Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Value of Consistency

Leslie Basham: A tree provides woodworkers some valuable materials, and it takes time for that tree to grow. Here’s Tom Elliff.

Tom Elliff: Wood has character. It’s formed by consistency year after year after year—dry years, wet years, heavy wind, some disease. Wood has character. And our character is firmed up by consistency.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, March 25. Throughout this year Nancy’s been taking us through the life of Joshua. We’ve been inspired to follow God’s lead even in fearful situations. We’ve seen why it’s so important to be a learner and a follower.

There are still upcoming series on the life of Joshua, but we’re taking a break to look at a related topic. Here’s Nancy to explain.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well today we’re going to hear part two of a message by Dr. Tom Elliff that we started listening to yesterday, a message on the life of Caleb called Finishing Well. As I was developing this series on the life of Joshua I thought back to the conference a few years ago where I heard Dr. Elliff give this message.

I remembered how touched my own heart was at the time, and I wanted to share it with you as well. If you didn’t get to hear the first part of this message yesterday, I hope that you’ll order a copy of the CD of the entire message. We’ll tell you how to get that at the end of today’s broadcast.

Now here’s Dr. Tom Elliff (who serves with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) preaching on the life of Caleb, Finishing Well.

Dr. Tom Elliff: Character is firmed by our consistency. It becomes firm just like the rings, the successive rings in the trunk of a tree year after year after year. Our character becomes firmed or firmed up or fixed by consistency, making the right choices over and over and over and over again.

My daddy loves wood. Now Bill does too. All of us do. I guess in our family you’ve got to have a woodshop whether you ever have time to go out there or not. You’ve got to have a woodshop. In fact, if you’ve got a family reunion everybody has to go out and look.

“Do you have a super, blue-dial, whopping, double clamp out here?”

“I don’t have that.”

“Well, that’ll be your next Christmas present.”

My dad loves wood. So when I was growing up my dad taught us, “Don’t ever buy cheap furniture.” Nothing disgusts my father like cheap furniture. He hates cheap furniture.

He would say, “You know it’s worth paying the price. Get good furniture.”

We’d say, “Okay, Dad. How do you tell cheap furniture from good furniture?” And here’s what he would say.

“Don’t buy anything that has pressed board in it.” You know that composite? You know why he says that? Because pressed board doesn’t have a grain and it’ll break in any direction.

See, wood has character. It’s formed by consistency year after year after year—dry years, wet years, heavy wind, some disease. Wood has character. And our character is firmed up by consistency, making the right choices again and again and again.

By the way, let me just mention something. This is parenthetical, but I believe it will be helpful to us. When a person’s character is formed and firmed and fixed, when that happens it doesn’t mean that that person might not come to a moment in life where the wind’s blowing; there’s a bending that you think is very unhealthy.

And all of us here probably have had friends and maybe loved ones who’ve been held up to be something great and then one day, morally or spiritually they just made awful decisions. Here’s something I’ve noticed: If a person has spent a great part of their life developing character, when they come to a moment like that by the grace of God and then healing takes place, that character begins to show itself again.

How many times have you seen a pine tree that’s out there and all of a sudden it’s broken? It’s got a gnarled out spot and it’s twisted here. What happened? And then all of a sudden it grows back again.

Some of you know that our dad went through that very kind of thing after 43 years of marriage. At the age of 65 he made a horrible moral choice and struggled for years. What calamity was attached with all of that. But you know something? Here he is. His next birthday he’ll be 90 years of age.

Every Sunday he stands up in front of about 50 people at the Village on the Park Retirement Village. He’s led many of them to Christ. Hardly a month goes by he doesn’t bring somebody down the aisle that he’s led to Jesus.

He knows he can’t go back and do some of the things he could do before this happened. But he can do some of the things that are in his character to do. Having repented and sought forgiveness, he has stood in the pulpit of every church he ever pastored and asked them to forgive him.

And finally, one day after he’d written 238 letters to men saying, “Forgive me for what I’ve done,” I said, “Dad, enough is enough.”

