Lisa Barry: When I was in college, I was convinced that God wanted me to be a gospel singer. It was the desire of my heart. God had led me there, given me the ability and opportunity, but one summer while praying I sensed God asking me to be willing to give it up. I thought it was just a test, but I really did have to walk away from that dream.
Maybe you're at a place today and God is asking you to leave a dream behind or to walk down an unfamiliar path. Elisabeth Elliot offers strength for that task with an important reminder about acceptance. It's all coming up on this Thursday edition of Gateway To Joy.
Elisabeth Elliot: I get many, many letters from people telling me the horror stories of things that are going on in their lives and they want to know how Elisabeth Elliot would explain what God is doing. And of course there isn't any way in the world that I'm going to be able to explain, except in the broad, general terms I know, what God is doing. He is conforming us to the image of His Son. He is shaping us for ultimate glory. That's what it's about, but it takes sorrow and suffering and testings of many, many kinds.
I learned, that by facing the unanswerables, I must rest in God Himself. I must allow Him to do in the world and in you what He wants to do. Are you allowing God to do in the world and in you exactly what He wants to do?
"I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." Think of those three words: I know whom. God is up there. He is engineering a universe. He knows exactly where every star belongs, and the more we learn about the heavens the more staggering it is. Men for centuries thought that they had it pretty well sorted out, and with the microscopes and various things that they are now able to use, it's way, way, way beyond what anybody has begun to comprehend.
But this question of acceptance, now, it is number one a matter of obedience. I know that you like to have an outline, so I only have two outlines, two things in my outline for this talk. Number one, acceptance is a matter of obedience. And number two is teachability, which we will come to.
I love Amy Carmichael's poem in which she writes: "If thy dear home be fuller, Lord, because a little emptier my house on earth, what rich reward that burden were." Amy Carmichael believed before she was 20 years old that God was going to keep her single. She didn't know why, but she felt very clearly that God had made that plain to her. And as I was writing her biography back in 1983 or 4, I came across some hints that made me pretty sure that she must have had at least two or three proposals. Obviously she turned them all down. She was single all her life and she never left India after she arrived there. She was in India for 53 years without a furlough and she died there. But I love those words, "If thy dear home be fuller, Lord, because a little emptier my house on earth, what rich reward."
Now I've actually been single many more years than I've been married, but I have been very greatly blessed in being given three different husbands. And I'm sure there are a good many single women here today, and you may be among the many who write me letters and say, "When is God going to give me a husband?" As if I'm supposed to know! And I write back and say, "Very likely He's not going to give you a husband," which is not what they wanted to hear at all. How do I know? But I think of the women--the single women--who have greatly influenced my life. Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Dr. Virginia Blakesley, I could go on and on and on, one after another of the women who have so deeply influenced me.
Are there things that have happened in your life that make you think, "I'm not real sure that the Lord God does know what He's doing at times"? "I don't understand why He does this, Elisabeth, can you please explain to me why God does so-and-so?" And my answer is, "He is conforming you to the image of His Son." That's what it takes. It takes a different process for Elisabeth Elliot than it takes for Corrie Ten Boom, but God is in the business of shaping us into that image and I want to be like Jesus.
I don't know how much longer it's going to take. I keep thinking, "Lord, am I not old enough now? Couldn't you just call me home?" I think it would be wonderful to be called home. My husband's not real happy about that idea, but God only knows the shaping process, which is going to be necessary in order to teach you what acceptance is.
"My soul is like a weaned child," the Psalmist said in Psalm 131:2. "My soul is like a weaned child," and you who have weaned a child, you know how difficult it can be and the struggles back and forth and the crying and all that's involved in that. Isn't it interesting that God uses a metaphor like that for all of us? Our souls are like weaned children and it's a hard, difficult process at times. But finally when we do accept, then everything becomes peaceful. "In acceptance lies peace," Amy Carmichael said.
