Refreshing the Hearts of the Saints
Most scholars believe that the book of Philemon was written by the apostle Paul through the inspiration of God, to a Christian named Philemon. Paul was writing to him concerning a runaway slave of his whose name was Onesimus. Paul had met Onesimus while in prison, had converted him, and now he was sending him home, encouraging Philemon to receive him as a brother in Christ. Paul gives several compliments to Philemon throughout the letter, but one of the most noticeable compliments that he gives to him I believe is found in verse seven. “For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” The word refreshed in this verse means to cause one to recover and to collect his strength. The Biblical text is unclear as to what specific act Philemon had done to refresh the brethren, but one thing is clear, he brought joy to a desperate situation and lifted the spirits of those brethren. Can the same be said of Christians today? Do we live every day seeking to refresh our brethren? We should. Every day brethren experience difficulties which deplete them of there strength, both physically and spiritually. They need someone to help them regain their strength so they can carry on through the Christian life. Will you be the one to be there for them? What can we do to help refresh the spirits of brethren? Consider if you will the attitude of Philemon.
To begin with, he was a beloved friend and fellow labor. This can be seen in verse one. The word ‘beloved’ refers to one who is worthy of love. Philemon was not only the kind of who you wanted to love, but he was worthy of love. Why? Perhaps it was because of his desire to work. In the very same verse he is identified as a ‘fellow laborer.’ This word refers to a companion in work. Evidently, when it came to the work of the church, Philemon was one who was willing not only to carry his part of the load, but he was willing to work ‘with’ them. How sweet and refreshing it is when we are struggling and a fellow brother or sister in Christ comes to our rescue. This was the kind of person Philemon was. Perhaps another reason why Philemon was so beloved is because of his love for the brethren. He is described as having love for ‘all’ the saints (vs. 5). The love that Philemon exhibited greatly affected his brethren. It brought them great joy and consolation. The word consolation means to call to one’s side and encourage or comfort. Thus, Philemon’s love brought joy, comfort and encouragement. Love has a compelling nature about itself. When you are loved by others, your desire is to love them. Surely, one of the reasons why Philemon was worthy of love is because he loved his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second, Philemon was faithful. The letter opens with a salutation (vs. 1-3). In verses 4-6, Paul is offering a prayer. Involved in this prayer is a request which can be seen in verse six. Paul prays “that the sharing (communication) of your faith may become effective.” Paul is not addressing the subject of evangelism as some would believe, but rather his prayer is that Philemon would receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ. This would in turn be a very effective example for the Christian community to follow. Where is the faithfulness in this request? Consider verse 21. When Paul made this request, he was confident that Philemon would do exactly what he requested. Why? Philemon was faithful! Oh how refreshing it must have been for the brethren to know that Philemon would always do that which was right.
Third, Philemon was willing to go the extra mile. When Paul wrote to Philemon, requesting that he receive Onesimus, he was confident that Philemon would not only receive him, but that he would do much more. “I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” (vs. 20) If Paul was aware of this fact, then certainly those who were constantly around Philemon were. To know that he was willing to go above and beyond the call of duty must have been a tremendous strength for them.
What motivated Philemon to refresh the hearts of the saints? It was his faith toward the Lord Jesus (vs. 5). When our faith is what it ought to be, we to will be those who refresh the hearts of the saints.
Are we the kind of people who seek to refresh the hearts of those who are in a weakened condition? We should be and we can be if we will have the proper faith, love the brethren, be faithful and have a willingness to go the extra mile.