This week I spent a lot of time studying for an upcoming message series that will take place this June on "Unsung Men of Courage in Scripture." The series will identify three men in particular - Onesimus, Obededom and Onesiphorus!
Onesiphorus! What a great name! He's actually mentioned in the Bible in 2 Timothy 1:16-18 and what an amazing man he was. Paul describes him as an individual who often brought refreshment to Paul during his ministry. But the refreshment of Onesiphorus goes much deeper than that. He stayed in Paul's court even when most others deserted him. He was "not ashamed of Paul's chains."
As Paul writes 2 Timothy he is in a Roman dungeon awaiting execution at the hands of Nero, arguably one of the greatest persecutors of Christians recorded in history. Nero had set Rome on fire and then blamed the Christians. The result was that Christians were very hated and to be associated with a leader of the Christian movement in that day, like Paul, would have definitely put your own life in danger. Even with this as a backdrop, Onesiphorus stayed a loyal friend and ministry partner of Paul. He even went from Ephesus, where he lived, to Rome in order to search dungeon by dungeon and jail by jail until he found the Apostle in chains.
Add to this the fact that Onesiphorus was seemingly one of the only individuals to stick with Paul. Verse 15 of the same chapter tells us that all who were in Asia deserted Paul. He even specifically names two individuals by name, Phygelus and Hermogenes, as two men who he never would have dreamed would betray him, but they did. This makes Onesiphorus' being a loyal and faithful friend and ministry partner of Paul's that much more impressive.
If you are reading this and you have spent your life in ministry, you probably have experienced a similar hurt where people who you never dreamed would desert you, left you in the dust. You have probably had experiences where people you poured into and invested into ultimately turned their back on you. But my guess is that you have also experienced the refreshment of an Onesiphorus as well - someone who stayed by your side and went out of their way to encourage you in the middle of your hurt.
I am so thankful for the men who have been an Onesiphorus in my life and ministry, who have brought me refreshment in the most difficult times I have faced. As a result, I have a desire like never before to be an Onesiphorus to others who are hurting, especially those who are in ministry.
Onesiphorus! What a great name! What a great man of courage! It's probably a good thing that I did not study this man out a couple of decades ago or there might just be a college student at Liberty University today named "Onesiphorus Distler!"