Psalm 16:5 is one of my life verses. It says, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure." Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup. Do I envy somebody else because she has a portion and a cup that I thought belonged to me? There are a lot of people who look to me, look at me with a certain amount of wistfulness and say, "Oh, it must wonderful to write books." Well, it's a tremendous privilege, but it's hard work.
As I said earlier, I'd rather clean toilets. I can't say that really, that I'd rather clean toilets, but it's just one of those things that God happens to have assigned me. If I write a book, then for some reason people have the idea that I can speak, and so speaking begins. Well then somebody comes along in a place called Lincoln, Nebraska, and says, "How about doing some radio programs?" None of these things had anything at all to do with me.
There's one woman that had everything to do with my being on the radio. Many of you probably don't even know. She was a young woman named Jan Anderson and she came to a small seminar that I had in Georgia. And at the end of those four or five days she, without telling me, made up her mind that Elisabeth Elliot was going to go on the radio. Well, it happened. She walked into the offices of Back to the Bible and made the suggestion, and to make a long story short, that's what happened. But it is entirely because of Jan Anderson, and I thank God for the privilege that was given to me through the vision that that young woman had.
All of these things, you see, they're engineered by a Lord who is engineering a universe. Psalm 16:5, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure." Are you satisfied with that? If you're not, you need some exercises in acceptance saying, "Lord, I don't understand it, I wouldn't have chosen it, but Lord by your grace I'm going to receive it." This husband, this lack of a husband, this miserable child, this marvelous child, this impossible place where we live--whatever it is that you're thinking "Lord, we just can't take very much more of this."
I was talking with a young woman in Europe some years ago and she came up and asked me if I would be willing to pray that the Lord would give them a better living situation. I said, "Well, tell me a little bit about your living situation. Why do you want me to pray about it?" She said, "We're living in the basement. We have four children. We live in the basement of another missionary family who live upstairs, and I'm sure they would like us to get out of there. We don't know where to go. We just are desperate to have another place to live."
And I said, "Well, guess what. You don't need another place to live today."
She looked at me. "Didn't you hear what I said?"
I said, "Yes, but" I said, "if you needed it today, you would have it today, because the Bible says, 'My God shall supply' what, almost all of my needs? No. 'My God shall supply all my needs in His time.'"
It looked as though her face just suddenly radiated and she said, "That's right! Why, I never thought about that!" She ran to the telephone. She called up her husband. She said, "Honey, we don't need a different place to live," and he thought she'd lost her mind.
He said, "What in the world are you talking about?" So she told him what Elisabeth Elliot had said. But it wasn't very long after that that I had a letter from her telling me of the wonderful way in which God had worked to give them a better place to live, but until that moment they didn't need it.
"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure." Some of you women are perhaps longing for a child and God hasn't given you a child. He has assigned you your portion, to be a childless mother, at least for now. So God has His own wonderful ways of shaping us into the image of Christ.
One lady said to me one time, "Sometimes I don't understand God." My husband Add, who was a professor and a theologian and a philosopher, he used to tell me that he often had women say the same thing to him. "Sometimes I don't understand God," and they thought because he was a philosopher and a theologian that he could explain God. So, obviously, we have only the tiniest glimpses of what God is up to. But every now and then He gives us these little glimpses and we are calmed and quieted and assured that He has assigned us a portion and a cup.
Lisa Barry: I want to leave you with a couple of suggestions that will help in your quest for acceptance. It's all a part of the process by which God leads us throughout life. The book Elisabeth has written called God's Guidance is full of examples of how God has led people in the past. And once you understand the principles of how God leads, you can apply them to life. It also helps you to make sense out of situations that seem totally out of place. Again, the title is God's Guidance. The cost is $13.50 and to purchase it you can send that amount along with a note to:
Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. That's Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. Or, call toll-free 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Well, have you found us on-line yet? You'll find everything there is to know about Gateway To Joy on our Web site. That address gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy is a listener-supported production of Back to the Bible.
Elisabeth wraps up this series on encountering the cross, next time. So join us then for another Gateway To Joy.