He Had a Friend in Him

Thirst.

We need it quenched.

Our bodies can go without many things but we all need water to survive.

The planet needs water. A drought is a devastating thing when it hits. It parches, deprives, and shrivels the life it touches.

Because we can find ourselves in an emotional or spiritual drought, all of us need to be refreshed from time to time. We need some temporary relief from the trials and challenges of living in this world.

A friendship that refreshes is a rare blessing.

The old pop song reminds us that “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Of course, that depends.

People are quite different.

Some people lift us up, others drag us down. Some people will bless us while other people bleed us. Being around some people can encourage us. Being in the presence of others is like sitting in a bathtub filled with ink. They depress us. Some folks replenish our strength, others deplete it.

You know them: the people you love to see coming into your day and into your life. They make you glad when they arrive. Being in their company is like uncorking a bottle of champagne. Unfortunately, there are others who simply make you relieved when they leave.

We don’t consider it much, but every one of us, in a multitude of unseen ways, is the dispenser and the recipient of influence.

We impact others – and others impact us.

When he was in prison in Rome, Paul wrote his letters to his young protégé Timothy. In much of this correspondence Paul is wistful and contemplative. These are the great apostle’s last letters before his martyrdom for the cause of Christ.

In his second letter, Paul reflects on the recent events of his active and fascinating life; his ministry of the gospel. He reminds Timothy:

“As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me –even Phygelus and Hermogones.” (II Timothy 1:15, NLT).

We don’t know anything else about these two men, except that once they were loyal and now they are not. Once they were with Paul, now they have abandoned him. Once they were stand up guys, now they have folded like a bad hand in a poker game.

Perhaps Paul singles them out because in the beginning – when hope and spirits ran high – Phygelus and Hermogones were thought the least likely to jump ship. But jump they did.

In the end, Paul faces death alone.

But as Paul remembers these two who left, he also commends one who didn’t.

“May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus (pronounced “on –ee- sif o- rus”) and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me.” (II Timothy 1:16, NLT, emphasis added).

The King James Version renders Paul’s words: “He oft refreshed me.” (emphasis added). That’s a better word.

In the original Greek in which the apostle wrote, Paul’s meaning is made richer:

“Onesiphorus …often showed me kindness and ministered to my needs – comforting and reviving and bracing me like fresh air!” (The Amplified Bible).

In this narcissistic age of celebrity and self-promotion, it’s easy to overlook the unsung hero. You won’t find a star for Onesiphorus in the Bible’s walk of fame. You won’t read his name in the hallowed Hall of Faith. You won’t meet any children named after him – for obvious and understandable reasons, one supposes.

Yet of all those saints Paul mentions in his various letters to the churches, none is accorded a kinder or fuller tribute.

Notice Paul’s use of the word “often”. Onesiphorus was a faithful friend. He refreshed Paul and bolstered his spirits more than once. And Paul always looked forward to seeing him and staying at his home and visiting with his family.

Paul also remembers: “He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains.” (II Timothy 1:16, NLT). Onesiphorus was a loyal friend who loved and supported and encouraged Paul without question, criticism, condemnation or embarrassment. He was proud to be Paul’s friend, even – and perhaps especially – when the apostle was in prison.

And Paul reminds Timothy that when Paul was in Rome, Onesiphorus “searched everywhere until he found me.” (II Timothy 1: 17, NLT). Onesiphorus was a committed friend. No obstacle, no hardship, no inconvenience, no barrier would ever come between him and the friend he loved and cared about.

Paul praises Onesiphorus for his hard work in the church of Ephesus: “And you know very well how helpful he was …” (I:18, NLT). Onesiphorus was a beneficial friend. He made a positive difference in the lives of others.

Here is the kind of friend we want – and need and should want to be.

I’m thankful I have such friends. What a rich blessing they’ve been to my life.

In the droughts of Paul’s life and ministry – and we know he had them – his precious and loyal friend Onesiphorus was always there to refresh and replenish – to lift up and to cheer and to listen – to laugh and to cry and to pray with Paul.

It’s what friends are for. It’s why we need them – and why they need us.

And so, while his fame is not great, Onesiphorus’ reward in heaven is.

He was Paul’s friend.

What is our impact on others? What sort of an influence do we have in their lives?

What sort of a friend are you?

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