We Are Not Alone In Grace
“I hang out on the edge of effectiveness.”- John Patrick Francis Mulcahy, MASH
That’s one small snippet of a quote that always seems to grab at my heart strings. You spend an episode watching Father Mulcahy feeling completely useless and as if he doesn’t actually have a place or purpose in the middle of the Korean War. At the end of the episode, you discover alongside Father Mulcahy that even his smallest contributions don’t go unnoticed and that his mere presence brings forth gratitude on everyone’s lips.
How many times have I felt that I was sitting on the edge of effectiveness? How often have I felt that my contributions aren’t worthwhile or worth mentioning? Friends, it’s more often than I care to admit.
For you are all partakers with me of grace
Today, I opened my Bible and read the words, “For you are all partakers with me of grace.” (Philippians 1:7c ESV) Partakers of grace. Doesn’t it make you think about sitting at a full table with friends, sampling the best desserts TOGETHER? Doesn’t it make you think of the laughter and inside jokes, the wonderful memories you share with the people that you love?
In Philippians 1, we see that Paul doesn’t talk about being alone in His endeavor to preach the Gospel and to live for Jesus. He uses words like “Partnership in the Gospel” and “Partakers with me of Grace.” Wouldn’t you think that Paul would have felt a bit alone? After all, Philippians was written by a prisoner in a prison. Still, he didn’t question his effectiveness here, instead, he shared of his prayer of joy because of the church as Philippi. He continued to minister in any (and every) way he could. Which is how we end up reading such an encouraging letter today.
But then I think of someone else who found himself discouraged by what he could see, and his attitude was quite different than Paul’s. Have you been there? You find yourself so discouraged that your ability to see the truth of the situation is hampered. Maybe you listen to the noise around you in the news and media. Maybe you listen to the noise in the unbelievers around you. Maybe all this discourages you and causes you to believe that you’re the only believer left.
Elijah found himself in a similar situation. One person spoke an unkind word (threat) that sent Elijah running to the hills, so to speak. It caused Elijah to become incredibly discouraged as he felt that he was the “only one left.” He took note of the prophets that had been murdered. He took note of the people’s abandoning of the sacred covenant between them and God. He took note of the people’s lack of concern for God’s altars. And he concluded that he was the only one left who was concerned about and devoted to the things of God. He also thought he was literally the only Godly prophet left.
It took this incredible conversation with God, where God speaks the truth that Elijah wasn’t the only one left. God mercifully changed Elijah’s calling (slightly) to include a mentorship to Elisha. Simply put, God brings physical proof that Elijah wasn’t the only prophet who hadn’t bowed down to Baal or who had been killed. He brings in that proof and an incredible encouragement to Elijah to stay the course and to receive encouragement from Elisha’s presence.
In the end, Father Mulcahy needed a friend (or two) to show him that his contributions were valued and worthwhile. Elijah needed God to speak straight to his heart and let him know that he wasn’t alone. Paul clearly saw that he wasn’t alone and he found himself so incredibly thankful for this little church and their encouragement while he sat in prison.
What about you? Are your eyes opened to see that you aren’t alone? Do you see God’s church around you and others who are as devoted to God as you are? Do you see that friend that God has brought alongside you to encourage you when you find yourself discouraged? Do you find yourself so profoundly thankful for God’s care and attention to lift our discouraged heads?
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