This week we are talking about what it really means to be a servant of Christ. We are looking at stories of those who have shown a real dedication to Christ. I think that we have forgotten what it means to live for our Lord.
Many today think that the Christian life is about being an overcomer, and the blessings of God in our lives. These are certainly some benefits of the Christian life, but I think we are missing the element of service. I find many Christians are looking for “what’s in it for me.” They change churches because the old one no longer meets their needs. they look for churches that have the high power programs that meet their felt needs.
My question for all of us is, are we missing what we are supposed to be living for? When we look at the first century churches, we see churches that lived under persecution. The Scriptures promise that if we live for Christ we will suffer persecution.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
In America, do we even know what persecution is? I don’t think we do. As I said yesterday, I have been in a missions conference this week and it has really been a challenge to me. I am hearing the stories of those who are putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of Christ. I am hearing about those who are going into countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian, and even more dangerous to share the Gospel. In some of these countries, if you share the Gospel and someone gets saved, you could die. Those who convert to Christ could also die. I am afraid that many look at those who do this and ask why anyone would do it. Why would they want to put their lives on the line, and why would they take their family into a place like that? What is it that makes people do these things?
There was something that happened back in the 1950’s, before I was born, but was often spoken of when I was a young boy. When the news of these 5 missionaries came out, it captured the attention of even the unchurched and those who were not save. They were killed in Ecuador. America was both amazed and appalled.
The first book that stayed with me growing up was “Through The Gates of Splendor,” by Elizabeth Elliot. She was the widow of Jim Elliot, who died there in Ecuador on January 8th, 1956 along with 4 other missionaries. The ages of these men were:
- Jim Elliot – 28
- Nate Saint – 32
- Ed McCully – 28
- Pete Flemming – 27
- Roger Youderain – 31
All of these men had promising opportunities in other fields, had they chosen to follow them. Jim Elliot was a very talented orator, and was a born leader. He studied at Wheaton College. He developed relationships with Nate Saint, who became a pilot. Nate had joined the US Army and was a WWII vet. He was the father of three. He joined the mission team with Jim and Elizabeth Elliot.
Ed McCully, who was another student at Wheaton College, was the medical director on the team. He was the father of two and had one more on the way. He was very talented in football and track, and was an exceptional orator. In 1949 he won the National Hearst Oratorical Contest, where over 10,000 people had entered. He shared a weekly evangelical radio broadcast with Jim Elliot.
Pete Flemming, who was born in Seattle, WA, had only been married 18 months when he died. He was on the varsity basket ball and golf team in high school. He was the valedictorian of his class.
Roger Youderain, who was born in Montana and was a WWII vet.
All five of these men knew the risk and the danger that was ahead of them. They were in the jungle of Ecuador, and there was a story developing about a group of indians that was causing a lot of trouble. Shell Oil Company was there trying to look for oil and many jobs were going to be created. Some of their men were being killed by the Kichwa Indians, which the locals called Auca, which means savages. The government was having problems controlling these people. Everyone who tried to reach out to this people, died.
The other indian tribes in the area lived in fear of this tribe. They were just violent people. There were rumors that, when the weather cleared, the government was going to send in their army, and this people would be exterminated.
The missionaries realized that they only had a small window in which to reach these people. Nate flew out to locate their villages. He had an ingenious idea to make a connection with them and to begin to talk to them. They dropped gifts and this kind of thing, but some things couldn’t get to them that way. He had an idea of lowering a bucket with tools that would be useful to a people like this. How do you do this in an airplane? He had the idea of flying in a tight circle while lowering the bucket.
He found a small little landing strip, and with his skill he was able to land. The five men began to set up a station there, and they finally began to make contact with these people. They all know how great the risk was. No one from the outside world had ever made successful contact with this people. They had pictures and movies of these initial contacts. After a few contacts, something went wrong. It was Sunday, January 8, 1956. The reason is suspected that someone told a lie about the missionaries and the people thought they were a threat, but no one knows for sure why this happened. All five of the men were savagely butchered. Instead of the hearts of the wives being filled with hatred, they began to pray for them.
Here are some quotes from these men:
- Jim Elliot —“No Man is a Fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he will never loose.”
- Nate —“Every time I take off, I am ready to deliver the life I owe to God.”
- Roger —“I want to be a witness for Him; following Him everyday of my life.”
- Pete Flemming –“I would gladly give my life for that tribe.”
- Ed McCully – “I pray that God will spare the lives of these Indians.”
They were afraid that if they didn’t get the Gospel to this people in time, the government would come in and kill every one of them. This people needed to know Jesus. The compassion they and for this people, and their love for their Lord, made them willing to lay their lives on the line. God chose for these men to give their lives in reaching this people. Many would say, what a waste.
Those who would say this don’t understand how God moves. God not only moves in the lives of those who live, He also moves in the testimony of the lives that were given for Him. The testimony of what these men gave, and what their families did afterward, has probably done more for the cause of Christ than all these men could have done had they lived. It was their lives that God used to challenge lives like mine. I have the courage to do what I do because of men like these five heroes of the faith.
What I find amazing is that Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, and Elizabeth Elliot went into this village to live and minister to the Aucas. Through a miracle of God, they were able to connect with these indians. They were actually able to raise Steve Saint, Nate’s son in the village. As a result, the people who had killed their loved ones came to know Christ as their personal Saviour. These people, who once lived in hatred and darkness, were now living in light.
It is interesting to follow the story of Steve Saint and “Mincaye.” the man who killed Nate, and see the relationship of forgiveness that they had with each other. If you are not familiar with the story there is a wonderful movie that tells the story. It is called, “The End of the Spear.”
I was once in a conference with Steve Saint, and he shared this with us. He knew his dad had guns, and they could have shot and protected themselves. He had asked is dad if he would shoot the indians, and his dad responded:
“We can’t shoot them, son. We may fire our guns to try to scare them, but how can we shoot them, They’re not ready for heaven, we are.”
What a testimony is left behind by these men. I hope this will challenge you to be a person of faith and of courage. Not just to hear the truth, but to be a person of truth and courage.
Let’s stand for God, and let’s live for Him, even if it means giving up our lives for His glory. If God wills this for us, may He be glorified in it.
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