Intro: How many friends do you have? Check your Facebook list? You might tell me that not all those people on your friends list are really your friends. Not all friends are the same. Some may share an interest or a common acquaintance, others are your closest friends, would do anything for you.
- Paul’s friends list….The apostle Paul had some friends that were closer than others.
- Paul’s last days – the context of hid writing. In chains in a Roman prison for the second time. He was awaiting execution. He remained strong, but was not immune from human emotions.
- The aging apostle suffered physical distress. Not like his first imprisonment (house arrest). According to tradition, his final imprisonment took place in the “Well-Dungeon” near the capital, a damp and cold vaulted pit. In his letter to Timothy he urges him to bring his cloak (2 Tim. 4:13) and to do his best to come before winter sets in (2 Tim. 4:21).
- Paul may have experienced times of loneliness “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11), he wrote.
- Was he disappointed? Some of the friends he was counting on to testify on his behalf had left. “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Tim. 1:15). One of his faithful traveling companions, Demas, also deserted him (2 Tim. 4:10, 4:14, Phlm. 1:24). “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me…” (2 Tim. 4:16).
- Paul states unequivocally that the Lord did not dessert him. How did he know? Where were the assurances that God was providing for Paul?
- One assurance God provided came in the appearance of a person – a man whose name is obscure and difficult for us to pronounce. He is mentioned briefly only twice in the New Testament. Yet to the Apostle Paul, this man became a dear friend and a servant for the Lord.
- What can we learn from Onesiphorus?
Read 2 Timothy 1:15-18 – 15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day — and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.
- Onesiphorus – (profit-bringer) – certainly was profitable to Paul’s work. We might conclude that Onesiphorus had his own ministry toward Paul, and others. He served.
- Refeshment: “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me…” (2 Tim. 1:16). The word refreshed literally means, “to cool off; to brace up or revive by fresh air.” The image of an opened window in a hot, stuffy room. The breeze is refreshing – gives a new surge of strength and energy.
- Sometimes we call food, refreshments – Onesiphorus may have provided physical sustenance to Paul. But more likely he sought to bring relief from pressures, weariness, loneliness, and discouragement. He refreshed his spirit. Who have you refreshed lately? How would you do it?
- Consistent Concern: Onesiphorus’ actions were motivated through an ongoing concern for the apostle. His visit to Paul was no isolated incident. His refreshing service was repeated on several occasions. In 2 Tim. 1:16, Paul notes, “He often refreshed me… This would seem to imply that Onesiphorus had been involved in helping others long before he came to Rome. Paul reminds Timothy, “…You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:18).
- We may recognize someone’s need in the moment, and even help once. But as time goes on and the problem persists we often lose track or prove inconsistent in our help. “Now, if there’s anything I can do, just call.” But they do not call and we do not check back. Friends like Onesiphorus are there till the end.
- Accepting the risk: Helping the apostle was not without risk. After all, this was a time when Christians were looked upon as criminals. And Paul was already being treated like one. But Onesiphorus was a true friend to Paul. Prov 17:17– A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.
- He “was not ashamed of my chains” (vs. 16). Apparently, many were more concerned about their own welfare and reputation than Paul’s needs. Onesiphorus not hindered by such concerns. He accepted the risks involved in order to meet the needs of his brother. Being the Lord’s servant means being willing to move outside of the “comfort zone” to help someone else. What will others think if I choose to help this person?
- Jesus accepted the risk to minister to those whom others marginalized (Zaccheus, Woman at the well of Samaria, Woman in Simon’s house, etc.. )
- Jonathan, Saul’s son, took a risk to encourage David. 1 Sam 20:30-33 – 30 Then Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32 And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said to him, “Why should he be killed? What has he done?” 33 Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathan knew that it was determined by his father to kill David. – 1 Sam 23:16-18 – Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.
- Persisting in the task: Onesiphorus seemed to be one of those people who was not easily discouraged or turned away from the objective. He was persistent.“…when he was in Rome he searched hard for me until he found me” (2 Tim. 1:17). We tend to do things, as we have the time, and in accordance with how easily they can be accomplished. “If I have some free time, I might try to make contact with Paul.” Not Onesiphorus! He made up his mind that he was going to find him. He overcame great obstacles to do it.
- How easily do we give up… “This is too difficult!” “I’ve already invested several hours looking for him, and he is not to be found.” “It must not be the Lord’s will – the door seems to be closed,”
- To be used of the Lord to meet people’s needs – to be a minister of refreshment – may mean “going the extra mile.” It may not be easy or convenient. It may take persistent effort and personal sacrifice. Onesiphorus was willing to pay the price.
Conclusion; One of the elements of a refreshment, is that it fits the circumstance – it hits the spot. If we are to be like Onesiphorus, and be true friend to each other, we must be aware of the circumstances of others. At times, it is not so much what we do, but when, and if we do it. An act of kindness that may seem small and insignificant to us could mean a lot to a person who needs it.
- For a frazzled couple with young children, it could be an offer to baby-sit so they can go out for an evening.
- For an elderly person or shut-in, a card, a call, or a visit could be the highlight of the week.
- For a student feeling pressured and homesick, it might be an offer to go out to lunch.
God’s promise to His people: Isa 40:29-31– He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
How will God fulfill this promise? How will those who put their trust in Him renew their strength and overcome discouragement? How will they be refreshed? Could it be that God expects it to come from you and me?
- Prov 27:17– Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
- Prov 18:24 – 24 A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.