The Bible is full of encouragement and direction in pointing the Christian to look to Jesus. One of those ways is through the example of Bible characters. We get to see the good and the bad, the celebrations and the warnings, all which points us to God’s unmerited grace in the lives of the saints.
“Be” is a new series that will focus on different characters of the Bible and will highlight either their Christlike character or we will see the warning from how they lived. It’s easy when one reads Scripture to put themselves in certain texts and want to be like Paul or David or Peter. Though this may not be bad, the Christian’s ultimate goal is to put on the character of Christ (Colossians 3). The “Be” series will focus on those people mentioned once or twice in Scripture that were a help or a hurt to the church.
We will first look at someone who ministered to Paul and impacted him so much that he shared with Timothy, with his last written words before he was executed, about the way this person ministered to him. We see the mention of Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1, as Paul is encouraging his son in the faith, Timothy, to push on forward, to fan the flame of faith (verses 7–8).
At the end of the first chapter Paul mentions this person who had been faithful, Onesiphorus. Paul writes, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me” (2 Timothy 1:16–17 ). We see some great Christ-like characteristics from Onesiphorus that we can apply in our lives.
1) He Gave
One of the marks of the believer is how they give of their time and resources.
Time is a gift from God. You don’t own it but you are in control of it. Once it is spent, you can’t get it back. You can waste it or you can redeem it but time is something that each of us has a limited amount of.
Whether with money or resources, though different than time, the concept of stewardship is the same. Everything we have has been given to us by God and we are called to use it all for His glory. You can either waste or invest it. You can keep it or give it on ahead.
The Christian understands that time and resources are precious and not ours. Each breath one takes is one less to their earthly lives. Each dollar spent was given to us by God. Yet, with that knowledge, the Christian willingly gives of their time and resources for the sake of the gospel—they invest in eternity. The Christian sees what is more important to spend their time and money on.
Paul encourages us to make the best use of our time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). And, Onesiphorus gave by serving the Lord as a good friend to Paul. It would not be easy for one to leave their home, go to Rome, and pay their own way to be with one who was suffering, but Onesiphorus did for the sake of the gospel. When one would travel in biblical times, they would not just be gone for a week or a month but several months to even years. This was commitment!
As Christians, our goal is to give of our time and resources for the sake of the gospel even when it is not convenient or easy. We want to understand that we are called to be stewards of all we have and to make the best use of it because the days are evil.
2) He Was Willing to Be Shamed as Paul Was Shamed
A good friend is willing to be associated with you even when you are not very popular at that moment. Paul was a prisoner to Rome. This was not a popular, nor pleasant, position for one to be in because it usually was associated with crime and possibly death. Though Paul did nothing wrong, except share his faith, he was abandoned by other believers because they could have been guilty by association.
Onesiphorus didn’t care about that. Instead he sought Paul out to bring comfort to his friend who was in chains.
The gospel is not popular, and sometimes making a stand for Christ will cause oppression or persecution. But just like Onesiphorus, we must be willing to count the cost in following Christ (Luke 14:26–33) and standing with other believers even when it is hard.
Jesus was willing to be shamed for us. He endured the cross on our behalf. As a believer, are you are willing to pick up your cross and count the cost?
3) He Was Mindful of Others
The church is more than just individuals in a group. The church is a family, a body, a unit. When one hurts, the church hurts. When one rejoices, the church rejoices (Romans 12:15). Onesiphorus was mindful of Paul and his suffering because Paul was part of the church, the body, a unit, the family.
We need to be mindful of those who sit in the pews next to us and of the global church. There are many believers who are facing persecution around the world. We must be willing to ask questions on how one is doing in their faith, not only with their health. We must be willing to ask the Lord to help us to think about the body of Christ more frequently and how we can pray for others.
4) He Was a Refreshing Influence
When people see you coming, are you a breath of fresh air, or are you someone who sucks the air out of the room? Onesiphorus was refreshing to Paul by encouraging him with God’s Word and his physical presence.
When someone is hurting, sometimes the best you can do is just be present in their lives and point them to God’s promises of hope found in Scripture. Be a refreshing Christian!
As Paul was thankful for Onesiphorus for being a faithful, caring friend, my hope is that I would be a faithful, caring friend to others as well.