Summary: To cause one to breathe more easily; to encourage, cheer up, and relieve by the force of one’s godly personality.
JACKIE ROBINSON was the first African American to play baseball in the major leagues. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced hostile crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to jeer him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the crowd booed. Then, without saying a word, shortstop Pee Wee Reese went over and stood next to Jackie. He put his arm around him and faced the crowd. Suddenly the fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
Pee Wee Reese had a forerunner in the person of Onesiphorus. He stood by the apostle Paul, who was in prsion, facing execution when these words to Timothy were penned.
Everyone had deserted Paul--everyone, that is, except Onesiphorus. During those dark days of loneliness, discomfort, and uncertainty, the Lord provided for Paul a measure of refreshment through a man whose name is obscure to most of us. Onesiphorus means "profit-bringer." And indeed that is what he was to Paul.
Of all the definitions of friendship, none can surpass that given in II Timothy 1:16-18. In this brief passage, Paul says several things about his friend.
1. He had a genuine concern (16b and 18b). With Onesiphorus, it was more than just talk. Its common for people to say to someone in need, "Now if there is anything I can do, just call." Folks have good intentions but don’t often follow up on them. Not so with Onesiphorus. He saw Paul’s need and acted upon it without being asked.
2. He risked being ridiculed (16c). He stepped outside of his comfort zone and refused to be ashamed of Paul’s chains. He didn’t care what other people thought.
3. He was persistent in his task (17). Someone else might have said, "If I have some free time while in Rome, I might try to contact Paul." On the contrary, when Onesiphorus was in Rome, we are told that he "searched hard for Paul until he found him. That’s what true friends do. Thy don’t quit; they persist. They keep at it until friendship is honored.
4. He was hitting the spot. Have you ever noticed tha often it is the timing of a thoughtful gesture that seems to hit the spot and makes a difference in someone’s life? Paul states that Onesiphorus "often refreshed him." That breeze of fresh air often feels best when you are hot and stuffy. A glass of cold water is best when you’re really thirsty. Example: the next time someone asks you to remember them in prayer, stop right where you are and lift them to the Lord. And by your act and faith you will bring that needed "refreshment."
When Paul states that Onesiphorus refreshed him, he is saying a great deal. J.B. Phillips puts it this way: "Many times did that man put fresh heart into me." In short, it may be said that Onesiphorus was devoted to keeping Paul’s spirits high.
Think of a hot, stuffy room. Seeking relief, someone opens a window and allows a cool fresh breeze to flow into the sweltering atmosphere. The fresh air gives a new surge of strength and energy to everyone present. This, my friends, is what refreshment is all about.
The Scriptures speak most eloquently about spiritual refreshment:
Proverbs 11:25: "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."
Romans 15:31,32: "Pray...that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed."
I Corinthians 16:17,18: "I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For thy refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition."
Would you like to be known as a refreshing person? What a compliment that would be. Perhaps you know someone like this--someone who refreshes you from time to time. They are like a breath of fresh air. Being in their presence revives your soul; you always feel better after having spent time with them.
Just exactly how Onesiphorus carried out this bracing ministry is not stated, but we can speculate.
1. Perhaps it was just the fact that he showed up. He didn’t really have to say anything--just be there.
2. It could have been the power of his personality--that he was positive, optimistic, full of faith.
3. Then again, it might have been that he raised Paul’s spirits by bringing him good news regarding the churches, or by reminding him of God’s promises, or by having prayer with him.
4. It may have been that he simply provided some practical needs for Paul--food, water, literature.
Whatever the case, this was one time when name and nature coincided. Onesiphorus was very "profitable" for Paul.