Monday, June 11, 2012
Useful - Useless - Useful
The story of Onesimus is found in the book of Philemon which is the shortest of all the writings of the Apostle Paul found in the New Testament. At its root, it is a story about forgiveness. Philemon had been led to Christ by Paul. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon who apparently stole some money from his master and ran away to Rome in hopes to blend into the crowd. While in Rome, Onesimus runs into Paul. Now remember that Paul was in prison at the time so I don't think it much of a stretch to imagine that once in Rome, Onesimus resorts to stealing once again and lands in jail.
I like to call these types of encounters "Divine Appointments." A Divine Appointment is when God orchestrates your life in such a way that you end up at the right place at the right time to rub shoulders with the right person. For Onesimus that place was a Roman jail and that person was the Apostle Paul. As a result, Paul shares Christ with Onesimus and he becomes a follower of Jesus and he also becomes a very profitable part of Paul's jail ministry.
But when the time comes that Onesimus can leave or is released, Paul knows that he must go back and make things right with Philemon. He sends Onesimus back with a letter which is the book of Philemon in our Bibles' today. In verse 11 of this one chapter book, Paul uses a "play on words." To understand this literary "word play" you must first realize that the name Onesimus means "useful." Speaking of Onesimus in verse 11, Paul says (NASB),
"who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me."
Here is what Paul was saying,
"USEFUL" (Onesimus) was USELESS to you but he is once again USEFUL!"
I love that. It screams "repentance!" It screams, "redemption!" It screams "forgiveness!" Failure does not have to be final. Your past does not have to determine your future. Maybe you have failed as a husband and now you seem like a useless husband. Maybe you have failed as a father and now you seem like a useless father. Maybe you have failed as a man of God and now you seem like a useless man of God. Onesimus (useful) became useless but then returned to being useful once again. So can you through the power of Christ.
For Onesimus it all happened as a result of a Divine Appointment. That is my prayer for you today as well if you feel useless. My prayer is that God would set up a Divine Appointment for you. My prayer is that He would orchestrate your life in such a way that you would end up at the right place at the right time in order to rub shoulders with the right person. In fact, if you see yourself as useless, maybe the first step in your Divine Appointment was coming across this blog posting!