mature in Christ (James 1:4). As we wait upon the LORD, we realize that God is there in the waiting.

"Waiting is a form of suffering - the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, flesh and heart failing, soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness. Nevertheless, God is in the darkness." (59)

The third theme is "Making Right Choices." It requires us to overcome our deepest fears. The paths of dark valleys and dangerous places must be seen in context of the journey toward the kingdom. Our final destination is the House of the Lord. Elliot writes:

"Never for a second does God lose sight of his objective. It is we who forget what it is. We are distracted by immediate circumstances, and it is no wonder we want to give up the whole thing. It was the 'joy that was set before Him' that enabled Jesus to endure the cross. Without a clear understanding of the ultimate objective, the intermediate objectives make no sense to us. 'Why this, Lord?' we keep asking. But if we bear in mind that we shall, beyond any doubt whatsoever, finally dwell in the house of the Lord, settle down to stay in His presence, then the intermediate pastures and waters, even the valley of the shadow or the place of dragons, are understood. They are stations and landings along the journey, and they will not last long." (65)

Overcoming worry helps us make right choices. In fact, the opposite of trust is worry. She gives us six reasons why we should not worry:
  1. Worry is completely useless.
  2. Worry is disobedience
  3. Worry is trapping ourselves in tomorrow's affairs
  4. Worry refuses the gift of today
  5. Worry is the antithesis of trust
  6. Worry wastes time and energy
Then there is doubt which can be debilitating to faith matters. Learn to concentrate on God. Reflect on Isaiah 43. When we are in doubt, open up the Word of God and meditate. "The best kind of beginning, when we are wanting to know the will of God, is to concentrate first on God himself." (69)

Risk taking is a step toward making right choices. There is no such thing as a guaranteed result especially in spiritual matters. When we deny ourselves, we are essentially denying ourselves from grasping at the straws of man's strengths and human confidence. If Christ is the Truth, grab hold of Him. Witnessing is a risk. Can we witness in spite of troubles? Yes. For witnessing is obedience in action. Making right choices sometimes mean we take the road less traveled, the harder path. The only comfort in such choices is this: God will be with us. Perhaps, in the making of the hard choices f life, we learn to depend only on God. Nothing else.

This one little book is full of precious thoughts. It makes a gift that can usher in many more gifts.


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