SBC Life Articles

Elisabeth Elliot: Preoccupation with Self Blunts Discipleship

Mankind's compulsive obsession with itself, said Christian author Elisabeth Elliot, is an "unconscionable appeasement to the demon self. How can we be preoccupied with self-image and self-esteem and self-actualization and at the same time be denying ourselves and taking up the cross and following Jesus?" Elliot said, speaking on the campus of Southeastern Seminary. "It's not going to work. It won't do at all. It's either/or."

"I really don't see how any of us are going to be leaders of the sort that Jesus spoke of unless we completely divest ourselves of our popular notions today of self-actualization and self-esteem," Elliot, host of the weekday "Gateway to Joy" radio program, said.

Elliot, the daughter of missionaries, was born in Brussels, Belgium. She served as a foreign missionary 11 years in Ecuador, South America, before returning to the United States in 1963.

In 1956, Elliot's husband, Jim, and four others, were killed by Auca (Waorani) Indians in South America. Two years later, Elliot and her daughter returned to serve as missionaries to the Aucas.

"The best way to find out whether or not you really have a servant's heart is to see what your reaction is when somebody treats you like one," Elliot said. She added Christians are called to follow the example of the suffering servant. "Jesus went to the cross in a total denial of Himself," she said. "He Who made the stars put Himself into the hands — the hands which He had also made — of ordinary men and was subject to their limitations and to their mockery and to their hatred and to their indifference."

The first step to following Christ, Elliot said, is denying yourself. "That means you don't have any rights," she said, adding followers of Christ should not wallow in the world's pool of "satanic" self-pity.

"Take your unfulfilled longings to the foot of the cross," she said. "They've been dealt with. It's not new (to Jesus). If you were horribly abused as a child, that's a horrible thing. Yet it has been dealt with at the cross of Jesus Christ. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows."

Elliot said followers of Christ should not be surprised or dismayed when they suffer for their convictions. "How do we expect to follow One Who took up a cross and not encounter suffering?" she asked. "He is not looking for heroics. He's looking for those who are willing to follow him down that road of sorrows no matter how tiny the form that cross may take."

Leaders, Elliot said, are measured by how much they sacrifice, not by how much they gain. "When the will of God cuts across the will of man, somebody has to die," she said. "Leaders are meant to be losers — losers of ourselves (and) of our rights."

    About the Author

  • Lee Weeks