|Conforming to God's Will|
Lisa Barry: All this week Elisabeth Elliot has been reminding us that God's ways are mysterious. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own plans and our own understanding because God is using us for some greater good. There are times when being in the center of God's will means that two years of hard work can vanish in the blink of an eye. It can also mean surrender in the form of a wife giving up her own way for the sake of unity. As we wrap up this series called LOVE THAT SUFFERS, we'll examine exactly what it means to surrender totally to God. This is Lisa Barry, inviting you to stay with us for this Friday edition of Gateway To Joy.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you again today about love that suffers.
I've been giving you some illustrations from beautiful books by Lillias Trotter called PARABLES OF THE CROSS and PARABLES OF THE CHRIST LIFE. She takes her spiritual illustrations from the plants of the desert.
She says, "The plant has nothing to mind now but the treasure it bears. Its aim has become absolutely simple. In the old carnal days, there was the complexity of trying to carry on two lives at once-nourishing root and stem, leaf and flower and tendril, alongside the seed vessel and seed. All that is over. It withdraws itself quietly into the inner shrine where God is working out that which is eternal."
A great principle, which we need to learn over and over and over again and never forget throughout our lives, is that life comes out of death. Paul said, "We always carry around in our mortal body death, in order that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal body."
I hope you know some people in whose lives the Christ life is exhibited. The life of Jesus shines through that mortal body, no matter how crippled, ill, old or far from beautiful it may appear. There are those who exhibit the shining light and love of Jesus Christ in their lives. Don't you want to be one of those? I do.
A dear friend in Hungary has chosen the simple way over the complex. She writes, "My longing for a husband is there, but I offered it up to the Lord. Often I imagine a single future for myself. In fact, the presence of a man in my life would be an unexpected gift. Thank you for praying for me. I wouldn't like to put my own imagined happiness before God's greater glory."
Another who is earnestly trying to learn that abandonment wrote, "I long for marriage and motherhood, but I also want to please God. Are these desires diametrically opposed?" I couldn't tell her that God would fulfill both, but I assured her there was nothing sinful in the desire for marriage and motherhood. It was perfectly human and normal.
But like all our dreams of human happiness, they must be surrendered, as the Hungarian girl's were, to the one supreme aim-the glory of God-which always leads in the end to more than happiness, to fullness of joy, pleasures forevermore. If she could best glorify God by being married, she could be sure that He would in His time give her a husband.
The virgin Mary was one whose aim was absolutely simple. She is an icon of radiant simplicity, single-eyed, with nothing to mind but to please her Master. When He sent His angel with an earth-shattering message, her answer was quick and unequivocal. "Yes. Yes. Yes. Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it happen as you say."
Acceptance of the will of God is always a simple thing, though for us who are yet far from sainthood it's often not an easy thing. Simple, but not easy-there's quite a difference there, isn't there? Our lives are still complicated. Our aims are mixed. Our vision is clouded. No wonder Jesus told us to consider the birds and the lilies. We spend so much time in talk. We write books about deep things, but we miss seeing God's little chickadee as he flits cheerily in the snow-laden evergreen, finding the seed God has put there for him.
We rarely consider a bird in his precious simplicity-the chickadee wearing his little black cap and gray suit, whistling tinnily, doing nothing but what he was made to do. I would like to do nothing but what I was made to do. I'm sure this is what God intends. How shall I know what that is, except in quietness? How listen, if I'm full of talk? I must cease the rehearsal of personal wants and feelings, willingly release things that seem important but in fact have nothing to do with my true goal. The itch to know and to have and to be anything other than what God intends me to know, to have and to be must go.
I'll read that again, because it is a principle of my life-a principle that I just want to share with you today. The itch to know and to have and to be anything other than what God intends me to know, to have and to be must go. Now this is a far cry from quietism. Please don't accuse me of quietism. It may sound to some like an indolent and sluggish way of life, maybe mere spiritual torpor, perhaps, or even the eastern ideal of absence of desire.
But Paul said, "Yet I do speak words of wisdom to those who are ripe for it. Not a wisdom belonging to this passing age, nor to any of its governing powers, which are declining to their end. I speak God's hidden wisdom, His secret purpose framed from the very beginning to bring us to our full glory."
If we truly believe that God wants to bring us to our full glory, we will long increasingly to unite our wills with His. It's in exact proportion as we do this that we will find happiness here on earth. As we unite our will with His, "Thy will, Lord, be done." If His will is done on earth, it becomes like heaven, where His will is always done.
Samuel Shaw wrote in 1669, "Happiness, heaven itself, is nothing else but a perfect conformity, a cheerful and eternal compliance of all the powers of the soul with the will of God." Can you honestly pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done"? And what if it requires that your will be undone? Happiness, heaven itself, is nothing else but a perfect conformity, a cheerful and eternal compliance of all the powers of the soul with the will of God.
When something interrupts what we are doing-the angel interrupted Mary's housework, I suppose-we fret. Some years ago two dear aged aunts, both of them sisters, were lying in a hospital. What would I do if one of them died while I must be on a speaking trip? This is the sort of question that can quickly destroy my peace. God restores it. When I review my goal, it's to please Him. Nothing except my own will can interrupt that. Nothing on earth. It is the only thing I must mind, and I am assured that He will enable me to mind it, no matter what.
If Aunt Ann or Aunt Alice should die-I was thinking then-when the funeral would conflict with my commitment to speak, God wasn't taken by surprise. I don't doubt that He will make plain my duty when the time comes. And until then, it is not my concern.
How often we waste time by trying to arrange the future. All we need to do is do faithfully what God wants us to do today. Of course, part of today's work may be planning next week's meals and making up your grocery list, but that is a legitimate part of today. It's not something to worry about. We make our lives insupportably complex by disobeying Jesus' command to take no thought for tomorrow.
Planning for tomorrow, when planning is necessary and possible, belongs properly to today. Worrying about tomorrow belongs nowhere. Worrying about tomorrow belongs nowhere. The Lord gives us daily, not weekly, bread. "Give us this day our daily bread." He gives strength according to our days, not our years. The work, the suffering, the joy are given according to His careful measure.
If I, who am perfectly well, am tempted to worry about the mere interruption of a few days' schedule, what of the two aunts themselves and all others whose lives seem to have come to a screeching halt because of illness? Can they continue to fulfill the will of the Father, inert, on a sickbed? Most emphatically, yes. Surely they can.
"This illness will not end in death," Jesus said when told that Lazarus was sick. "It has come for the glory of God." Sickness for the glory of God? Jesus could not have raised Lazarus from the grave, and thus shown God's glory, if Lazarus hadn't been sick. The glory of God may be revealed through sick people in ways other than resurrection.
Most of us have witnessed His glory in the forms of patience, serene trust, unselfishness and gratitude. Are we prepared to receive day by day, quietly and faithfully, God's assignment? If it's suffering, will we say, "Yes, Lord"? Remember that He who is love suffered for us.
Lisa Barry: I hope that closing thought gives you courage today. Something else that might give you courage is to have a copy of this series. If sacrifice is truly a characteristic that you want to build into your life, then it's going to take a concerted effort. Look up as many verses as you can find in the Bible about sacrifice. Take notes. Jot down your thoughts. Then augment your study with the cassette entitled LOVE THAT SUFFERS. The cost is $7.
You can send that, along with your request, to Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Monday Elisabeth begins a brand-new series you won't want to miss, so join us then for another Gateway To Joy.