Paul typically ended a number of his many letters by mentioning the names of specific individuals with greetings from or to them.
In his 2nd letter to his spiritual son (Timothy), Paul sort of took a different approach. Right from chapter 1, he opened up to Timothy about some personal issues and expressed how he felt about some people.
“You know that everyone in the province of Asia, including Phygelus and Hermogenes, has deserted me. May the Lord show mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he cheered me up many times. He was not ashamed that I am in prison, but as soon as he arrived in Rome, he started looking for me until he found me. May the Lord grant him his mercy on that Day! And you know very well how much he did for me in Ephesus.”
2 Timothy 1:15-18 (GNB)
From the tone of Paul’s writing, it is clear that Paul was at a low moment emotionally and was experiencing difficulties. He was in prison and all his friends in the region where he was being held had abandoned him.
Paul specifically mentioned 2 names (Phygelus & Hermogenes) and I believe he did this because he probably had high expectations about them. Unfortunately, they broke Paul’s heart and they did not identify with him in a season of difficulty.
Paul also mentions another name (Onesiphorus) but this time with great fondness. There are lessons to learn from what Onesiphorus did.
1) He cheered Paul up. We don’t know how he did this specifically but he clearly remembered Paul and did things that brought Paul relief in a difficult time.
2) He was not ashamed of Paul’s unpleasant condition. Sometimes it’s easier to identify with people in times of joy. But love must be constant if it is truly love. Even if a brother/sister has fallen on hard times, fallen into sin, or is in a condition that is not pleasant, true love will look past the situation and focus on the brother/sister.
3) He looked for Paul until He found him. How far will you go for love? Expressing love can be truly tough and difficult sometimes. Do we pull back at the first signs of difficulty or do we persist and persevere until we realize the objective of love’s quest?
It’s quite interesting that someone like Paul who appeared to be the perfect picture of strength could be this vulnerable in a time of intense pressure. This shows that even the strongest of us will still need encouragement and support. I have learnt quite a lot from this scripture and I’ve made a commitment to be an Onesiphorus by God’s grace.
This week and beyond, look beyond your own issues and reach out to someone and cheer them up with a refreshing word of encouragement or in any other way that may be impressed upon your heart.
Have a beautiful day.