It was like he said, “Whew.” And that character that was formed over years of faithful living begins to exhibit itself again.

So your character—that’s one element. If you’re going to leave a legacy, if you’re going to finish well, you’re going to have to be a man or you’re going to have to be a woman of character.

Secondly, you’re going to have to be a person of confidence. Now this is the thing that we see in Technicolor here in Caleb’s life. He was a person of faith. He was a person of confidence.

I have read to you verses 6-8. Now let’s read about his confidence.

So Moses swore on that day, saying, "Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you followed the Lord my God fully. Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I’m still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now” (Joshua 14:9–11, NASB).

Now I don’t want to park here for a long time because there’s a lot that you already know about this whole issue of confidence in the Lord. But let me just say that wherever you find a person of great faith, a person of confidence in God, you won’t have to look very far to find two other things. In fact, I’m going to say it’s almost impossible to find any one without the other.

The first is vision. In essence, what had happened 45 years earlier was that the Lord—through Moses, the man of God—had taken the palette and painted on the walls of Caleb’s heart a picture of what could be by the grace of God. Now that’s what a vision is. It’s God’s painting on the wall of your heart.

Wherever you turn look at this painting. This is a picture of what can be by the grace of God. And Caleb had it. He lived with that picture. That picture sustained him through 40 years in the wilderness and five years of fighting in Canaan.

“I saw it. I saw that land. That was going to be mine.”

Now I want to ask you a couple of questions. Who’s painting the pictures of the future on the walls of your heart? To whom have you given the brush and the palette? Who is speaking into your life? What are they painting there? Are they painting dismal pictures of failure and living out the balance of your life just sort of enjoying yourself and that’s it? Or is someone painting exciting pictures of what can be by the grace of God?

The other question I want to ask is this. By God’s grace you have been placed in the lives of those who are coming behind you. God has put the palette in one hand and the brush in your other hand. What kind of pictures are you painting on the walls of your children’s hearts or the heart of the next generation? What are you showing them?

I was down at my Granddaddy Carter’s house, as a nine-year-old boy. My mother had ten brothers and sisters, not a cull in the bunch. I mean, they all loved God. They all served God. My Grandfather Carter was a county judge and a plain dirt hardscrabble farmer. And he was a man of his word.

On his way home one day, he got drug off his horse by a bandit, a man with a mask who wrestled him down to the ground and held a pistol to his head. And my grandfather fought him off, ended up sitting on his chest with the pistol off in the bushes. He yanked off the mask and saw it was a near neighbor of his.

And he said, “If you will promise me that you’ll come to me when you have a need, I will never tell anybody you did this. And promise me that you’ll never do it again.”

When he told me that story he said, “That man died about 25 years ago.”

I said, “Well, who was it?”

He said, “I promised him I’d never tell.”

I went down to that house and here are these brothers and sisters of my mother, a big family reunion. My Uncle Clyde said, “Tommy, come over here.” Here I was just a little kid. A big tall guy, he pulled me over to me between his legs, looked at me in the face and he said, “Son, I want to tell you something. Whatever you can dream of doing you can do by the grace of God. Don’t settle for little things.”

Here I am over 50 years past that, and I remember my Uncle Clyde taking the palette and the paintbrush and on the walls of my heart saying, “By God’s grace, what you can dream of you can do.”

Your children are given to you. There’s a mural in their heart. What have you painted in there? What have you spoken in their lives? Is it big? Is it exciting? Is it challenging? Or is it small and demeaning and diminishing?

People of faith are people of vision. That’s what kept him going. I can do it because God said, “This hill is mine. This is mine.”

Secondly, when you find a person of confidence you’ll find vision, and you’ll also find vitality. “I’m as strong now as I was then.” What kept him going? Well, it was his vision and it was his confidence in God.

“God, You said that’s going to be mine. You’re going to keep me alive until I get it. You’ve got to. That’s the vision. That’s what You’ve promised. That’s what You’ve painted on the walls of my heart. I’m young. I’m ready to go.”

