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 3

By on January 15, 2011

Having earlier noted how discouragement can be detected, and how it develops, we now turn our attention to the manner in which a child of God should deal with discouragement. Not surprisingly, even here our adversary seeks to draw the discouraged servant off the path, suggesting approaches that will only result in deeper despair. Its imperative that the correct approach be followed if discouragement is to be defeated.

On more than one occasion, I have visited with a person who gives every evidence of being a sincere child of God, yet his or her life is filled with discouragement. Often the discouragement has come in the very context of seeking to follow the will of God, in ministry, in marriage, or in any number of different endeavors. This make their discouragement even more perplexing! Why is it that they have come to such despair when all they were seeking was in obedience to God? Why has God allowed them to come to this point?

Manley Beasly, a long time friend and mentor who is now deceased, had many causes to be discouraged. Not the least of the causes was the presence of three debilitating diseases, any one of which, if left untreated, had life-threatening consequences. Each day of Bro. Manley’s life required a deliberate and often exhausting determination to press forward in the battle. For him, life was a continuing series of struggles. But in the midst of his struggles, Bro. Manley began to see how God was developing in him a life’s message regarding the nature and imperative of faith.

Manley Beasley saw every problem as a call to worship God. And in the midst of his struggles he began to understand how to deal with discouragement. Through his experience, the prophet Elijah also discovered how discouragement is defeated.

1. Ministry to the body. When Elijah fell beneath the juniper tree, exhausted and discouraged, the first order of the day was the recovery of physical well-being. He lay down and slept (1 Kings 19:5), woke up and ate (5-6a), lay down again to sleep (6b), and was awakened a second time by an angel of God solely for the purpose of eating again (7-8). Often a person’s sense of defeat and discouragement is directly related to physical well being. I recall saying to one discouraged church member, “You just need to drop everything, go to the farm for a while where you can exert yourself physically for several days, sleep well at night, and eat properly. Then lets talk!” A week later he called to say that the “fog had lifted” and he was doing just fine. A lack of physical well-being clouds our judgement. As such, it is worth considering the importance of physical wellness when seeking to defeat discouragement.

2. Ministry to the soul. God confronted Elijah with a serious question that deserved a straight and considered answer. “What are you doing here, Elijah? (9, 13). God was not merely interested in Elijah’s physical geography. He wanted Elijah to seriously consider his “internal geography.” He wanted Elijah to think through what had brought him to this point in life. It is doubtful that you will defeat your discouragement without such a consideration. And this requires some solitude, peace and quiet, and serious, honest thinking! This might not be a bad time for confession, either, perhaps going over what Miss Bertha Smith called a “sin list.” In moments of such honest confession we can claim the forgiveness of God and appropriate a fresh filling of His Spirit.

3. Ministry to the spirit. Having said the above (regarding confession and filling) it is imperative to now that, ultimately, we must deal with discouragement as a spiritual issue. 1 Kings 19:11-18 reveals the deep manner in which God dealt with Elijah on a spiritual level. Elijah’s confession was followed by a fresh revelation of God’s presence and a new sense of purpose. Verses 19-21, show Elijah back at work in the power of God. Elijah’s recovery was only complete when God had ministered to his spirit.

You can detect discouragement, and understand how it has developed in you heart. And, best of all, you can defeat discouragement!

Ask Elijah.

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff!

2 Tim 1: 12

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  • Robin McClain

    Bro. Tom,

    Thank you so much for posting this on your website. My first church after being saved in 1998, was First Southern in Del City, where you were the pastor.

    You’re messages speak to my heart and soul. My family and I have yet to find a pastor that truly speaks what is on God’s heart. It’s as if His hand is upon you and His words are flowing through you. Thank you so much for spending your time sharing what God shares with you.

    I am forever grateful for your influence in my walk with God.

    Sincerely,

    Robin McClain