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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Pay Attention

By on October 9, 2010

This week I was privileged to share at a memorial service for long-time friend and Gospel singer, Jamall Badry. Jamall went home to be with the Lord after spending the better part of a day ministering to his sister who was suffering from a debilitating illness that has since taken her life as well. He literally worked to the very end, came home to rest, and woke up in the arms of Jesus.

To be quite frank, that’s the way I would prefer making the transition through the “valley of the shadow of death,” working right up to the end. My mentors have each gone to glory in that fashion. One grandfather preached his last sermon at the age of ninety-two, and I preached his funeral less than a week later. Another grandfather farmed actively until the age of ninety-five. Robert Witty taught his Sunday School class, entered the hospital and graduated to glory two weeks later at the age of one hundred years and seven months. Preacher Hallock still entertained groups of young ministers until shortly before his death by bone cancer at past ninety. Avery Willis, ten years my senior, passed away recently after giving me some “instructions” thirteen hours earlier. My own father, still active, recently invited his neighbors over to celebrate his ninety-third birthday, at which time he shared the Gospel with them. That’s living life to the fullest!

So at the memorial service for my friend, God took me to an unusual passage in Colossians 4:17, Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Not much is known about this “Master of the horses,” as the name Archippus implies, though we do know that in his letter to Philemon, Paul referred to him as a “fellow soldier.” Obviously there was a stalwart side to his character, since Paul normally referred to his comrades as “fellow servants.” Of greater interest to us is the three-fold exhortation Paul wanted passed along.

1. Pay attention to your ministry! “See to it!” would be a better rendering here, indicating Paul’s encouragement to hold our ministry in high regard, giving it the attention it deserves. “Keep your eye on it!” The begs a question you must answer: What ministry or service has God entrusted to your care? Certainly this would include the ministry to your family, assignments in your church, the privilege of honoring Christ by using influence where you work, or perhaps even a vocational ministry to which you have been called. Are you giving those ministries your full attention? Or does something else have your heart? Some hobby, avocation, relationship, ambition or habit?

2. Remember, you received this ministry from the Lord! You are not God’s gift to the ministry! Instead, these ministries, these opportunities to serve, are God’s gift to you. As such, God will, one day, demand an accounting for the way you have performed your ministry. His standard will not focus on acclaim, or accumulated wealth, but on the faithfulness with which you have attended to the matters He entrusted to your care.

3. Fulfill it! Make certain you complete all God has for you in terms of your ministry. “I have finished the course!” exclaimed Paul at the close of his life. Unfortunately, many people die without attending to all God had entrusted them. Other matters occupied their time and interests. And some people just give up before they give out, simply walking away from family, church, or other responsibilities, more determined to enjoy the balance of life on earth than the prospect of eternal reward.

The privilege of serving the Lord in any arena is a gift.

Pay attention!

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

1 Tim 1:12