When I was in college, four American missionaries died on a beach in Ecuador at the hands of hostile Auca natives. One was Jim Elliot. He wrote in his diary the morning he died some amazing words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Perhaps he had a sense that he might not make it home from that mission effort, but he clearly understood what was important for him in that moment. Those words have been burned into my mind since I first read them.
Later, I read from II Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) – “What is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal.” Those words also drive me to my knees on occasion when I realize I am struggling to gain something which is temporal and missing what may be eternal.
Because our focus really determines who we are and what we accomplish in our lives, we are foolish not to think about what is most important to us. The ancient proverb says, “As a man thinks, so is he!”
Thinking can include planning for circumstances where we may be tempted. We often teach our children to roleplay the circumstances which might be dangerous for them so that they will know what to do when danger lurks. Sometimes we simply caution them, “Don’t cross the road without looking both ways.” Other times we may suggest a scenario for which they need to be prepared. “If a stranger stops his car and offers to drive you home, your answer will be, ‘No, thank you!’ If he tries to get you into the car, run to the nearest house for help.” Those are pre-planning ideas which may help our children avoid danger.
Adults also need to think about behavior that may challenge our values and test our character. It’s especially important when the little voice of the tempter says, “No one can see you; no one will ever know.” But you will know! Our failures hang around in the shadows of our lives for too long.
Jim Elliott had learned a principle for thinking and for living. His life and death reflected decisions he had made earlier. His legacy was that of a man who committed himself to seeing the eternal and not letting the clouds of the temporal blind him along that path. He followed the sandal-clad feet of One who said, “If you will lose your life for My sake, you will save it.”
I hope you, dear reader, will know the wisdom of that kind of thinking. It will make a difference in how we live and how we die. That’s wise thinking.