The movie The End of the Spear tells the true story of five men, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed Mcculley, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian, who, in 1956, were killed by the Waodani Indians of Ecuador while trying to share the gospel with them. Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, and Jim Elliot’s wife, Elizabeth eventually went to live with the tribe and succeeded in sharing the Gospel with the very men who murdered their brother and husband.
Rachel Saint lived out her life with the Waodani people and was often visited by Nate’s son Steve. Upon her death, Steve traveled back to Ecuador to preside over Rachel’s funeral and gather her belongings. Steve reconnected with the Waodani people and their leader, Mincayani, whom he calls Grandfather. In a very dramatic moment in the movie, Mincayani takes Steve to the very spot where his father was murdered. There Mincayani confesses that it was he who murdered Steve’s father, Nate. “I took your father’s life,” Mincayani confesses. After struggling with his emotions, Steve replies. “You did not take my father’s life. He gave it.”
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.”
What does that mean for me and for you? What does it mean to deny ourselves daily and follow Jesus? Back in 1956, for five men denying themselves meant moving to Ecuador and living with the Waodani people that they might win them to Christ. That decision cost them their lives- their futures. They never lived to see their children born and grow up. They never lived to see the Waodani people embrace Christianity and become a people of peace instead of violence. Some people would say their wasted their lives.
In this passage in Luke, Jesus poses some probing questions to challenge our assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile. Every decision we make in life will determine the type of person we are become. These decisions mold our character and to some extent determine our future. Are we going to live for ourselves? Are we going to pursue success as the world defines it, wealth, large houses, trendy clothes, the latest ipods, cell phones, the best car, etc. Or are we going to live for Christ fully committed to him and ready to lose our life for His sake.
My Life or God’s?
It is a choice we make many times each day. The cashier gives me back too much change. My life or God’s? A car cuts me off on the freeway. My life or God’s? A friend deeply wounds me. My life or God’s? A family needs financial assistance. My life or God’s? My physical health has taken a turn for the worse. My life or God’s? My spouse walks out on our marriage. My life or God’s?
Given the choice to serve yourself or serve others as Christ would, what would you choose?
Robertson McQuilkin is one man who knows what it means to lay down your life for another. Mr. McQuilkin was president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary for many years when in 1978 his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. By 1990, His wife’s illness had progressed to where she needed full-time care. Robertson resigned his position to care for his wife. He writes this of his decision to resign,
“When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, ‘in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part’? It is all more than keeping promises and being fair, however. As I watch her brave descent into oblivion, Muriel is the joy of my life. Daily I discern new manifestations of the kind of person she is, the wife I always loved. I also see fresh manifestations of God’s love-the God I long to love more fully.”
When someone asked Robertson McQuilkin if he regretted giving up his career to care for his wife, he replied,“I don’t feel like I’ve given anything up. Our life is not the way we plot it or plan it. And so I guess all along I’ve just accepted whatever assignment the Lord gave me. This was his assignment.”
Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim lost his life in 1956 along with Nate Saint at the hands of a Waodani Indian named, Mincayani. Mincayani now travels the U.S. with Steve Saint, grandfather and grandson, telling others their story of redemption, forgiveness, and how to find true life.
The choice in yours. Your life or God’s?