Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:19-22
I’m sitting today with one of the most gracious women I know. It’s not my wife, although she’s quite gracious. And it’s not anyone particularly famous, except to her family and to those of us who know her well.
Her name is Mary Lou Schrock, and she was a lifetime friend of my Dad’s until he passed away earlier this year. She stepped back into his life about nineteen years ago, filling a void that was left after my mom passed away. Mary Lou has been like a second mother to me, coming to our kids’ birthday parties, spending countless hours with my Dad during days of sickness and health, and spending Christmas mornings with our family year after year.
She’s invested her life in taking care of others. But in recent years, she’s had to let others take care of her. If she had a choice, I’m sure she’d gladly switch roles. That’s just the kind of woman she is. And that’s one of the things that makes her so gracious as well. Whether she was baking a meal for someone, or helping out at the nursing home, or writing a card to send to someone who needed a lift, she was always thinking of others.
In a way, she was very much like the Apostle Paul, who displayed a similar quality of graciousness. From the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians until the very end, he was always “others-focused.” I can’t imagine it was easy, though.
As a prisoner in Rome, I’m sure he could have written thousands of words talking about himself, complaining of the false accusations made against him, the unjust beatings he’d had to endure, or the hardships of life as a prisoner in the first century A.D. But instead, he wrote thousands of words talking about them, focusing on their lives, their trials, and their relationships with God.
The only time he asked for anything for himself was at the very end of his letter. And even then, his only request was for them to pray that he would be able to fearlessly proclaim the message of Christ to others, the very thing that landed him in prison in the first place. He wrote:
“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Paul was already on trial for proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ, and he was awaiting a very likely death sentence for it. Yet he called on the Ephesians to pray that God would help him to keep proclaiming the message of Christ without fear. To the end, Even when asking for prayer for himself, Paul remained steadfastly committed to others. And God wants us to remain “others-focused” as well.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about yourself, your problems and your needs. But it does mean that you should be thoughtful about when and how you share those needs. You don’t want to be like the woman who said: “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?”
As “others-focused” as he was, Paul knew that it was also important to let others know how he was doing, too. So at the end of his letter, he wrote:
“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you” (Ephesians 6:21-22).
Paul didn’t ignore himself and his needs completely. But he was gracious enough to know there was an appropriate time and place to share those needs. And God wants us to do the same.
God wants us to be people who are “others-focused” to the core, people who regularly spend time thinking about the needs of others and how to meet those needs. He wants us to be people like Mary Lou, people who invest their lives in ways that will bless those around us.
Prayer: Father, thank You for helping me see that grace is “others-focused.” I pray that You would help me to be so focused on others that my life and my problems will fade in comparison. Help me to be filled with Your grace to such an extent that I would gladly pour it out on others, regardless of the cost to me personally. Let me be a good ambassador for You, and a good messenger of Your grace to those around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.