He was number one, the person everyone else was trying to emulate. Then he asked to resign.
Elias Aslaksen was a head shorter than most people, but in almost every subject he towered head and shoulders above them. He had command of language, and was able to articulate things in such a way that people were glued to their seats – which he was very well aware of himself.
Born into an upstanding, cosmopolitan, middle-class family in Kristiania (now Oslo) in 1888, he was the top student at the Naval Academy, earning good grades in every subject. But in December, 1910 he delivered his letter of resignation addressed to the King.
“Take a couple of days leave and talk with your parents about this,” was the answer he received. Aslaksen, however, had made his decision. He intended to serve Jesus Christ entirely and completely. It was a simple decision for him, but incomprehensible to his family and friends.
In 1908 he met Johan Oscar Smith aboard the warship “Sleipner.” Meeting this man changed Aslaksen’s whole life, and in the years that followed, Aslaksen regularly visited Smith’s home in Horten, where he listened intently to Smith. He was gripped of the revelations and insight Smith had been given, and he received light about following Jesus on the new and living way which He had consecrated for us. (Hebrews 10:19-20) This was completely new for Aslaksen. It was the beginning of a lifelong fellowship between Smith and Aslaksen.
Johan Oscar Smith was also surprised. He had met many people, but few who were like Aslaksen. He saw a righteous and conscientious man who would never shrink from his obligations.
On November 1910, Johan Oscar Smith wrote to his brother Aksel Smith about Aslaksen:
“He is asking God to deal with him quickly so he can enter into fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, and be allowed to suffer for Christ’s name’s sake. He is an amazing man. He says himself that he has made great progress in the last month, and it’s true. He is very quick to grasp many things, and he has a spirit of prayer. I can’t help wondering what the future holds for this man.”
Missionary to China?
Aslaksen was drawn to missionary outreach. On April 3, 1911 he traveled to London to start training for missionary work. His plan was to travel to the Tsjili Province in North China when his training was completed. During his time in England he corresponded regularly with Johan Oscar Smith. In a letter dated May 19, 1911, Smith wrote, “Don’t let any professor of theology rob you of the simplicity which is in Christ. … Lowliness rooted in God is stronger than the might of men.”
”Simplicity in Christ” Aslaksen thought things over. He compared Smith’s doctrine with what he was now being taught at the missionary school. He quit the school, returned home to Norway, and moved to Hønefoss. There he lived for the rest of his life, with an unshakeable faith in God’s Word and in the simplicity of Christ.
Nevertheless, Aslaksen was not inactive when it came to missionary work. He preached the Gospel with great zeal locally in Hønefoss and throughout Norway, as well as in many places throughout Europe.
“I am Elias Aslaksen from Norway, and I am a happy man—a very happy man.” Aslaksen introduced himself in a simple and straightforward manner when he attended a Christian conference at Leonberg, Germany in 1956. He had just stepped down from the high podium and stood on the floor together with the congregants. His straightforward and genuine words made a deep impression on many of those who were there that day.
Kåre J. Smith, who is the current leader for the church, included a section in memory of Aslaksen in his book, Shepherd and Prophet:
“He was exceptionally humble; he went deeply down to fulfill what his Lord and Master had planned for his life and to complete the work that God had given him…. He was a first class minister of the Word.”
Kåre J. Smith described him as a wholehearted, fiery, and zealous man who searched for the very essence of the truth in all the areas in which the Bible sheds light.
“He spoke faith straight into my heart. I was born again during one of his messages; I received a power in my life that day that has been with me ever since.”
Aslaksen came forward at a meeting. He wanted to teach the congregation what it means to believe – to have faith that will move mountains. He said:
“There was a woman who wanted to move a mountain. It was by her property and she wanted it to be flat there. So she said, ‘Mountain, move yourself and throw yourself into the sea!’ ‘I believe, I believe, I believe,’ said the woman. At last she went to sleep that night while repeating, ‘I believe, I believe, I believe.’ She was very curious the next morning when she woke up. Does that tell you anything? If she had believed, why would she have needed to be curious? She went over to the window, and the mountain was still there. ‘Just what I thought,’ she said.”
Aslaksen as a leader
In 1943, Johan Oscar Smith went home to the Lord, ending their lifelong, sincere fellowship and working together; at least on this earth. Never was there any breach in love between Aslaksen and Smith. They did not avoid using the flaming sword of the truth, even on each other, but the love never failed.
Aslaksen took over as the main leader of the church. However, on his 65th birthday, Aslaksen spoke in a way you would not expect from the leader of an international church:
“I was incorrigible; I was a hopeless case. They did not have any hope for me. Then it pleased God to take care of such a poor wretch, and God could not find a more wretched soul on earth. Thank You for choosing me to show Your greatness, Your power, Your goodness. And what should I not thank You for? What do I have that I have not received? Honor be to God in the Highest; honor be go God on earth; honor be go God in the assembly of the living God.”
It was not that Aslaksen was in some way special or different from other people—it was God who had done a work in his inner man. This is how Aslaksen viewed himself. It was the Gospel he had heard from Smith that had brought him where he was. This Gospel had rescued him and became his only interest. Therefore he did everything he could to tell others about the fantastic truths that had been revealed to him. It was true when he said “We do not serve so that we can become something, but so that others can become something.”
Faith in the Word of life
“Faith in the Word of life is the greatest power that exists in the universe.” At the very last New Year’s Conference he attended, Aslaksen, who was 87 at the time, had a banner with these words on it hung in the meeting hall. The banner was several meters long and the words were written in large print so all the friends could see and read it. Then he spoke about having the mystery of faith in a pure conscience. First you believe that the Word is true and good in every way. Then, with a personal, living faith, you live according to it.
At the end of January of 1976, Aslaksen’s health started to decline quickly. In spite of his always increasing zeal, he had to cut back on attending meetings and traveling. He continued to grow weaker until May 10, 1976 when he was called home to the Lord. He died at home as quietly as a candle going out.
Finally Aslaksen went home to be with the One to whom he had given his life.