Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy…..
Steve Saint as a boy with Kimo, a Waodani warrior. Saint still keeps a house in the village.(Every Tribe Entertainment)
One of the most difficult movies for me to watch came out in 2005. Mesmerized and horrified all at the same, The End of the Spear http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/19/AR2006011901309.html burst my little Christian fantasy world bubble with the clarity of what grown up men and women of God really live like. Before I went to the movie, I vaguely knew that this was the story of the famous Jim and Elizabeth Elliot and their friends (at the time I didn’t know about Steve and Nate Saint, who the movie plot centers around) who went to be missionaries in Ecuador to the Waodani Tribe, a violent, indigenous tribe where killing was second nature.
I remember, as a child, reading a Christian kids’ cartoon depicting the 5 men who flew into the jungle to bring Jesus to the tribe and the frame by frame colored pictures depicting in a child-like way how these men were speared by the Waodani, only to be taken up to heaven by the angels. Somehow, as a kid, I knew this made God happy, that they laid down their lives and that their wives and children stayed behind to keep bringing the gospel to the tribe, who eventually accept Jesus. It all sounded like a neat story.
But, then I saw it on the big screen, as a young married adult with a small child. Then I realized that those adults weren’t so old. They were right out of college. There was a pregnant wife. Little children. Oh God. I don’t want to watch this movie, I thought. I know what’s going to happen and it’s not so pretty.
In fact, I had taken my youth group to the movie. What better youth activity than watching a powerful story of the faith to encourage these youngsters? Well, they were encouraged all right. But, I was scared out of my mind. I was embarrassed that none of them seemed phased like I was.
It rocked my world.
How could those women go back into the jungle and minister to the indians who just destroyed their lives and took away the security of the men who loved them, protected them and fathered their young children? I mean, how does living in the jungle work, anyways, on top of all that?
This story chased me throughout my early ministry with teenagers and church planting. How much do I love The Lord? What kind of understanding did Elizabeth Elliot have about who Jesus is and eternity that I don’t have?
What does it mean to sacrifice here in America?
What does this mean for me, personally? I pushed the movie away, every time I would think about it.
All my selfishness and fear came rushing in, especially fear. Not fear of losing my physical life, but fear for my family, fear of losing dreams. Wondering, “Is this what God requires of me?”
My mom always said to me, when I would worry, “Briana, God only gives you grace for today. You don’t get grace to worry about tomorrow.” Very wise words that paraphrased what Jesus said,
Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
So, there are the words of Jesus on the matter of worrying.
My concerns for the things that I was afraid of losing were petty at best. Jesus’s Words simply strip away every thing that Americans obsess about daily and says that they are not even to be on our agenda. We are not even to go running after these things.
“Grown up” believers, according to Christ, have their minds on things above, on what The Father wants. Is God saying he doesn’t want us to eat and enjoy food or to wear nice clothing? No. He reminds us that he blessed Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest man of all time.
But, what it does reveal to me is this:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
My American Christianity had me “dreaming” and even praying about “my life”, “my ministry”. I thought I was seeking the kingdom of heaven, but God began to show me that there was a lot of seeking myself in the way of me seeking the kingdom of heaven. 10 years later the societal plague of selfishness is running more rampant than the flu.
There is a kind of underlying low-grade fever in young people to prove themselves, to dig in, to make a name for themselves. Some want to become famous, whether it’s as an overnight celebrity on youtube, hitting the viral lottery, or as a Christian, many young, aspiring pastors and authors want the fame of Elizabeth Elliot or Nate Saint without, as I realized sitting in that movie theater, paying the price of the Elliots and the Saints.
And so, we find ourselves wanting to chase our own “visions”, or own “goals” with grandiose ends. Many young pastors, right out of seminary hope to grow churches quickly, and everyone clammers to find the best method, usually ditching prayer for marketing. Musicians work to write the best song, hoping and praying to become the next superstar worship leader, because commercial success defines our spirituality in America. It’s the new golden calf.
It’s easy to put people like The Saints and The Elliots up on a pedestal when well-made Hollywood movies are made about them that convict us, then it’s just as easy to go home and watch television or surf the web and order a pizza.
When I think about what these handful of Christians do for the kingdom of God, I wonder what would happen if the professing millions of Christians in the US alone actually picked up their crosses and followed Christ in the real world. Instead of trying to make something of yourself, make something of Jesus. (In your life.) Instead of obsessing about being a cool Christian why not desire to be a sacrificial Christ follower?(Funny, I hear this disclaimer all the time from people. I’m not one of “those” people. L.O.L.) I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on anyone. I just really wonder what would happen if individuals stopped worrying about themselves and started being more like Jesus. And these words have been said before, “You don’t have to be a missionary to work for The Lord.” It’s absolutely true. But, I do wonder how many individuals God calls and it doesn’t work into their retirement plan very well.
I do wonder how many people hear the nudge of the Holy Spirit to help with a ministry or to give financially to a missionary laying down his or her life in a country hostile to the gospel and the loud and clamorous voice of self says, “I’m too busy!” or “Money is tight right now.” (On the way out the door to stop at Starbucks before going to a movie.) I’m guilty, too! Let’s get real here.
Americans don’t like to hear things that “make them feel guilty.” Guilt is not from God. Don’t listen to it. But, make sure you are listening to God. Conviction IS from God. You may actually be listening to yourself, when you feel guilty. (I know I have.)
God may be speaking to you about your life, the way he was speaking to me 9 years ago. At first I got afraid, so that I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Jesus wants us to wrestle with those fears. He wants us to take them to him in prayer, instead of writing them off as guilt. What is he calling you to? I honestly have no idea. Most likely it’s not to be a missionary in Ecuador. But, whatever he is calling you to, I’ll leave you with some of Jesus’s most impassioned words:
Luke 10:1 ” After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.“
What are your thoughts on sacrifice and the American way of life? Comment below!
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To God be the Glory.