Some of the last recorded words by Paul include a greeting to the household of Onesiphorus, the faithful friend who looked until he found Paul in Rome.
Onesiphorus is only mentioned in Paul’s 2nd letter to his young friend, Timothy… who was pastoring the church in Ephesus. It would be Paul’s final letter, written sometime in 66 or 67AD. Rome had burned in a great fire just a couple years before, and Emperor Nero had blamed the Christians for the fire in order to avoid the blame Roman citizens wanted to put on him. As a result, believers in Rome were subjected to terrible persecution. Some were torn apart by wild animals, others were burned alive, and others were simply killed. But ALL were persecuted. Paul, who had appealed his case for Christ before the Emperor who preceded Nero, sometime before the great fire of Rome, was now – once again – imprisoned for his faith. He was certain he was simply being held this time until they actually killed him. He had never felt more isolated; in fact, Paul told Timothy “everyone in the province of Asia (present-day western Turkey) has deserted me” (2Tim. 1:15).
Paul had invested much of his ministry – even his life and self – into that part of the world. Ephesus had been his home for 2 years, longer than he’d stayed anywhere else in his ministry. Paul had led others to Jesus there. He had made disciples there. He had started churches there. He had taught in public places there, and had cast out demons there, and had cured illness there. Yet, now, it seemed he had been all but forgotten… even there.
But, Onesiphorus had not forgotten Paul. In fact, he made the 800-mile-journey from Ephesus to Rome, and searched hard until he found the imprisoned Paul. Such a journey was not without risk; Nero’s persecution of the church in Rome had not yet subsided. But, that did not deter Onesiphorus. He did not mind being associated with a condemned man in chains.
Discipleship involves our willingness to respond to others who need help as we cross their paths… as we are going. But, Onesiphorus even went a step further. He went out of his way to help.
Do you consider yourself a helpful person?
Do you opportunities to help come because others ask for help or because you seek out opportunities to help?
Ask God to help make you more aware of the needs around you each day.
* Once you start looking for opportunities to help, you’ll find them everywhere!
When Paul described his loyal friend, he described him as:
1) one who was a constant source of refreshment. Maybe with food, supplies, or money. Maybe with physical, emotional, and spiritual support.
2) one who was not ashamed of Paul’s troubles. Paul had some fair-weather friends who had deserted him. But, risked harm to himself and his family to be a friend to Paul.
3) one who helped Paul minister in Ephesus “in many ways”.
What kind of friend are you? Fair-weather or foul-weather?
Onesiphorus had been Paul’s faithful friend in Ephesus; now he was a loyal companion in Rome. Having been thus comforted, Paul asked God’s blessing on Onesiphorus.
Onesiphorus lived up to his name, which means “Bringing Profit”.
Who, in your circle of influence, are you being a great encouragement to? You’d be surprised how much it appreciated… and how much it might be needed!
You can read the few brief mentions of Onesiphorus in 2Timothy 1:16-18; 4:19.