I was recently reminded that a few weeks ago marked the first anniversary of the death of Elisabeth Elliot. She was the wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot. Even if you don’t know his name, you’ve probably heard some of his quotes:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.”
“Wherever you are, be all there.”
“God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.”
But Elisabeth Elliot was a gifted teacher in her own right…and a convicting one, as well.
The first book I read authored by her is Discipline: The Glad Surrender. Even if you’ve never heard Elisabeth Elliot teach, the title provides a clue to her perspective. She never shied away from difficult truths—truths from which our human nature recoils. She knew the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to the new life within us. And she also knew that while the call of this new life works against our old nature, the rewards are beyond anything we could ask or imagine.
My most significant take-away from this book is as fresh to me today as it was almost twenty years ago when I first read through its pages…and is still as convicting. The bottom line is this: life is a series of choices. Each time I make a choice, I am choosing what I want most at that moment.
Think about it.
I can talk about wanting the discipline of a regular quiet time with the Lord in the morning. But if I choose to sleep an extra half hour or hour, I’m proclaiming that sleeping in is more important to me at that moment than spending time communing with the Lord.
I can talk about wanting a good marriage. But each time I say “I told you so,” I’m proclaiming that being right is more important to me at that moment than having a good relationship.
I can talk about wanting to lose weight. But each time I eat something unhealthy, I am proclaiming that wanting to satisfy my craving is more important to me at that moment than what I know is God’s best for me.
I have a precious friend who has an aggressive form of cancer. Her doctors have told her sugar feeds this cancer, so she has cut out all sugar from her diet. Sort of a diabetic diet taken to the absolute extreme. Could she cheat with an occasional dessert? Of course she could. But if she gave up her discipline to not eat even one bite, she’d be proclaiming that a temporary treat is more important than life. The choice is clear for her. Cheating is not an option. Every day she remains disciplined is another day of life.
The consequences of our choices are usually not as immediate for the rest of us. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to give in to cravings for temporal needs rather than choose the discipline that yields long-term, even eternal, benefits.
But what if we stopped seeing discipline as a negative and began viewing it as something we’re glad to do (hence the title of the book)? What if we wanted to choose discipline in every area of life more than we wanted to do anything else?
I’ve pulled out my copy of Discipline: The Glad Surrender to read again this summer.
Will you join me?