The Depth and the Breadth of the Wisdom of Elisabeth Elliot

I just learned that Elisabeth Elliot died today.

I had only recently discovered the depth and breadth of the wisdom of this women and had begun to collect some of my favourite quotes from her.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

  • “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms
  • “Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender
  • It is a great relief when someone else is in charge. He knows what he is doing and all you have to do is follow directions. You do not reel at his telling you what to do. You are glad to be told. He knows more than you do, knows the best way to accomplish what you want to accomplish and you are sure you are better off with him than without him, happier by obeying than by disobeying.
  • God will never disappoint us. He loves us and has only one purpose for us – holiness, which in his kingdom equals Joy.
  • “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control
  • “God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on, all speak loudly about what you believe. The beauty of thy peace shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
  • “If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “The way we live ought to manifest the truth of what we believe. A messy life speaks of a messy and incoherent faith.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
  • “Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens – I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

Why is Memorizing Passages even better than memorizing individual verses?

Because of context.

Context ALWAYS matters.

It is one thing to remember a phrase or a verse – such as ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. ‘

This is a great verse. Many people have clung to this verse and it’s been a source is strength and comfort for them. But what was Paul really talking about?

trail mix
Context adds IMPACT

Here is the verse in the CEB (Common English Bible) version – 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. 

Paul talking about ENDURING all THESE things is somewhat different than someone saying I can do anything and Christ will give me strength.   What is Paul referring to when he refers to himself enduring all these things?  – if you go back to Philippians Chapter 1, you will learn that Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians from PRISON.

 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. 13 The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. 14 Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time. (Phil 1:12-15)

put that verse back or so help me

Context provides additional meaning

So what is Paul actually trying to tell the Philippians to do?  Was Paul trying to tell them that they can do anything?  If you read earlier in the chapter, the message he is actually trying to impart is found in verse 4 –  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice

He goes on to say that he has always rejoiced and expands on that further in verses 11-13

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.


Context helps provide deeper understanding of what you have learned.

When all the writing in the letter (all the chapters and verses in Philippians) become ingrained in your head, and the words roll around in your brain like a melody, the Spirit provides wisdom and understanding.  He reveals things that are not at first evident.

rejoice in the lord

Context helps reveal the big picture

God’s story woven throughout all of Scripture.  If we go back to what Paul is saying in the first chapter  – he is excited about being in prison because this has helped to advance the Gospel.  What is the common thread throughout the Bible – the Gospel.

kaitlin and Emily - Joy

Context helps the brain retain the information in the long term

Context helps us internalize what our brain learns – and live it every day.  When we live our day to day lives with the big picture of advancing the Gospel in mind, we are ready to do His work.  This is what soaks into our brains, it is precious and we retain it.

One more quick example from the same chapter in Philippians – And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

This is another fantastic verse, but what does the whole paragraph say?

15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Paul is saying a blessing over the Philippians who were faithful supporters and contributors to his ministry.  This is not to say that God cannot or will not supply MY needs or YOUR needs, I just think it is important to know that this blessing over the Philippians was in response to their faithful giving.

view at Luskville Falls phil 4v19

The authors of Scripture wrote words, inspired by God, but they did not write individual verses. These authors wrote stories, songs, poems, letters, detailed accounts of events etc. that were divided into verses thousands of years later.

Whenever I hear a neat verse, I always want to learn more – what is the context? what is God’s message in this?  Memorizing full passages of Scripture are an incredible way to get deeper insight into his Word.

See my other posts about memorizing Scripture.