The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye by single, the whole body shall be full of light. — Matthew 6:22
Recently, I attended a talk by Valerie Elliot Shepherd. For those who know of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, missionaries to the Waorani people on the Amazon River near Quito, Ecuador in the 1950s, Valerie is their only child.
Valerie and her mother Elisabeth went to live with the Waorani’s (formerly labeled “Auca”s) after Jim’s martyrdom at their hands. Valerie grew up with these amazing people as they came to know the gospel for themselves. It is an amazing story.
Valerie talked about what it was like to live in the shadow of such amazing parents. As she related stories of Jim and Elisabeth’s courtship and dedication to bringing the gospel to unreached people groups, she emphasized an important part of their story that was the key to their extraordinary faith: both Jim and Elizabeth were not only highly skilled in their Bible knowledge and the mission challenge they received from it–they lived by its truth daily.
I have known many godly people who were or are knowledgeable in the Bible, people who can parse out the original languages from years of study. But I have not known as many people who are so serious about the scriptures so as to live by them at cost to “normal” everyday life. Our models in this are few.
God’s Word determined every aspect of Jim and Elisabeth’s lives. They believed the Word to be central to all of life: not peripheral, not occasional, not part-time.
Valerie said she felt she could not live up to the high standard her parents had set, though she tried. She and her husband Walt both discovered grace in this and it changed their lives. The Word is all grace, not censure! God’s love covers us all, no matter the size of our faith or how public or private His ministry is through us.
Not all will go to a foreign country, but all are called to live with the intensity and reality of God’s love in His Word to our world.
Valerie’s testimony is powerful and I hope you will read her new book Devotedly (see Further Resources below).
But what of that high goal of having a “single eye” for the Lord? It means focusing on Christ full-time rather than diffusing His light in us by mixing with the world’s affairs. The eye sees outwardly….what are we focusing our eyes on? Do our eyes shift focus, or remain steady on a single goal?
The eye is also the window inside to the soul; others can see in. What do others see in me through my eyes? Do they see compassion, empathy, grace? Do they see purity, integrity, bold and piercing truth? Is the holy Spirit of God alive inside? Are they unsettled by what they find that disturbs their own ease, and yet comforted by the grace they receive?
There is a cost to being so single-focused. For Jim, it meant a martyr’s death. For Elisabeth it meant taking her only young daughter into the jungle to live with the people who killed her husband and his team of four other young single-focused men. She gave her all for her Lord without looking back.
For Valerie it means coming out of her self-imposed privacy as a minister’s wife and mother of eight to go on tour, giving her parents’ testimonies, and her own testimony of finding God’s grace.
What will it mean for me?
What would it mean to say “no” to mixing this world with the holy life? What sacrifices would be made? How would it change my thoughts, my use of time, my finances, my desires, my food intake, my goals (daily and long-term)? Who would I have to disappoint? Who would I end up annoying? To whom or what would I have to say ‘no’?
What would I listen to that I don’t listen to now? How would I dress or otherwise appear differently? How would I view training and education? What would I give up for His purposes? What possibilities would I entertain and pray over without turning back at the first obstacle?
How would it change my use of technology? What would I read that I don’t read now? What items would I purge from my home as “weights that hinder”?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. — Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV (emphasis mine)
All of grace
Valerie came to understand that God had not called her to be her parents. He had called her and given her the grace to be herself. Elisabeth and Jim’s sacrifices in life were not the same as for Walt and Valerie. And mine will look different from yours. But the call from God, the opportunity to live with intensity of purpose, is available to all of us.
For me today, it means washing those dishes, finishing the last blanket for the new moms at the local pregnancy center. It means dejunking my home today (new word: “purging”), calling my mother to check on her, and studying for my missions class in prayer and an open heart to saying “yes” to very tangible opportunities nearby. It means having those everyday conversations with the people God has sent me and taking what I hear there to God in prayer. It means speaking truth in love, every moment and following that up with practical, sacrificial service.
That is not an ordinary life, if I’m faithful in it. I’ll have to watch those leisure moments in between! I’ll have to check the contents of my heart for the moments when I’m bumped and what’s inside splashes out. And I will kneel before God with empty hands raised for Him to fill for the days ahead. I will need his grace as I fail; I will need His grace to rise again by faith.
The promise is that “the whole body will be full of life.” Integrity is the essence of holiness. I want that.
Lord, Jesus, I am a mixed bag. I am far from the priesthood and find myself one of the “everyday” kind of Israelites. Though I am called to be set aside for your holy purposes, I take that all too often to be “occasionally on call” instead of permanently. I take my breaks. I go “off duty” and then wonder why life is not as fulfilling as I know You have promised. Help me to have that single eye for your Word and for your life in me. Give me the same passion for Your Name and Your mission and Your people as you have for myself and all the nations. Give me grace to live intensely without undue provocation to others, but give me resilience and faith firm enough to stand unmoveable where you have called me to it. Give me strength to say no to my own lusts and desires that compete with your own, and give me the blessing of Your light and life to draw me forward in the assurance of your calling. For today, and not tomorrow, Lord, I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.
© Feb 2019 by readpsalm119.com
Devotedly: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Valerie Elliot Shepherd. 2019, B&H Books. ChristianBooks (www.See the trailer from B&H Publishing on YouTube (approx. 2 minutes long) to see Valerie briefly tell the story of her parents and her own testimony.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote the story of the martyrdom of the five men in Ecuador in the book Through Gates of Splendor. This was made into a movie, Beyond the Gates of Splendor,produced by Steve Saint, the child of martyr Nate Saint, pilot for the group in Ecuador. The link provided is the full movie available on YouTube [1:36:32 minutes].
Elisabeth also wrote 29 other books on pure romantic love, suffering, true masculinity, God’s guidance, Christian discipline, and many other topics that are important in the Christian life. She published the Journals of Jim Elliot, in which you can read what it looks like to have a single eye for the Lord.
As a special note, Amy Carmichael was Elisabeth Elliot’s spiritual mentor as she has been mine. Valerie said that Amy wrote 30 books and so Elisabeth wrote 30 books. I discovered Amy before I ever discovered Elisabeth. Amy exemplified (and required) a single-focus in mission service at Dohnavur Fellowship. To learn more, read the following books:
* Gold By Moonlight, (her own story by Amy Carmichael),
* Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur, (biography of Amy by her friend Frank Houghton), and
* A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, (biography by Elisabeth Elliot).
To be introduced to Amy Carmichael, watch this brief video clip (along with others available) on YouTube:
Clip from a BBC2 documentary on Amy Carmichael [2:25 minutes].
Please pray for all of India to have the gospel available in each region and in each language and culture group.