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 Will Of God & The Word Of God

By on March 18, 2011

As our regular readers know, God has recently invited Jeannie and me on a new journey of faith. This week I have accepted the invitation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board trustees to become the eleventh president in their 166-year history. We are confident that we are stepping forward in the center of God’s will for this next chapter in our lives. We know you will be praying for us as I seek to give leadership to approximately 5,000 missionaries who are on the field, in addition to our staff in Richmond. This is a family we have grown to love since our first association with the organization in 1980.

People often ask, “How can you be so certain that you know the will of God?”I suppose I’ve been asked that question more than any other when speaking in student settings. And it is a good question, worthy of thorough consideration. Unfortunately, many use the “open-door-closed-door” approach which, in reality, can turn an individual into nothing more than a human pinball. Opposition, or the lack of it, is not a very good way to determine the will of God. Ask Moses, or Joshua, or… well, you get the drift. And “open doors” have the same danger. You could probably snare a good bar tending job if you tried, but would it be the will of God? So, what’s the best approach?

To clarify how Jeannie and I discern the will of God, I’ve decided to republish a blog I sent out over a year ago titled The Will of God and the Word of God. I pray this will provide and encouragement to you as you seek God’s will for your life.

I’ve always been encouraged by Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12: 2: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. This provides some insight into the correlation between faithfully living in the Word, and effectively living out the will of God. Look at it!

The purpose of every believer’s life is clearly spelled out. We are to prove (Our English word “document” comes from the biblical terminology used here.) the will of God, that it is good, acceptable and complete in every fashion. Years ago, Jeannie and I were so struck by this verse that we made it the core value of our family mission statement. Our mission is to be living illustrations of the faithfulness of God to everyone who will take Him at His word. George Mueller’s orphanages were, in effect, his “documentation” testifying of the faithfulness of God. Are you fulfilling your purpose?

But there is a prohibition clearly spelled out for us in this passage. And do not be conformed to this world (lit. Do not be pressed into the scheme of this age). We are not to live according to the most recent fads, fancies, or polls. The believer is to stand in contrast to current notions, vividly illustrating the power of God’s Word and the principles of His way. Church, for instance, should not be designed primarily to appeal but to authenticate the grace of God, and the veracity of HIs Word.

So how can our walk and worship become a daily documentation of the will of God. Paul shares a prescription for living out the will of God on a daily basis. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Our minds are to be in the process of constant renovation. This is achieved through daily surrender to the authority of God as revealed in His Word. Psalm 1, Psalm 119, John 15:3, and Colossians 3: 16, are just a few out of dozens of scripture verses attesting to this truth.

Ruffin Snow, a long-time friend of mine, is fond of reminding folks that its easier to steer a rolling car. That is his way of saying that we know God’s will by doing God’s will. A good illustration of this truth can be found in a recent blog’s reminder of Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, who sought to explain his success in finding a bride for Isaac: “I, being in the way, the Lord led me.”

It is by living in the Word that you can most consistently know the will of God and surrender to His authority in your life.

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

1 Tim 1: 12

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