He is no fool


over fifty years ago, on October 28, 1949: Jim Elliot, one young American Christian, challenged by the needs of many mission fields, writes in his journal the most famous of his sayings:


Just over six years later, as one of a team of missionaries to Ecuador’s Auca Indians, on Sunday, January 8, 1956, Jim lays down his life for his Lord and Savior, when, on a small stretch of river beach in the Amazon jungle, Auca spears and arrows end his earthly life and that of his four companions. The whole story can be read in the breathtaking accounts penned by his widow, Elizabeth Elliot, in “Through Gates of Splendour” and “Shadow of the Almighty”.

Jim had discovered the law of sowing and reaping. Much of the Christian experience has to do with discovering the laws that govern our spiritual life. They are all there in God’s Word. The Holy Spirit takes and reveals them to us one by one. He also teaches us how they can become part of our life.

One law of utmost importance is stated by our Lord in these words:

“Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit”   (John 12:24).

The Lord was speaking about Himself and about the Cross. He had not come to “remain alone”, but to “bring forth much fruit”. To see redemption making new creatures out of sinful men and women. That was his purpose all along, and all along He knew perfectly what the price for such redemption and such fruit would be. He, the only perfect “grain of wheat”, would have to be sown, that is: thrown out, fall to the ground, and die. There was, and there is, no other way to become fruitful. Even the Creator Himself was subject to his own law.

The farmer does have another option open to him. He can keep his grain from being sown. It means it won’t be fruitful, but, to some extent, it will at least be useful. He can grind it into flour. That flour can then be used to make bread. The bread will feed him and others. And that is where its usefulness ends. Useful? Up to a point … Fruitful? Not at all!

But the grain that is sown, thrown out as if it were and of no use at all, that grain will abide for ever, because it continues to reproduce itself. In the very next verse Jesus explains that He was not only speaking about Himself. He was also speaking about those grains produced by Him. It is now their turn to be sown.

An important detail from the first two parables in Matthew 13, the seed parables, is that in the first one the seed is “the word of the kingdom”, in the second one the seed are “the children of the kingdom”. It is a most significant distinction.

Once a child of man has received the seed of the Word of God, of the kingdom, and he has become a child of God or “a child of the Kingdom”, the Word of God has now actually made him into a “seed”. The sooner new believers discover this wonderful fact, the better. A good percentage will draw back from consciously letting themselves be used as seed. They shrink from death, from the cross, and that is no more than the normal human reaction. God’s grace in the Christian, however, makes all the difference.

Jim Elliot consciously embraced the law of fruit-through-death. He was truly ready to lay down his earthly life for his Lord. To the human mind those five dead bodies on that beach fail to make any sense. Each of them had a wife and children. What use was this apparent defeat, and what fruit had it produced?! Nothing but heartbreak …

But seed has a way of lying hidden in the dark, where it has been sown. It may seem to have been lost for ever. And yet, suddenly, when spring arrives, it sprouts and grows and brings forth a marvelous harvest. So it was in Aucaland. As a direct result of the missionary effort of those five men, many Aucas surrendered eventually to Christ and to the claims of his love. Lives and entire families were changed from darkness to light.

Jim and his four friends were no fools, when willingly they gave up all, even their very lives, for the sake of God’s Kingdom. And the wives, willing to let go of their husbands, weren’t fools either. They were conscious of the fact that God, who is faithful, would see to the reproduction of wonderful fruit.

They could have had lovely, blessed, healthy, useful-up-to-a-point lives and families, safely at home in the US, but … remaining alone, i.e. sterile, not reproducing. Such a life only requires what comes natural: “loving your soul-life, and thus … losing it”. Rather, five young families chose the seed option, “hating their soul-life in this world”, as Jesus puts it (John 12:24, 25) and so “keeping it unto life eternal.”

Why do countless Christian lives and Christian homes (and home churches, for that matter) remain ‘sterile’, perhaps even getting shipwrecked, when by God’s grace they could have been, and should have been, marvelous testimonies to HIS sustaining power, HIS presence, HIS supernatural bearing of fruit through them? There is only one answer. They refused to let go of their soul values, their soul interests and their soul pleasures, preferring them to the inestimable blessings that their Lord would fill their lives with. They refused to be seed and be thrown to the ground. One day they will look back with sorrow on so many years wasted in “Egoland” and it will finally dawn on them what fools they have been …

It could be though that at this late hour some reader is ready to say “yes” to the Sower. If that is the case, don’t let the opportunity slip! Don’t let the sun go down on that desire. Tomorrow all the other things will be crowding in again and the Holy Spirit’s tug at your heart will be so much less noticeable. Now is the time to …