“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he hath oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.” (2 Tim. 1:16)
Some churches have separate ministers of music, finances, counseling, children and youth, as well as ministers of preaching and teaching. If they had made such distinctions in the early church, dear Onesiphorus would have been designated “Minister of Refreshment.” You ladies who do a lion’s share of the food preparation for church dinners might think you would be more deserving of this title, but when Paul talks about being refreshed, it goes all the way to the soul. “For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (Philemon 7).
Before we look more closely at our text, I want to share something about this ministry that spoke personally to me. We read in 1 Samuel 16:23 that King Saul’s soul was refreshed when young David played on his harp. So much so that an “evil spirit” that vexed him was temporarily driven away. Only Holy Spirit anointed music can do such things in the lives of listeners, and those of us who seek to share our faith through the ministry of music should make this our highest priority when we prepare to minister.
Now, to go back to our text, what one quality did Paul attribute to his friend Onesiphorus that made him a chief “refresher” in his sight? The fact that Onesiphorus was not ashamed of his chain. To have someone around who was not ashamed of what others might see as a blight on his character—his chain—meant everything to Paul. It would have been easy to come to the conclusion that he was suffering for a crime, not a cause, which tells us things are not always the way they look.
All of us have something in our lives that may be intolerable to someone else, a chain, if your will. You and I may be able to spot a flaw, even a sin, in the life of a brother or sister, but we are not privy to every motive. Truth be known, we all tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. This is not to say that we should never make judgment against sin; we should, every time. But to characterize someone simply by that flaw or sin alone would have been like characterizing Paul simply as a jailbird. In Onesiphorus’ case, he was glad to claim the old Apostle as his friend…chain and all. And that was refreshing to Paul.
Finally, I’m glad to tell you, ladies, even though we may not qualify for the office of a pastor, the “ministry of refreshment” is an equal opportunity employment. You and I are free to bring light to a dark place, life to a fainting heart, confidence to a hesitant spirit, the warmth of a smile to a frozen frown, a word of cheer to a mournful moment, and the hope of Heaven to a candidate for hell. I challenge you to step up and apply for the job. As they say, the pay may not be great, but the rewards are out of this world!