The world can be rough place. We liken our struggles to living in a jungle, or going rounds in a boxing match, or constantly playing a part on stage. At times the difficulties seem so insurmountable that we have to remind ourselves to breathe. And no matter how independent we say we are, dealing with life is always more difficult when we try going at it alone.
As we look at Paul’s prayer for Philemon, look closely for the characteristics of Philemon’s relationships with others:
I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.
I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.
After praying about the out-workings of his faith, Paul continues with how Philemon demonstrates his love toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints:
For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
Paul commends Philemon for being a person whose presence invites people to rest. The Greek word for refreshed means to cause or permit someone to cease from any movement or labor, in order for them to recover and collect their strength.
The believers who met in Philemon’s house didn’t have to work to earn his love. Philemon’s manner and attitude allowed them to relax and regain strength. The ancient world didn’t really view being a Christ-follower as a good thing, so you can imagine that the first century believers dealt with constant social, business, and family pressures because they chose to trust Jesus for eternal life.
What’s also interesting is that Jesus used the same Greek word when He gave an open offer to the crowd in front of Him:
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.
I’m certain that Philemon was able to generously act this way because he took Jesus up on His offer and found rest in his own relationship with his Savior. As he had experienced rest and refreshment, Philemon was then able to provide a similar environment to others.
We, too, need brothers and sisters in our church families that can provide a safe place for us to rest. We need a place and time to cease activity and gather our strength for the next round that life will throw our way.
I think it is also important that we show love to other believers the same way that Philemon did and provide a place of refreshment. However, we won’t be able to do so until we take Jesus up on His offer to find our rest in Him. So we have a couple of hard questions we need to ask ourselves:
Where do we go when we’re tired and worn down?
Do we escape into a hobby, our phones, TV, food, or something else?
How quickly do we turn to Jesus for rest?
Do we trust that Jesus’ rest will satisfy and refresh us?
Are we willing to offer a place of rest and refreshment to other believers?