Vitality—what it is is taking the long look. It’s throwing yourself into something that’s so far down the road that you don’t dare stop and mess around right now. There’s a vitality when a person has confidence.

Let me mention a few other things quickly and then we’re finished. Character—you’ve got to be a man or woman of character. You’ve got to be a man or woman of confidence.

Number three there is the issue of choices. Here he was at the age of 85—listen to this—making a big choice. “Give me that mountain. Let me have that land. I know there are giants there. Let me have it. I am ready. I’ve hung around here long enough. I’m ready for what belongs to me.”

Five times I’ve played the Augusta National. It’s where they play the Masters. I got down there to what they call the “amen corner” because when you get through you want to say, “amen.” And for those of you who are golfers you know the next hole is probably the most famous hole in golf. It’s a dog leg left, par five, number 13 at the “amen corner.” I mean you go over water, around a corner, water and trees on the left, water in front of the green, bunkers on the back of the green, all those azaleas.

I got off a fairly decent drive, surprised myself. I ran around the corner and looked at my caddy. My caddy’s name was Willy B. Sutton, and Willy was a walking library. I said, “Willy, hand me a short iron.”

He said, “What you want a short iron for?” Here’s a guy that had caddied for Palmer, you name it. He said, “What you want a short iron for?”

I said, “Willy I’m going to lay up.”

And he said, “Mr. Tom, you didn’t come all the way from Oklahoma City to hit no lay up at the amen corner.”

I said, “Well, it might go in the water.”

He said, “It might and it might not. Take this five wood and put it on.” And I did.

As we were walking toward the hole I turned to him and said, “I’m going to go home and write in my Bible what you just told me.”

He said, “What do you mean?”

I said, “Well, Willy you don’t understand this.” I was turning 50 at that time. That’s been a few years ago, 12 years ago. I said, “A guy can get to a point in his life where he just gets content to hit lay-ups, just little, short, safe, easy, no-risk shots. And you’re right. I haven’t come all this far to just hit lay-ups.”

You go to my house, you’ll find a picture of the “amen corner.” You’ll find a little model my wife gave to me. I said, “I’m going to get up every morning and I’m going to hit it as hard as I can, as far as I can. If I lose it, by the grace of God, I’ll find it and start all over again. But it won’t be for lack of trying.”

So here’s Caleb. “Give me that mountain.”

“There are giants there.”

“It’s okay.”

“You’re 85.”

“It’s all right. God’s promised it. This is the time. It’s my birthday present. Give me that mountain!”

And I’ll say it again, you’re not going to wake up one morning and just fall out of bed and finish well. How many choices?

You say, “Well he made this one choice.” No. he made hundreds of choices. When they were grumbling in the wilderness, he had to choose not to. When they crossed over the Jordan, he had to choose, too. When even Moses, his hero, lost his temper and became inconsistent and faithless, he had to hold himself and keep from agreeing with Moses. Hundreds of choices.

And behind every choice was what? Well, you can read it down here in verse 12. “Now then, give me this hill country with about which the Lord spoke on that day.” In other words, he says, “I’m going to do what God says. I’m going to depend on God’s strength.”

Isn’t that what it is to have faith? Trust and obey—we sing it but literally there’s no difference in the Old Testament. To trust is to obey. I’m going to do what He says. I’m going to depend on His strength.

My Granddaddy Elliff was a great doctrinal exhorter. He preached in these brush arbor meetings. They’d go and set up these brush arbors and debate the Campbellites until he got a crowd, and then he would preach doctrine back at the turn of the last century. I mean, he was some kind of guy. Posses had to follow him around to keep people from beating him up, literally.

And it’s interesting. I think he would find this age so confusing because you see now we’ve got churches that are growing fast because of what they don’t believe, not because of what they do believe. It’s because of what they leave out, not what they have in. He’d find that very confusing.

