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. (2 Timothy 1:16-18)
His Name Was Onesiphorus
In that wonderful hall of faith where great men and women of God are enshrined for their heroic accounts of courage is a room filled with names of unknown disciples. Tapestries fill the walls in God’s house of the journeys of Abraham, courage of David and pleadings of Jeremiah the prophet. Familiar names like Daniel, Noah and Job fill great libraries of faith. The New Testament wing in God’s house is filled with portraits of Peter, James and John as they walk with the Lord and struggle in faith as the law of Christ is brought to man for the first time. Paul has his own room where his exploits are visualized with huge strokes of devotion to the One he once sought to destroy. The room least visited is the where the images of those saints who pass through the pages of Holy Scrip in just a brief wisp of time are found. These are the unknown soldiers but how important they are to God.
In Paul’s final letter he includes a commendation for a man we know nothing about. His name is Onesiphorus. A name that by its pronunciation makes a person feel good. It’s a great name and this is a great man. All we know about him is the two places penned by Paul in 2 Timothy. For Paul it was vital to preserve for all time the name of someone who had changed the apostle’s life. Here was a man who was not ashamed of Jesus Christ. Paul suffered greatly because of the Lord being imprisoned numerous times and again found himself in a Roman jail. Onesiphorus was a friend of a convict. The only reason Paul was being persecuted was because of his belief in a risen Savior. Through all of this suffering stood a man that refreshed the spirit of the apostle. Onesiphorus lit up a room when he came in – even if it was a prison cell. There may not have been a lot he could do but he could encourage Paul. He often revitalized the spirit of the aged apostle.
Onesiphorus did not see the chains that bound Paul. He saw a man that served the Lord suffering in chains because of his faith. Onesiphorus knew Paul needed someone to encourage him and he took upon himself to be that person. When he came to Rome nothing would stop him from finding Paul to be there with him. The apostle was under penalty of death and at his first defense no one stood with him. Everyone forsook Paul. Only Luke the historian was with him. How hard that would be for Paul. But then his face lit up when there through the bars he could see his friend Onesiphorus. The chains did not bind as hard that day. His heart was no longer heavy.
There are many stories that we would want to read more about. It would have been grand to read the ‘book of Onesiphorus’ but his story is only told in a brief moment. Contained within these few words is an example of faith that we should find to be servants to others. Many people need just a word of encouragement. There are those who struggle with sin, with disease, family troubles and challenges to faith. What Onesiphorus did was just be there for Paul. He could not get him out of prison but he could help his spirit live outside those Romans walls.
Are there people in the congregation where you worship that are homebound or living in assisted living places? They could use some cheering up. When the sick are announced do we only have concern for our clique? The elderly need a hand of encouragement. Those souls who struggle in their faith need a hand of cheer. Young people need to know that we care about them. If we took the time to look around we would find a lot of opportunities to be like Onesiphorus. Our lives should be focused on often refreshing the spirits of others. We may not be able to change circumstances but we can change hearts.
Love is a mutual self-giving which ends in self-recovery. (Fulton J. Sheen, Three to Get Married, 1951)