“For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother. Therefore, though I have confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.“ Philemon 1: 7-9
Paul’s prison epistle to Philemon is filled with beautiful word pictures that serve as a glimpse into a time capsule of the early church. Paul received “joy” and “comfort” and the saints were “refreshed” as a result of Philemon’s investment in their lives by hosting a local church in his home. He gave the members of the early church more than the use of his home. He gave them his heart.
One of the temptations facing the contemporary church is the lure to follow the lure of the current culture and exchange priceless joy for cheap entertainment. Laughing at someone else’s expense, giggling at a child’s use of foul language, convulsing over a comedian’s bathroom humor are all poor substitutes for Christian joy.
Joy is not a matter of temporary happiness gained by connecting a perfect chain of events or waiting breathlessly for the perpetual punch-line. Joy is an over-riding confidence in the heart of a child of God, who has learned to trust The Father to guide them through the stalls and the storms of life. Some things take time.
“Paul, the aged” had learned his lessons well. If prison was a test, he was not going to stay after school, or skip the final exam. His joy was not in recess, but in rest.
Paul led an escaped slave, Onesimus, to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and sent him back home to make things right with his master, Philemon. For social justice advocates, the little book of Philemon is always a troubling piece of Scripture.
The simple truth is this. Dead men have no rights. Long before there was an American Christianity that elevated Religious Liberty to unknown heights, there was a Biblical mandate for believers to make things right with those they had wronged. Onesimus had to have struggled with his decision. Doing the right thing is never easy, and personal rights always die a hard death. Onesimus died to himself, and his will and went back home.
Perhaps the freedom Paul discovered in his own imprisonment encouraged Onesimus to obey Paul’s counsel to return home to slavery. If Onesimus had not done so, Paul’s letter to Philemon would not be in our hands today. Obedience has consequences. Disobedience does too. Thanks, Onesimus, for praying and obeying. May your tribe increase.
My friend, Michael Catt, has been led to develop a ministry with a message of personal revival to pastors and people all over America. He has called these gatherings, “ReFresh.” I thought of him and Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia when I read, “The hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Thanks, Michael!
“The saints have been refreshed through you” is a great life message. This statement reveals the impact of Philemon’s life on the early church. It should be the personal passion of every preacher standing in the pulpit delivering a message to the people in the pews. PREACH IT!
“Refreshed” means to give a person the opportunity to cease from labor in order to recover, to collect strength, or to catch their breath. It carries the concept to take a rest, to take ease or give rest. It is the same word used to describe the way of life Jesus had in mind for His disciples, when He said,
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
The paradox of Christianity includes the unique relationship between spiritual freedom and the slavery of the yoke. Those who yield to Jesus as their Savior, also receive Jesus as their Lord. These two concepts are inseparable to salvation.
Note to self: EMBRACE BOTH!
Walking with Jesus is not a free exchange of ideas between two people holding independent lecture series. It is a life of obedience and submission to the will of The Master. Anything less is rebellion, and a spirit of independence will never lead to dependence on Jesus. Refreshing rest is found in His Presence.
Prayer is the pause that refreshes. It is the real thing, and the only thing that keeps a believer walking in a synergistic relationship with The Captain of The Yoke. Many come to Jesus for the rest that is found in the initial forgiveness of sin, but they fail to continue yielding to His will for the rest of their lives.
Restless Christians are prayerless people who proudly gather no moss. Sadly, they never bear fruit. Sound familiar? “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The Lord, Jesus Christ
Philemon discovered a way to refresh the saints of the early church. Michael Catt is calling the contemporary church to rediscover prayer as the missing ingredient in finding this kind of rest. The message of ReFresh is a call to prayer for the next Great Awakening. Join him in it, and let it begin in you.
Rest is only a prayer away on a personal and a corporate level. Those who pray will find they are refreshed when they R.E.S.T. and Release Every Single Thing to Jesus. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!