I was close to my granddaddy. I loved him. One morning in 1979, I woke up. It was about three, three and a half weeks before Christmas. I turned to my wife and I said, “Jeannie, I’ve got to go see Granddaddy.”

And she said, “Well, you’re going to see him at Christmas.”

I said, “No, I’ve got to go see him today.”

She said, “Why?”

I said, “I just woke up thinking, ‘I’ve got to go see granddaddy.’”

And she said, “You don’t have time to do that. Besides, the staff party is at our house tonight. You’re just trying to get out of helping here.”

I went to the office about 10:00 that morning. I called the airport. We had a little twin engine plane hangar. And I said, “Roll that thing out and gas it up.”

I called Jeannie and I said, “I’ve got to go see Granddaddy. I don’t know why. I’ve got to go see Granddaddy.”

I called my father who thought it was nuts that I flew, anyway. He said, “You’re going to go see Granddaddy? Come over and pick me up.”

So I flew over to Oklahoma City where he was living. I was living in Tulsa at the time. We flew down to this little town in south central Arkansas—Fordyce—on the cotton belt, home of Bear Bryant. Potlast Lumber had a little runway out there. And we circled the water tower and landed out there.

A friend of Bill’s was there—Steven Davis, the pastor of First Baptist Church. He met us at the plane. I thought that was very unusual.

I said, “Steven, what are you doing out here?”

He said, “Well, I found out that you had come out here because I had called back to the house.”

And I said, “Why’d you call?”

He said, “Well, your granddaddy is dying, and he’s in the hospital waiting for you.”

I said, “You’re kidding me.”

He said, “No.” So we got in his car and went to the hospital. My granddaddy had had cataract surgery and had a reaction to the sulfa drug and was dying. He had preached on Tuesday in the Kilgore Hotel, which had been made into a retirement center. I preached his funeral on Friday.

But there in that hospital room he said, “Tommy, I’ve been waiting on you.” He said, “Here’s the Scripture I want you to use at my funeral.” And within hours, he was dead.

I went to that funeral early, sat up in the balcony because in Fordyce you come and view the body ahead of time. People would come in and go by the casket. I listened to them talk about my granddad.

And I thought to myself, “I want to finish like that. I want to finish well like that.”

  • So what kind of a legacy do you intend to leave?
  • What are you going to do with what you’ve got?
  • What are you going to do with the time, the money, the resources, the energy, the effort, the life you have left to live?

Your life is a blip on the radar screen of eternity. You didn’t come all this way to hit an old lay-up. Finish well.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Lord, how we want to be men and women of conviction, of confidence in You, who leave a legacy of faithfulness for Your glory. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

We’ve been listening to Dr. Tom Elliff speaking on the life of Caleb finishing well, leaving a legacy of godliness. We want to make that entire message available to you. We’ll be glad to send it to you when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

You can call us at 1-800-569-5959. I think you’ll want to listen to that message again. And when you ask for that message, we’ll also send you a CD of a testimony that I shared right after Tom first delivered this message. It’s a testimony about the life of my dad, Art DeMoss.

He’s been with the Lord now almost 30 years. But as I listened to Tom preach about how Moses painted on the walls of Caleb’s heart a vision of what he could be by the grace of God, I thought of my dad. When I got up to speak after Tom was finished, I shared the story of how my dad had painted on the walls of my heart a vision of what my life could be by the grace of God.

So for those of you who are parents and wanting to leave that legacy of godliness and faithfulness for the next generation, we want to make Tom’s message, as well as my testimony about my dad, available to you. We’ll send them to you when you send a donation of any amount. Again, just call us at 1-800-569-5959 or log onto our website and you can make a donation there at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Leslie Basham: Thanks, Nancy. Fear is one of the greatest hindrances in our lives. Fear will tempt you away from finishing well. In fact, it will tempt you from getting started in whatever endeavor God’s called you to.

Karen Loritts will help you say no to fear despite challenges to the economy, the world, or your home. Please join us for that tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Version.

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