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Trading security for significance

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Below is a reproduction of the actual entry for October 28, 1949 in its entirety from Jim Elliot's personal journal, from the archives at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College (Collection 277, Box 1, Folder 8). Credit: Jim Elliot/Wheaton College Archives

There’s good news in today’s news. A week after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the American economy, Fitch Ratings announced yesterday that it was keeping a AAA rating for the world’s largest economy. Fitch, one of the big three ratings agencies, said the outlook for its rating was “stable.”

U.S. automakers had their busiest month of factory output since the March 11 earthquake in Japan. Overall industrial production jumped 0.9 percent, the biggest increase this year. In addition, consumers spent more on cars, furniture, electronics, and other goods in July. The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in the previous week dropped below 400,000 for the first time since early April.

And housing is doing better. Starts fell less than expected last month, while residential construction was up 9.8 percent compared to July of 2010. New home completions increased by 11.8 percent, the highest since June of 2010.

What does all of this mean for the future of our economy? I have no idea. The euro zone economy, hampered by sluggish growth in Germany and stagnation in France, could drag our global economy down. The deadliest day of the year in Iraq saw 42 apparently coordinated attacks by insurgents on Monday, casting doubts on the future of our engagement there.

What I do know is that life will never be safe on this fallen planet. The security we all seek is unavailable on this side of paradise. I used to quote the promise, “The safest place in all the world to be is the center of God’s will,” but I’m not sure I believe that any more. At least, not in the way I once did.

John, Jesus’ best friend, was persecuted and exiled on Patmos. James was beheaded (Acts 12:2). Tradition states that Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, Philip, and Simon the Zealot were crucified; Matthew and Thomas were speared to death; James and Thaddeus were stoned to death. Paul was flogged, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and eventually beheaded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29).

God does not promise us security, but significance. Our lives may be short or long, but if we live them for our King he transfuses them with purpose and direction. We can run from conflict and choose safety over courage, but our story on earth will end with a cemetery plot and a gravestone just like everyone else. What matters is not how long we live but how well.

Jim Elliot was martyred by Waodani warriors at the age of 28. He left behind a statement in his journal which challenges me every time I read it: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Do you agree?