1956 was an interesting year (other than the year of my birth). There were wars and rumors of wars, great music, movies, books, political campaigning, controversy involving Islamic control of various nations and trouble in the Middle East.
Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land” was popular, Norman Vincent Peale’s book on The Power of Positive Thinking was still hot and medicine was closing in on a vaccine for polio that would significantly eradicate it worldwide.
But on this day, sixty years ago, five men camped on the bank of the Curaray River in Ecuador.
Two days earlier, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian answered the call of God to bring the Gospel to the Huaorani people and flew a light plane into the jungle, landing it on a sandbar and setting up camp.
For several months they had dropped gifts for the Huaorani from flyovers, hoping to open a communication channel to them. The Huaorani were a small but violent tribe and the missionary crew was well aware of it.
On Sunday, January 8, 1956 the tribe attacked and killed the five missionaries with spears.
The long-term effect of the killing fueled renewed commitment to evangelistic missions and inspired generations to follow the call of God boldly. You can read about it in books like Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot and a more recent book titled End of the Spear by Steve Saint, son of Nate.
It is the most well known missionary story ever.
But today’s post is not about January 8, 1956. It is about January 5, 1956. Sixty years ago today.
While the five missionaries have been honored and used as inspiration for what happened three days later, on this day, those five men were right where God wanted them, in the center of his purpose for them. The “sweet spot” if you will, when you are doing what God wants you to do.
They had no idea what would happen on January 8, but that didn’t matter. God did, and they trusted and depended on him completely.
How do you know if you are doing what God wants you to do?
I have no greater insight into the answer than any other Christian. Very smart theologians and teachers have written books on how to know God’s will. You need to read them.
But from the perspective of someone who will turn 60 during this year and a Christian for over two-thirds of that time, here’s how I unpack this for authors and any others working to communicate Jesus Christ. There is a big responsibility for anyone in public view, especially when you can have influence over many people.
Here is what God desires of you today:
To love him with all your heart, mind and strength and also love your neighbor in the same way you would your own life. (In Matthew 22 among others)
Live each day characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Found in Galatians 5:22-23)
OK, I get that, how about specifically for writers and authors? This sounds like the same for every Christian. You obviously don’t realize that authors are a special group of people requiring special advice.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind and not conformed to this world. (Romans 12:2)
When your mind is renewed you don’t worry about January 8 and can better discern the perfect will of God for you today.
Yes, I know, but get to point about authors Dan, for heaven sake I’m busy and I need tips on what to do next. I need specifics. Come on, lay it out for us. Will my book be published?
OK, here’s something specifically for Christian authors.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19)
You are a sneaky agent you are. Got to admit I am a little disappointed in these answers.
January 8 might be the day an agent or even better, a publisher offers you a contract. It might be the day your manuscript is rejected for the umpteenth time and you decide to give up writing for good. It doesn’t matter.
That’s easy for you to say, Dan, you aren’t the one who worked for five years on a book.
What matters is living in the center of God’s will for you on Tuesday, January 5, 2016. His will for you is the same as for every other believer on the planet. It all comes from who you are in Christ, a new creature.
To repeat, when your mind is renewed, you don’t worry about January 8 and can better discern the good, acceptable and perfect will of God for you today.
January 8 will have it’s own challenges. We don’t need to know about them today. God knows about the future, he has gone before you and is waiting there for you.
Sixty years ago, five men trusted God, put their lives completely in his hands and we feel the impact of their lives to this day. I would guess any author would consider their lives well lived if the same was said about them, sixty years from now.
But even better when you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A footnote to this, in mid-2012, Steve Saint was injured in an accident, which left him partially paralyzed. If you want some inspiration for today, watch this video and see what happens at the 1:30 mark. It will be six minutes well spent.
I read End of the Spear years ago. What a powerful book!
