For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother,
because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
He’s got one of the shortest books of the Bible named after him, but even Paul’s letter has more to do with Onesimus than him. I’m talking about Philemon, someone heaven knows, and we should know as well. The substance of the letter is basically a plea to embrace someone (Onesimus) formerly useless and unprofitable in gospel ministry and receive him on account of Paul’s personal investment. Paul knew a thing or two about learning to embrace folks formerly useless. Traveling with him at the time was John Mark, the central fella in the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. At the time of the Jerusalem Council, Paul say John Mark as useless to the gospel mission, but some time between then and this letter to Philemon, he had learned to receive him as a co-laborer and partner. Now, Paul is encouraging Philemon to do the same with Onesimus.
We don’t know too much about Philemon, but we learn about him from Paul is striking. Paul says “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you”. Later in the letter, Paul himself requests that Philemon would “refresh my heart in Christ” (20). Sometimes you encounter a Christian, and they can feel like they dumped a wagon of anxiety, stress, worry, fear, and sadness. It is not that they are experiencing the worst possible life, but they want you to feel like they are. Then you can encounter Christians who are facing incredible trials, difficulties, and adversities, and they have the glow of heaven about them. It is not superficial giddiness but a profound confidence, abiding contentment, and enduring peace flowing from the realized promises of God.
You know what I’m talking about. The Philemons’ are those who, after spending five minutes with them, make you want to love Jesus more, know God better, and live for the glory of God with greater passion. They not only bring a word in season, but they bring comfort to the afflicted, hope to the discouraged, and joy to the downcast. They are the cup of cold water that refreshes the barren soul, a refuge for the weary where words are not necessary. They are the ones you turn to when you need a hand, a prayer, a promise from Scripture as a means of perseverance in the journey gets hard, the valley gets low, and the light grows dim.
The hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. If there was only one person and one comment that could be made about you and me, could it be any more significant? The saints knew of Philemon’s refreshment, and heaven knows as well. May God raise up an army of Philemons in the church today who, filled with the Spirit of God, serve as agents of refreshment to the body of Christ!