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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Four Lessons In A Foreign Land

By on November 12, 2010

Life’s most important lessons are sometimes received in the strangest of places. At least that’s how I feel this morning! In fact, I’d like to share with you four lessons God hammered home to my heart while I was recently visiting in a foreign country.

Earlier this week, Jeannie and I returned from a remarkable journey to the Holy Land. We have visited Israel on numerous occasions previously, but this particular journey was far and away our most enjoyable and educational. It was a privilege being with good friends, Michael and Terri Catt, and many others whom we’ve grown to love and appreciate over the years. Michael and Terri are the perfect tour hosts, and we were the beneficiaries of their gracious and generous spirit.

Each day of the tour was filled with its share of adventure, surprise, enlightenment and inspiration. But at one place in particular I was reminded of four lessons crucial to our faith: The springs that flow from the well of Harod, across from the hill of Moreh in the Valley of Jezreel, where once a great host of Midianites and Amalekites camped in their preparations to attack Israel. The waters that flow from that well are now referred to as the, “Springs of Gideon.”

Since most readers of this blog are familiar with Scripture, I’ll spare you the details of Gideon’s amazing conquest utilizing only three hundred men. But in Judges 6:1-16, you will be reminded of four important lessons.

1. The darker the night, the brighter the light (1-6). The Israelites of Gideon’s day were in deep trouble because of their own unbelief and sin. God had disciplined Israel by the use of foreign armies. So severe was their discipline that they were struggling to live while hiding in mountain caves. We must use our imagination to draw a picture of their desperation when we read that “Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites.” Yet it was in that dark setting that God chose to reveal Himself in a bright victory illustrated by the lamps of Gideon. I imagine that some of you readers are now experiencing your “darkest days” as well. Hold on! God’s deliverance is at hand.

2. God is never so big, nor heaven so busy, that your cry will not be heard (6b-8a). When the children of Israel cried, the Lord sent a prophet to deliver them. Have you considered your problems as too big, too complicated, and too much your fault to cry unto God? Or do you think your Shepherd is more concerned with other, more obedient sheep? Take the time to read through the Psalms and highlight every use of the phrase “I cried unto the Lord,” and see how God responds to the pleas of His penitent children. Cry out to Him!

3. History IS important (7-10)! A prophet sent from God reminded Israel of their history, specifically their deliverance from Egyptian bondage years earlier. Why not review right now your history with God, in addition to all that you remember of God’s dealings with His people in the past. Develop a clear picture of God’s power, and His eagerness to come to the aid of those who humble themselves and seek His face. Instead of refusing to consider the past, use this time of reflection as a means of encouraging yourself in the Lord. History is both His story and yours.

4. What God says always takes precedence over what you think (11-18). Gideon was the smallest man, in the smallest family, of the smallest tribe in Israel. Yet the angel of the Lord greeted Gideon with these words “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Of course, you know the rest of the story, but think for a moment how Gideon was facing a test of his faith. Do you believe what God says? Or do you believe what others say, or you think? This is why t is so important to spend time in God’s Word. The Bible is like a mirror, reflecting God’s image of you! And His assessment of you is more important than what others say, or you think.

There we were, standing at the Well of Harod, looking down at the stream of water that flowed from it, and looking across the Vally of Jezreel at Mt. Moreh, where the Midianites once camped, in number like grasshoppers that covered the land. I could almost hear the whispered instructions of Gideon. “When I give the signal, shatter the vessels that conceal your lamps, raise them high and shout, ‘The sword of the Lord and Gideon!’ ” Those three hundred men were following one small man into battle; a man who placed his confidence in God.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget those four lessons learned in a foreign land.

And I pray you don’t either!

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

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