“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” So goes the quote from martyred Christian missionary Jim Elliot. Back in the summer of 1950, Jim was on the campus of the University of Oklahoma as a part of Wycliffe Bible Translator’s Summer Institute of Linguistics. Later Jim Elliot, along with four other men, would make move with their families to Ecuador and begin attempts to make contact with the Auca Indians, a ruthless and violent tribe found deep within the jungle. While early contact with the tribe looked promising, ten Auca warriors attacked Elliot and his four friends on January 8, 1956 killing them all. On that day, Jim lived out the words he had written in his journal years earlier . . . he had given the life he could not keep and gained eternal reward he would never lose.
I was thinking of Jim Elliot today as I read Revelation 10:1-11. This bizarre section of Scripture reveals to us a mighty angel who stands on the shore of the sea holding a tiny scroll in his hand. The angel announces from this location that “There is no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to his servants the prophets (10:6b-7).” I believe this “mystery of God” is not a secret event (it is an event that God had spoken of frequently with his prophets and recorded often in the Old Testament). I believe that this event is the coming return of the Messiah to the earth in triumph and in judgment of the earth. This event is no secret, but the mystery of this event has always been the time. In fact, Jesus would say later to His disciples that “no one knows the day or the hour” of His return. When the angel hits the earth and announces this event, He is saying that the mystery of the timing of Christ’s return is about over . . . Here He comes!
When Jesus comes back, He is going to right every wrong, judge the wicked, cast away Satan, reward His followers, and establish His Kingdom. What an awesome day that will be. But as the world is preparing for the alarm clock to finally sound marking the mystery time of Christ’s return, God has given His followers on this planet a job . . . to ingest God’s Word and to tell others about it, even if the consequences of doing so are difficult. We see this in the text when John is asked to eat the little scroll in 10:8-11 as it says, “So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.’”
I believe that the little scroll represents God’s Word and the double edged message that it contains. God’s Word is sweet to those who embrace it, offering grace and forgiveness to someone’s life. However, God’s Word is bitter to those who reject it, as it reminds them of judgment that will come upon those who do not follow Christ at His return. John’s experience eating the little scroll in a world with such mixed reactions to the Gospel would lead to him having the sweet experience of salvation, but the sour experience of being persecuted and imprisoned because of His faith in Christ.
John’s experience in eating the little scroll was the same as Jim Elliot’s centuries later. Jim tasted the sweet taste of Christ’s forgiveness and life, yet suffered the sour experience of dying on the end of a spear in the Ecuadorian jungle. How about you? Can you relate to either of these men? As you have ingested the Word of God has it been a sweet taste to you, only to bring persecution to your life as you shared this message with the “peoples, nations, and languages” around you?
I believe that many of you who are reading this right now either have experienced this or will experience it one day to one degree or another. Since that is the case, I want to encourage you again with the words of another person who once roamed the ovals of the University of Oklahoma, Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Our life on this earth is temporary, but eternity is not. Therefore, if we feast on the Word of God, it brings a sweet taste to all of us, and even if it causes temporary hardship, there is eternal reward.
By the way, when Jim got to heaven and looked around, he saw people from EVERY tribe, tongue, and language in heaven with him. In fact, Jim and his four friends got to be the welcoming committee in heaven for the Auca. A few years after their death and as a direct result of their testimony among them, many of the Auca tribe would come to faith in Jesus Christ. Jim Elliot, no fool indeed.