Just Begin: Lessons from the Life of Elisabeth Elliot

by Miranda Mae Ewing 

It was the summer of 2015 when I looked down at my phone and saw a text that took a swing at my heart. 

Elisabeth Elliot just passed away. 

My friend had seen the news and texted me to make sure that I knew. She and I grew up together at church and school, and she had a front-row seat to Elisabeth Elliot’s influence on my life. When I discovered the story of Elisabeth Elliot (you can learn about her here and here), I consumed all of her books, devotionals, and recorded radio shows. The fearless missionary and Bible teacher was a spiritual mother to me, even though I never met her. She helped me discover what it meant to give yourself to Christ completely. I watched her recorded funeral service a few weeks later and cried as I listened to all of the testimonies about her life. She was so godly, and her impact on the church was enormous.  

“I hope I can be like her,” I thought to myself. My eyes went down to my journal I hadn’t touched in a few weeks and my Bible reading plan that I had hardly made a dent in.  

“Who am I kidding. I never will be as disciplined as she was.” 

These are the kinds of thoughts that can completely destroy spiritual growth in a Christian’s life. They cause us to stay in a pit of self-condemnation and apathy, and before we know it, we will go years and years without ever realizing the negative impact of what we are thinking. I will always love Elisabeth Elliot, and she is someone I still turn to for wisdom and counsel, even though she is now with the Lord. But to compare myself spiritually to Elisabeth Elliot when I was a freshman in college was a foolish and short-sighted thing for me to do.  

Elisabeth Elliot had years and years to grow in discipline, wisdom, and understanding of the Lord and His Word. If you read her story, daily Bible reading was something her parents expected their children to do from a very young age. She had quite a head start! When I watched her memorial service, I was still figuring out how to be disciplined with reading my Bible, and I was much closer to the beginning of my own walk with Christ. The stories I listened to from her service were the fruit of following Christ for thirty-plus years.  

I soon understood that Elisabeth Elliot’s life of spiritual discipline and love for Christ had not happened overnight. It happened day after day as she chose to be with Jesus by pausing in a quiet and hidden place, read His Word, and prayed to Him. She did this day after day after day—in seasons of joy, business, worry, and hardship. 

One of the worst mistakes we can make as Christians is to think that we will somehow arrive spiritually in a few days or weeks, or if we do something different or buy a certain resource, we will finally be disciplined or get it together.  

If I only get this study, I’ll finally read my Bible. 

If I have these pens and highlighters, I’ll actually understand what I’m reading. 

If I have a prayer journal, then I’ll really learn how to pray, and I’ll do it. 

Friend, all of the resources in the world will not matter if you do not sit down and open your Bible. There is no magical study, journal, or reference book that will make you disciplined and godly. You have all you need in Christ and His Word.  

Do not believe the lie that you have to do your Bible study a certain way for it to “count” or “matter.” Do not stay in a cycle of self-condemnation by observing the life of older saints and feeling like you will never measure up.  

Just begin.  

Open your Bible and immerse yourself in it, and then come back to it again, and again, and again. And as you come back, day after day, your heart will find contentment because you will realize that all of your hope is in Christ—not in your own efforts to be more disciplined. The Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification is slow and steady. You won’t see all of the change immediately, and you will still fail and make mistakes, but over days, weeks, months, and years of meeting with the Lord, you will be transformed. You will become more like your Savior, and you will know the joy of abiding in Him. 

And someday, when one of your relatives is sitting in a room, and they receive word that you have gone to be with the Lord, they will see what I saw at Elisabeth Elliot’s funeral service: a life of faithfulness to God because of daily, unseen meetings with Him in His Word. And then they will hopefully desire to do the same. 

So just begin, and come back tomorrow, and the day after that. And trust that He will do the rest.  

If you would like to learn more about faithfully living for Christ, check out our podcast episode on “The Beauty of Daily Dependence” or our episode on “What Does it Mean to ‘Abide’?”  Another great episode from our podcast about success and ordinary faithfulness that just recently released is “Pursuing Real Success”

Another great read on this topic would be a book by our former staff writer, Glenna Marshall, called Everyday Faithfulness.  

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