“You’re not going through this alone, mate”
I’ve recorded on this blog before about my friend who said these words to me when I needed them most. When fear, doubt, depression, and hopelessness had settled into my heart and I felt they were never moving out, this brother in Christ looked me in the eye and said those words.
As I type them, I can still hear his English accent and only Heaven knows the depth of my gratitude for him.
Have you been in a low place and had someone refuse to let you walk alone? Individuals who were like the physical presence of Jesus to you? Have you been that person for someone else?
If so, then you should really identify with where we are in our study of 2 Timothy: 2 Timothy 1:15-18.
15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.2 Timothy 1:15-18
New International Version
The “province of Asia” was the area of the Roman empire containing Lydia, Mysia, Caria, and Phrygia. The seven churches of Revelation 1-3 are in this region. It includes Ephesus, the capital of the region. It’s difficult to determine exactly how “everyone in the province…has deserted” Paul. While it’s possible Paul is referring to physical abandonment, the context of the opening chapter of 2 Timothy appears to lead in another direction.
The congregations scattered across Asia had abandoned the Gospel Paul proclaimed. Whether it was because Paul’s imprisonment frightened them or they left for theological reasons isn’t clear from the text.
But we do know it seems reasonable for the Christians in Asia to have stood by Paul. After all, they were converts to faith in Jesus because of his missionary endeavors. And while we may not know who Phygelus and Hermogenes are, it is very likely they were leaders in a congregation who would have led the departure from Paul and, by extension, from Christ.
When Paul needed his spiritual family the most, they did not come to his aid or defense. It was not a great time to be Paul: abandoned, imprisoned, at the end of life, passing on the torch to someone who wasn’t ready (Timothy), and lonely.
Yet, there is Onesiphorus. Instead of the desertion, Onesiphorus searched for Paul and found him. How warm Paul’s heart must have felt at the thought—and sight!—of Onesiphorus. So much so, he prays for God’s blessings on him for his generosity of his love and loyalty.
There are two applications available in these verses.
One is from Paul’s perspective. When we feel so alone and defeated, look for the Onesiphoruses the Lord will send to us. They will kick down doors and minister to us. They will look us in the eyes and declare, “you’re not alone”. They will love us and remain loyal to us while we pass through the darkest valleys. Thank the Lord for the Onesiphoruses in our lives. Pray His blessings on them. Tell them of your appreciation.
The second application is from the perspective of Onesiphorus. Think about it: we have no other record of this man’s existence. No proof of what he did or how he contributed to his society. We don’t know his family’s name or even how old he was at this point. For that matter, we don’t even know if he was alive or dead when Paul was penning the words!
But his actions were recorded in Holy Scripture. His love is bound in the pages of Scripture. His example guides us in how we should act towards others.
We can be the Onesiphorus to a brother or sister going through a dark valley. We can find them and serve them. We can love them unconditionally and be there for them. We can look them in the eyes and say, “You’re not alone”.
Oh dear one, sometimes you’ll be Paul and feel all alone. Have faith. “Onesiphorus” is coming. At other times, you’ll have a “Paul” in your life that you will search to find and love. In their moment of pain, you will be used in powerful ways to be a salve to their soul. Your name and your story will be written on the pages of their lives.
What a privilege to be a Paul and receive the love of an Onesiphorus! What a privilege to be an Onesiphorus and give love to the Paul who needs us.