Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Discouraged? Part 2

By on January 11, 2011

So how does discouragement develop in the human heart? Where are those tiny seeds that, undetected, grow into the debilitating vines of discouragement that choke out life, strangle joy, and smother all hope? How could Elijah so quickly exchange his victor’s belt for the hooded robes of rejection and despair?

All discouragement has a point of beginning from which it grows insidiously. Sometimes discouragement develops slowly, almost ponderously. Each successive day seems to weigh an individual down with another layer of defeat. At other times, as in Elijah’s life, discouragement seems to appear suddenly and with overwhelming power. A word, an event, a chance meeting, a memory… and a chilling fog of discouragement wraps its arms around the soul.

But to the question: What are those “points of beginning?” Surely if we could detect them we could move quickly toward the remedy. Elijah’s experience ( I Kings 17-19) helps us understand the development of discouragement.

1. Deferred hope. Proverbs 13:12 reminds us that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Discouragement is often disguised as hopelessness. While anger is our first response to blocked goals, the longer those goals remained blocked the more anger descends into hopelessness. Elijah was bent on fulfilling the mission God had birthed in his heart. For over three years he looked toward the day when God’s judgement would fall upon the wicked and rebellious leaders of Israel and their followers. The incredible events on Mt Carmel had seemed to be the turning point. But with Jezebel’s threat, Elijah had run for cover under the false assumption that he was alone and his mission had failed. “I alone am left; and they seek my life to take it away,” Elijah complained (IKings 19:9, 14). Have you held onto a specific hope for so long that you now feel it dying in your heart? Like Elijah you are a candidate for discouragement.

2. A major expenditure of physical or emotional energy. The events on Mt Carmel must have been incredibly draining , both physically and emotionally (I Kings 18-19). Then there was the race down the mountain. Add to that the eighty-mile run to Beersheba and Elijah must have been exhausted! Life is filled with exigencies that drain us both physically and emotionally. I spoke with a friend soon after the death of his wife who had suffered from a lingering illness. He was perplexed at his discouragement because both he and his wife had exhibited such a Christlike faith and rest in the Lord throughout the year before her death. Even at her funeral he spoke of the victory that had come through their faith in Christ. Yet now he felt anything but victorious. But the cause of his discouragement was evident. Immediately following his wife’s death he had thrown himself into his work though he was still emotionally and physically exhausted. Like Elijah, he needed rest and recovery from the year-long battle. Without it he was a now a victim of discouragement. How healthy and rested are you physically and emotionally?

3. A subtle and surprising Satanic ambush. “Queen Jezebel has a message for you,” said the nervous messenger standing before the mighty Elijah. “She says ‘may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of my priests by this time tomorrow’ ” (See I Kings 19:2). On a normal day, and at any other time, Elijah would have thrown his head back and laughed out loud at such an empty taunt. But on this day, with hope deferred and spent physically and emotionally, the verbal arrow slipped through Elijah’s armor and found its mark. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life (I Kings 19:3). Elijah had been ambushed by Satan.”For God has not given us the spirit of timidity, but of power and love and sound judgement” (2 Tim 1:7). Over the years, I have spoken with competent men and women of strong faith who, in moments of candor, related times when the slightest of barbs, a word of criticism, a bad report, had cast them into a swamp of discouragement where they foundered helplessly for a while. Are you a victim of a Satanic attack that with surprising suddenness has brought you to despair and discouragement?

Help is on the way! Elijah discovered that there is a way to turn the tables on discouragement and bring it to its knees.

Coming soon…in the next blog!

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12