Thanks for your post today. At the beginning of every year I reflect on where my life is and if I’m following God’s plan for me. Yes, I’m the one who asks God to make the carpet wet, then dry, then wet. I trust in God and will continue to write until He says stop.
Have a great 2016!
LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing, Dan! If only we can all remember to keep Christ at the center – what a different world this would be!
I’ve lived longer than you, but learn from your posts. This is so spot on. This advice and some of the scriptures you mentioned brought me through the death of our beautiful daughter and the death of my husband.
Look forward–never back. Pray and believe. Many of us will have books published in this New Year and many of us will not. But if we work in the center of God’s will for us, we will have all we need.
Dan, this may be the most significant item for me that you’ve ever posted. What you wrote is spot on, and it was great to be reminded. However I found the real treasure through the Steve Saint video. After I watched it on my phone, I tapped the start arrow again and the entire Steve Saint presentation that you excerpted played. What a fantastic message about how things we think are bad can actually be God’s hand preparing us to better share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who don’t know him! I’ve bemoaned the requirement to create an online author presence, but as I’ve been training myself to do that, I’ve learned much of what I need to know to start a website for sharing how faith in God is the most scientifically satisfying way to understand the underpinnings of the physical universe, living and inanimate. What I considered a pain-in-the-neck requirement to even get an agent to consider representing me has actually been preparing me for my part in the great commission.
Dan, I needed to read this.
I’m going through my Jan. 8, 1956, right now and this was very helpful and encouraging!
I need to keep trusting God!!!
Wow. good message. Don’t do for others what God has called them to do. Do what God has called you to do. Good stuff that.
Thank you Dan for this remarkabel post. I’ve been touched this morning by this story. I have never before been touched in this way. I marvel how God can use such a happening to turn a heart into a new direction. It has awakened in me a goal for this coming year. I cannot express in words what has taken place in my heart. This next year I will be stronger and my love for God deeper.
A beautiful reminder that God is truly working all things for the good of those who are His children. The birth of our third grandchild might be considered a tragedy to the casual observer, since he is severely disabled. But oh the joy this little boy has given us, and so many others. Truly a little child who cannot even speak, has spoken to me of God so many times! So yes, trust God wherever and whatever happens. Blessings.
You have a way of taking broad spiritual truths and bringing them right to where they challenge and deepen my faith. Thank you for that, Dan.
I’ve gleaned much from Elisabeth Elliott’s writings about this period in her life. She had such a way of keeping her focus on Jesus.
As you so aptly showed, we need to stay in the center of God’s will for us TODAY. Not worrying about what will happen on January 8 (or 9th, or 28th). When my eyes are on Him in this moment, when my heart is seeking Him in the now, I can be at rest, rather than worrying, about God’s plans for my future. I needed this reminder today.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
After reading your post and watching and listening to Nate Saint, I feel like I can hardly breathe–or see. So compelling. So difficult. So humbling. So challenging. I don’t need to pray that I’ll get published in 2016, but rather that I will write something that advances the Kingdom in 2016. If it is published, it can minister to others; if not, the process of writing it was supposed to minister to me.
Dan, powerful! What an inspiration. 2 of Nate Saint’s nephews, Jim and Joe Saint, now 60, are among my best friends here in Oregon. You know, there’s an entire generation of kids who’ve never heard about the martyred missionaries. I wrote the story from Nate Saint’s point of view:” A Pilot, a Plan, and a Purpose.” It was considered by Focus on Family’s Clubhouse Magazine, but ultimately rejected. Does anyone know of a children’s publication that might be interested?
“Get to [the] point about authors Dan, for heaven sake I’m busy and I need tips on what to do next.” Okay, here’s a tip: Paul said that he was called (“compelled”) to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). Consequently, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” So the question becomes: Do I feel called (“compelled”) by God to write? If so, then woe is me if I do not write. So my marching orders for What to Do Next are hardly a mystery. WRITE, for heaven’s sake!!
A remarkable thrust of insight.
Well … today it is then.