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Whose Onesiphorus Are You

An issue of Reader's Digest reported that on one occasion the Cambridge, Minnesota Star newspaper carried this interesting correction: "Isanti County Commissioner Tom Pagel has 100 percent support from his family, not 10 percent, as was stated in last week's article on Pagel's announcement to seek reelection." There are times in all our lives when we need the support of other people. Sometimes life puts us in a spot so lonely and so rough we are thankful for the support of even one other person. The apostle Paul was in such a spot as he penned his last letter. In 2 Timothy we discover the old solider for Christ is still suffering for the gospel. He is in prison and in chains (1:8, 12, 16b). Some of the very last words he ever wrote by inspiration reveal that as he faces the approaching chill of a Roman winter he is shivering from a different kind of chill — the cold and chilling wind of loneliness and possibly discouragement (see chapter 4:9ff). Chapter one and verse 15 reveals that Paul had "fair-weather friends" who apparently deserted him when the sunny skies turned grey — This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes." Nothing else is known of these two in the Holy Bible except what we read here. At a time when Paul desperately needed encouragement and support, these two (and others) failed to be a friend. Paul found himself in the heart-breaking position of having zero percent support from others as he faced trial for his life in Rome. That's what makes his next words so amazing. Into Paul's sea of loneliness sailed a true friend! In verses 16-18 Paul states these words about a remarkable brother in Christ who may be obscure to many of us — "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. 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."

Paul had an Onesiphorus in his life! At a critical, heart-rending moment when all others walked out, Onesiphorus walked in! Paul's physical circumstances were, as a good friend of mine in Missouri used to say, "lower than a gopher's basement." Then in came Onesiphorus. His name means "profit-bearing," and he certainly was a profitable friend to Paul. What Paul says about him reveals why we all need an Onesiphorus —"He often refreshed me" — the Greek words means "to cool off, relieve, or refresh." Onesiphorus was a minister of refreshment! He was a one-man relief team determined to remind Paul he was not alone in his struggle and suffering (for the Gospel). He made it his mission to refresh Paul's faith and revive his courage as he faced trial and suffering and death. Onesiphorus was a living, breathing demonstration of true friendship. He reminds us why we all, at times, need to have an Onesiphorus in our lives. Better yet, he reminds us we, at times, need to be an Onesiphorus. Whose Onesiphorus are you?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