Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Philemon

  |   Words of Grace

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 7


We come now to my ‘life verse’.  All of God’s Word should be special to us, but of course we are going to have ‘favorite’ verses, or verses or portions of Scripture that have been especially close to our hearts throughout our Christian experience. Maybe there was a difficult time that you were going through and someone shared a particular verse to you; or you were simply reading the Word during that difficult time, and the Lord just simply spoke peace, encouragement, life, or maybe He gave you the exact answer you needed when you read that verse or verses.  I’m not necessarily talking about a ‘parting of the Red Sea’, or the ‘Heavens opened up and the Lord audibly spoke to you through that verse’ kind of experience, but just that simple and gentle assurance in your heart that the Lord had just spoken to you through His Word.


I had such an experience while flying home from my very first mission trip to the Dominican Republic around 1986 or so.  I had taken a bunch of high school, college students and young adults and we were working in a small and dusty village – Villa Pondo (if I remember correctly) on the DR and Haitian border.  We were helping to build a church and sharing with the children (and anyone else who would listen) as we provided a Vacation Bible School for them.  It was tremendously hard work and very wearing on all of us, but it was “successful” and life changing for everyone that went.  I was just a young youth pastor – never having done anything like this before – never having the responsibility of looking out for everyone – but I found that the Lord raised me up for the occasion, and we were all blessed accordingly.


So, as we were flying home (this was before iPads, iPods, laptops!) I opened my Bible and started to read.  I came to the short Letter to Philemon, which was written by Paul, asking Philemon – who was a Christian businessman in Philippi – to forgive and accept back Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus – who providentially bumped into Paul in Rome a thousand miles away and who then came to faith. It’s an amazing little Letter on forgiveness and I encourage you to read it as soon as you can.


Anyway, I thought “I don’t know much about this little Letter”, so I began to read it, and when I came to this seventh verse “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people”, I was lovingly hit with a ton of bricks as the Lord whispered to me (in my own voice, but I knew it was Him!), “Randy, I want you to refresh the hearts of the saints” (that’s what the version I was reading at the time said: “Saints”, instead of “the Lord’s people”, which is the same thing).


I believe that my motivational/spiritual gift has been encouraging with a good dose of teaching and mercy, so that verse really rang deep in my heart.  I sensed that the Lord wanted me, in whatever situation I was in, whether it was teaching the high school students (at the time), leading a group on a missions trip, pastoring a church, reading to the first graders at the local elementary school, chatting with the cashier at Publix, or posting anything on Facebook, to be sensitive to those I was encountering and look for opportunities to ‘refresh their hearts’.


Now, this isn’t just to be so for me.  This is God’s Word written to God’s people, so even though we all have different personalities and differing interpersonal gifts given to us by the Lord, He wants all of us to be encouraging one another, loving one another, helping one another, praying for one another, giving to one another, correcting one another, and on and on and on the ‘one anothers’ go!


When Paul was writing to Philemon about the return of his runaway slave Onesimus, Paul spent the first three quarters of the Letter commending Philemon for what a godly man he was.  Some might think that Paul was “buttering him up” for this big request of forgiving his slave, but what Paul was really doing was simply reminding Philemon what was true about himself since the Lord had saved and spiritually transformed him.


So, let’s look at this verse a bit closer and see what Paul is saying about Philemon that you and I can apply to our own lives: “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people”.  Philemon had traveled with Paul in the past on some of Paul’s earlier missionary trips, so Paul is well aware of the kindness and love that Philemon has shown to Paul.  Knowing that he has been loved and cared for by a Christian brother like Philemon brings Paul great joy and encouragement.


Doesn’t it bring you great joy and encouragement when you know that someone – a brother or sister in Christ – sincerely loves you and desires to be with you, or desires to help you in different aspects of your life?  I know that it brings great joy and encouragement to me when people from the church sincerely say that they regularly pray for me – and I need it!  And Paul’s great joy and encouragement is multiplied because Philemon’s sincere love for people refreshes their hearts.


There are way too many people in this world who are exhausting, emotionally draining, discouraging, and negative, and their constant complaining on Facebook or other social media sources only brings people down and encourages people to be cranky, grumpy, and generally bad-tempered.  Don’t believe me?  Obviously you didn’t read 75% of the Facebook posts during this past election – and many are still at it!


I don’t want to be one of those people who are tearing down.  I don’t think the Lord wants us to be those kinds of people who are always tearing down.  The Lord wants us to be realistic, and to pursue and proclaim the truth that the Lord offers and provides answers – hope – faith – contentment – peace to those who trust in Christ.  I want to be one of those people that after you read my post (not that everything has to be funny, silly, sugar-coated with sappy clichés and antidotes), or hear me preach, or just spend ten minutes with me, you will walk away and say, “Hmm, for some reason I feel refreshed – encouraged”.


This verse is so important to me that we made it the ‘foundation’ of the mission statement of our church – Grace Christian Fellowship: “Repurposing lives by sharing God’s refreshing grace”.


And that’s what Paul found in Philemon, and I believe the Lord wants for you and me as His children as well.  Let’s be the people who project hope, because I believe the future belongs to those who project hope.  Not wishful thinking, but as I wrote about a few days ago:  Hope is the confident expectation that what the Lord has promised will come to fruition.  So tomorrow, do your best by God’s grace and Spirit, to refresh one of the saints, or anyone for that matter!