A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
Can you think of your friends for a moment? Some are celebrating what’s happening in their lives right now. Maybe they’ve just had a baby or have gotten a new job. There are others who though they’re trudging through life, are more or less are doing well. Nothing particularly noteworthy is happening for them. “Same old, same old” they would say to you.
Meanwhile, others are at crossroads or are facing situations full of frustration, confusion, or heartache. Perhaps they’ve brought this upon themselves somehow, through unwise or sinful decision making. But maybe the circumstances are of no direct fault of their own: a poor economy, blindsided by disease or accident, or some other perfect storm of misfortune.
Whatever their case, I think we can take something from the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, regarding our struggling friends. In this his final letter he writes:
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. (2 Tim 1:17-18)
These are words from an abandoned man, about a refreshing friend. Yes, he points out that there were deserters. Scripture has writen their biographies in one sentence. But the focus here is a refreshing friend.
Imagine the scene in that Roman dungeon:
It is dark and cold. A dim ray of light filters in through the opening at the top. Inside sits an aged, weathered little Jewish man, chained to a guard. It is Paul of Tarsus awaiting execution. Keep in mind that Paul didn’t know that his life and teachings would radically change the course of world history. All he knew was that the end was near and that many of those whom he had loved and taught were abandoning him like sailors jumping off a sinking ship. Suddenly, there was a noise above as the guard opened the hatch to his cell. The old man squinted into the light, but couldn’t see who was climbing down the ladder to visit him. But he recognized the friendly voice, “Paul, Paul, I’ve found you at last!” “Onesiphorus! Is that you, my good friend?” The two men embraced warmly in spite of the stench of the prisoner and his squalid cell. Then Onesiphorus, whose name means “bringing help or profit,” opened his bag and gave Paul fresh bread, fruit, cheese, and wine. He stayed a long time and he came back often, bringing good news of the progress of the gospel across the Roman Empire. Each time he came, Paul was refreshed in body and spirit. —The Ministry of Refreshment, Steven J. Cole
Could I challenge you to do something bold? Would you think of the people in your life who need refreshing. Maybe just a call or visit with them today would make a difference in what they’re facing. True, I don’t know your situation. That may be difficult considering what you’re facing. You may have identified with Paul and his chains more than his true friend. But also consider this: as Paul pens his letter, chains clanking with every word he writes, he is writing to encourage someone else. Perhaps you could be someone’s Onesiphorous, bringing help or profit. Perhaps you would be like Paul today, a discouraged encourager. I hope you will.