Have you ever experienced the power of encouragement? I can remember many times over the years when God provided faithful believers who were “others-focused” enough to come alongside and strengthen my hands for His work. The Apostle Paul had such a man by his side, by the name of Onesiphorus. He is one of the “forgotten servants” in the biblical record. His name says it all. Onesiphorus means, “profit bringer,” and that is exactly what he was. As Paul sat in a Roman prison, considering the last words he would pen under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the name of his faithful friend could not help but come to mind. Here we learn three qualities of a faithful encourager.
An encourager dispenses refreshing motivation in the midst of ministerial rejection.
“This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Timothy 1:15-16). As a preacher of the biblical gospel and the whole counsel of God, Paul was accustomed to abandonment. Like Jesus, he had many people who wanted to come along for the ride, but when commitment to the ways of God and the Word of God meant discomfort and even persecution, the crowd departed and he was left with a faithful few. Onesiphorus was one of those faithful servants who refreshed Paul. This is the only occurrence of the word refreshed in the New Testament. It paints a picture of one who provides a cool refreshing breeze for one about to faint. Our day is not much different than the one in which Paul lived. Many are looking for a free ride and will “follow” Jesus, until disappointment walks through their door or dying to self becomes a harsh reality. May God develop in each of us the perseverance required to be a faithful dispenser of encouragement to others over the long-haul.
An encourager devotes himself to the refreshment of others with great eagerness.
The next verse says, “but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me” (2 Tim. 1:17). Onesiphorus did not sit around waiting or even praying for opportunities to serve. As soon as he learned of a need he acted on it, even if it meant searching a Roman prison to find his brother. We must not allow our ministry mindset to be dictated by our “culture of convenience.” Being a faithful encourager requires that we be people of initiative who search out ways to refresh other believers, even if it means personal sacrifice or inconvenience.
An encourager displays loyalty in the face of adversity.
Adversity has a way of revealing who your true friends really are. In contrast to all who were in Asia that turned away from Paul, Onesiphorus was “not ashamed” of Paul’s imprisonment (1:16). He knew the meaning of Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times.” Later, Paul wrote, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16). Yet three verses later, he asked Timothy to greet Onesiphorus (4:19). His courageous spirit and devotion to Paul stood in stark contrast to the infidelity of so many others. Being a faithful encourager requires loyalty that endures through difficult times. The refreshing example of Onesiphorus is worthy of imitation. May God grant us grace to be “others-focused” so that fellow believers around us may truly experience the power of encouragement.
Today, who will you refresh?
[Excerpted from Delight in the Word: Spiritual food for hungry hearts]