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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The School of Hard Knocks

By on January 22, 2015

My dad had warned me not to ride my new bicycle “hands free” and with both feet up on the handlebars. But it took a serious wreck and a trip to the doctors office to convince this second-grader that I should have listened to him.

“I’m afraid Tommy has to learn everything in the school of hard knocks,” said my dad, smiling as the doctor tied off the last of the stitches in my knee.

No one likes hard times,” whatever the cause,  but they do provide us some excellent learning opportunities. “It was good for me that I was afflicted,” penned the psalmist, “that I might learn your statutes” (Ps 119:71). Some think the psalmist was none other than Ezra the priest, a returning exile who was determined that Israel build a temple for God in their hearts as well as on Mt. Zion. I like that possibility. Ezra was no stranger to hard knocks.

We each experience troubling situations in the different seasons of  our lives. Jesus made it clear that in this world we will have our share of trouble (John 16:33). “I have been afflicted,” writes the psalmist. “I have been pressed into a painful, humbling situation.” I don’t know what you may be struggling through right now, but there’s a good chance you are dealing with something that is troubling you.

Not everyone responds to difficult times in the same manner. Not every person would say, “This problem is good for me!” The writer of the Book of Hebrews reminds us that there are other options. You could just choose to despise your suffering, or just give up (Hebrews 12:5). Or you could join the rest of the crowd and just gripe. What’s your usual approach to suffering?

Approached correctly, life’s difficulties can be the means by which you grow deeper in your relationship with God. That’s really worth something! “It is through this school of hard knocks that I learned God’s statutes,” wrote the psalmist. In each troubling situation he found himself compelled to go deeper into the Word, to grow in his knowledge and intimacy with God.

“You can embrace this situation, or seek escape from it,” said one of my mentors as I was grousing about one of life’s hard knocks. “But until you embrace it you will never learn all God has for you in it.” Looking back, I see that he was right.

It was good for me as well, Ezra. It sure was.

Rejoice evermore

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

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