Michael Otieno, pastor of Bethesda Baptist Church, Tasia, Nairobi and co-author of Gaining the World, Losing the Soul shares some encouraging and challenging reflections from the example of an early Christian refresher.
Here is one who can be classified as a trusted friend:
“The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome he sought me out very zealously and found me (2 Tim. 1:16-17).
- When Onesiphorus zealously sought Paul and found him, Paul was almost alone. “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Tim. 1:15). Things were not easy this time around. Even one of his trusted friends abandoned him. “For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world and has gone to Thessalonica; (2 Tim. 4:10).
- He expected Christians to stand with him but that was not the case. “At my first defence no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them” (2 Tim. 4:16).
- Another thing which comes out clearly is that Paul was experiencing poor living conditions. He was in prison. It was dangerous to associate with him. This is seen by the fact that Onesiphorus “sought him out very zealously (2 Tim. 1:17). “For which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. (2 Tim. 2:9). “Do your utmost to come before winter (2 Tim. 4:21).
- The last thing I want us to observe is that when Onesiphorus sought for Paul zealously until he found him Paul was anticipating death. This time death was inevitable. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6).
Here see that Onesiphorus was Paul’s trusted friend, in other words, a friend indeed. He stood with Paul when he was almost alone, when Paul was in prison and anticipating death
Today many people are willing to be your friend so long as things are good and they can benefit from you. My friend let me ask you: Do you have a friend like Onesiphorus? Or are you capable of being a friend like Onesiphorus?
Let us now turn to the main points which show that he was a trusted friend.
(1) He often refreshed Paul (2 Tim. 1:16).
Paul must have been encouraged by seeing Onesiphorus at this difficult time. Onesiphorus refreshed the apostle Paul by his kindness, words of encouragement, brotherly fellowship and praying with him. He encouraged him when he was low.
He paid special attention to him when others were running away. Maybe he gave his substance as the women did to our beloved Saviour (Lk 8:3). Paul needed refreshment knowing that he was in a poor living conditions and anticipating death. Do you remember how Latimer refreshed Ridley as they were in stake during the reign of Bloody Mary: “ Be of good comfort, master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” We are encouraged to minister to the saints and this is what we are seeing Onesiphorus doing. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister (Heb 6:10). This is not the first time Onesphorus is extending a helpful hand to Paul but he also helped him at Ephesus (2 Tim. 1:18).
(2) He was not ashamed of Paul’s Chain (2 Tim. 1:16).
Paul here uses the negative “not ashamed” which shows that he is emphasizing or stressing the fact that Onesiphorus was proud of him. He rejoiced in the apostle even though he was in chains. The literal meaning of chain must be included here because Paul was in prison (2 Tim 2:9). Note how Paul stressed the word “not ashamed” in this chapter. Timothy is exhorted not to be ashamed (2 Tim. 1:8), Paul is not ashamed (1:12) and here Onesiphorus was not ashamed (1:16).
Willing to suffer, if need be for the sake of Christ, and His people is one of the mark of a true Christian. Hear what the Bible says: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12), “These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33) and “If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him (Rom 8:17).
This phrase, “he was not ashamed of my chain” shows that Onesiphorus was a man of noble character. Chains normally reduce the number of friends. For example if you are poor many will stay aloof. The poor man is hated even by his own neighbour but the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20). The fact that Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains filled him with thankfulness and joy.
May the Lord grant us His mercy so that our feet may be swift to help those who are persecuted for the sake of the gospel.
(3) He sought for Paul Zealously (2 Tim. 1:17).
We have already seen how Onesiphorus refreshed Paul and that he was not ashamed of his chains. Now we are seeing that he sought for him zealously until he found him. There were three possibilities for Onesiphorus when he arrived in Rome.
- He could have avoided getting in touch with any Christian in Rome and lived a quiet life.
- He could have met with Christians secretly. Without seeking for Paul because it was dangerous to associate with Paul and even Christians knew this.
- To boldly identify himself with Paul by visiting him in prison and searching for him diligently. This would put him in direct confrontation with the Roman authorities. To God be the glory because this is what Onesiphorus chose. “He sought Paul out zealously and found him”. Being Paul’s friend was not particularly a good thing to undertake at this time.
Yes Onesiphorus took extra trouble to find Paul. Maybe he didn’t know Rome, or because Paul was treated like a criminal it was not easy to find where the Roman authorities were detaining him. Onesiphorus was not scared of dungeon, he sought Paul out diligently and succeeded in his mission. We can see this in verse 17 “and he found me.”
Onesiphorus is an example of a true, sincere, devoted and a genuine friend that is why he sought out Paul zealously and found him.
Some lessons we can draw from this passage:
(1) Christian should seek ways of refreshing one another. If the great apostle needed refreshment how much more do we need it? God Himself is a great refresher and encourager. Hear what the Bible says: “Blessed be the God and Father of Mercies and the God of all comfort, who comfort us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Dear friends the entire Gospel is the message of refreshment and we need to refresh one another.
There are many people who suffer discouragement and they don’t know how to handle it and we need to go to them and refresh them. All God’s people need refreshment or encouragement and therefore there is a need for us to seek those who are need and encouraged them. “Do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10; Mt. 10:40-43).
We can refresh others just by seeing them the way Onesiphorus did. Some of you have been sick and you know very well how visitation by a brother or a sister can be refreshing. My beloved one we can refresh others by having a spiritual conversation or discussion with them. We can refresh others by encouraging them (Rom 12:8) and bearing their burden (Gal 6:2).
We need to be consistent in refreshing one another not only once or occasionally “he often refresh me” (2 Tim. 1:16). May the Lord help us not to be tired of doing good”. You know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus (1:18).
Beloved, we need to refresh the saints. We can give them hope and put courage in them. I remember in early 1990s there was advertisement saying that with AIDS there is no hope and we went around encouraging our members and friends who were H.I.V. Positive that even with AIDS there is hope because Christ in you the hope of glory and even if you die you shall live again because you are in Christ.
How we need to refresh those having terminal illness, our persecuted brothers and sisters, those who are reaching the unreached people and living in hardship areas for the sake of the gospel. My dear brothers and sisters are we refreshing the saints? Can any person say of you or me that he has often refreshed me.
(2) We must not be ashamed of Christians who are persecuted, ridiculed, mocked and despised because of their firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin brought shame into this world and it is now possible for a person to be ashamed of those suffering for good cause and we need to be alert or on the lookout (Heb 12:2).
(3) We need to be those who are looking for those in need. Onesiphorus took the initiative to look for Paul in order to refresh him and we must not wait for others to come out asking for our help but we need to go out look for who need refreshment. For example in a congregation you may have a sister or a brother who have only one pair of cloth and every Sunday he or she comes wearing the same dress, we need to help them without them begging for help.
Beloved we cannot do these things through our own efforts but the God of all grace and mercy alone can enable and strengthen us to do all these things for the praise of His glory.