What do Stephanas, Fortinatus, Achaicus, Philemon, Onesiphorus, and Sue have in common?
A major theme of the Scriptures that is communicated through the good news of the gospel is that of rest and refreshment. Whether it is the weariness of labor or the fatigue brought on by sin, we are urged to find rest and refreshment. The promise of God is refreshment (Jer. 31:25). The promise of Christ is rest (Matt. 11:28-30). In fact, refreshment is one of the measurable benefits of Christian fellowship (Philem. 1:7, 20).
What refreshes you in the midst of your busy week? Where do you go for rest when your heart and mind are weary? Who would you choose to hang out with when you need to be made fresh again in your faith, love, or obedience?
This topic stumbled into my world this week in the form of the flu. Thankfully, it was the one-day kind. I can’t remember the last day I spent sick at home in bed – all day. I was hurting, without energy, unable to do much at all, and groaning for relief. One friend describes the experience in a sort of biblical way: “kneeling before the great white throne.” I was (and am still) amazed at the refreshment I received from my wife Sue during that miserable 24 hours. It was such that I actually found myself praying for people who have to experience the flu alone—without Sue! I’d wake up to see on the nightstand a glass of water, a glass of Gatorade, a glass of Coke, a cup of tea, a thermometer—knowing that jello, crackers, ice packs, and special sick day DVDs were only a few steps away. Are there any sweeter words to hear when in a vomit-induced coma than, “Poor Donnie, can I get you anything?”
Being sick and feeling like you have been run over by a truck is no fun. There are many analogies in the Scriptures of sickness and weariness describing our spiritual journey. The gospel is refreshment and rest. God’s people are the delivery systems for rest and refreshment into each other’s lives. If you were to take the time and find in the Bible each of the guys whose names are listed in the first sentence above, you may notice an interesting truth that I am trying to learn.
It seems that Paul highlighted these brothers as refreshment-givers because he knew he needed more of it from them. Paul knew he needed refreshment and that the stimulation he needed could not be found in time away from people. The refreshment he needed had to include people, refreshing people! As a matter of fact, he encourages us to honor or acknowledge refreshers in a special way–that’s how important their job is (1 Cor. 16:18).
Let me give you three take aways. First, to answer the question, “What do Stephanas, Fortinatus, Achaicus, Philemon, Onesiphorus, and Sue have in common?”—they are all noted refreshers of people. Second, you are a refresher as well. Look around you and help make someone fresh in the Lord again. Allow your devotion to Christ and his church to energize others in a personal way. Third, you need refreshment. Find a refresher and invite them into your life to help you recover, reinvigorate, and renew your strength. You will find those people in prayer meetings, Care Groups, and placed around your life by our God who gives refreshment.