Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Love Serves

In today's message we are going to hear of how Apostle Paul intentionally, on the basis of love, motivated Philemon to accept the return of Onesimus, his former slave, by extending love towards him. Paul first showed appreciation for the work of Christ in the heart of Philemon and of how through the life of Philemon many including himself had been refreshed/encouraged in the Lord. They had been strengthened, encouraged and inspired. Here is the pertinent verse which points to how Philemon, in whom the Spirit of love dwelt, had encouraged others in various ways....

7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Paul, recognizing that with his apostolic authority he could have commanded Philemon to accept his former and now converted slave back to himself (Philemon) but he did not do so, but he rather appealed on the basis of love. That is why Paul had this request of Philemon: 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Paul is wanting Philemon to take back his slave who had not only stolen from his master, but had run away as well. This letter of one chapter is a marvelous testimony of how Paul, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit of love, graciously laid the love of God before Philemon in the matter of taking his former slave back to himself. He acknowledged and celebrated first of all the reality of who Philemon was in Jesus Christ, pointing out how he had encouraged/refreshed others in the past. Paul was now, on the basis of love, calling Philemon to demonstrate one more time of who He was in Jesus Christ by extending love, forgiveness and reconciliation to Onesimus. Here is the brief letter that was written to Philemon.

KJV Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

Paul shares first of all of how he prays for Philemon, of how he has heard of his love and faith which he has for both the Lord and His people and then he states the point of his prayer: The the sharing of Philemon's faith would be effectual because of the living presence of Jesus Christ in him, so that through it, Christ was being poured out of the life of Philemon, namely the love of Christ for the souls of humanity. Let us not miss this first very significant thing that Paul does: He reminds Philemon as to who he is in the person of Jesus Christ, of how many have been encouraged in Jesus Christ through his living out of that reality and he wants to stir up that gift which is in Philemon through encouragement. He does this purposefully so that when he asks Philemon to take back his slave, the love that is in the heart of Philemon will be poured out towards Onesimus.

8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

Paul first states that I could command that you take Onesimus back, but I will not do so. For love's sake, the love that is in your heart, I appeal to you. He pleads for his son, as he calls him, for evidently Onesimus had been converted through Paul's ministry. He does not steer away from pointing out that Onesimus had been unprofitable to his master in stealing from him, but he points out that he is now changed and he is a different man, for he is now a Christ follower. Paul tells Philemon to take him back as if you were receiving me, even though he could have been of much benefit to me, he is to come back to you. Again in verse 14 he appeals to the heart of love that dwells in Philemon, so that Philemon would act willingly and not because Paul was forcing the situation. In verse 15 Paul speculates that perhaps the reason he was gone from his master for a season was so that he could be converted...and now he would be coming back not so much as a servant, but as a brother both to Paul and to Philemon......

17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

He then ratchets up his appeal to an even higher plateau, saying that "If you count me as a partner, receive him as if I was coming back, if he has wronged you, or owes you anything, I will be good for it. And then, maybe with a little laugh, Paul says, "don't forget that you owe me even your own self," a part which I am not quite sure why he said it. But he did say it, but also he did not exercise that right that he had. He was appealing on the basis of love, so that love would be the impetus for Philemon to take Onesimus back to himself. He then gave to Philemon the bottom line, so to speak, when he made this appeal.

20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

He is saying, "yield to love's appeal to your heart of love, for when I see you acting out of love, I am encouraged, I am refreshed and I am inspired myself." But wait, Paul not only asks this of him, but he does it with confidence that Philemon will not only receive his former slave back, but he will go beyond just taking him back. Paul in speaking higher of Philemon than just the letter of the request is touching the love that lies in the bosom of all believers in whom the capacity to love is boundless. I could write volumes on these two verses, but instead of doing that I am going to place some illustrations of situation in which I have seen this happen in real life. But before that, let us note the humility of Paul towards himself in that he has not talked much about his need to this time, and so in closing he makes mention that he needs a place to sleep at night, and then closes by asking them to greet some of their brothers in the Lord. Paul was always looking out for the needs, spiritual needs, before he talked about his own needs. That is something really worth noting and remembering.

22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Let us think about this now...and consider some applications to our own lives. My call into the ministry was on the basis of love, and not force. God simply pointed out to me of how He had blessed me so much in my life and on the basis of that asked me to leave the west and move to the midwest to serve this congregation. That is what Paul is doing with Philemon, and that is what the Lord does in us. When he wants us to serve Him in a different way, He calls us on the basis of love and mercy, for He knows that only an inner calling by Him will enable us to endure that difficulties that come in following Him as He leads us.

For most of us, putting the principles into practice that Our Lord and Apostle Paul model, is not usually such life changing happenings, but it is in the everyday interactions of life with others. It is in being motivated and the motivating of others. In a very practical way, we are able to nurture and foster encouragement in other's lives. One simple but effective way to do this is to practice the following exercise at home. Take five of the following sentences, fill the blank in and trade it with your spouse, brother, sister, mother, father and so on. Then do that which you know will refresh/encourage the other.

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

I am refreshed/receive encouragement when you _________________________________

Allow me to give you and example to help you to see how this could work.

A few weeks ago I was in the church office with no one else in the building when one of the ladies of the congregation came in and went into the kitchen. After awhile I began to smell some hamburger being cooked so being curious I went to investigate what was going on. I went into the kitchen, saw that hamburger was being browned, had some small talk with her and returned to my office. A little while later I observed another one of the ladies drive up to the church and go behind it towards the kitchen door. At the same time the first lady who had been in the kitchen went out the front door of the church, and I noticed that it seemed like she was trying to leave the church without the lady in the car that had just driven up seeing her. I was kind of puzzled but then the lady who had driven up came into my office, kind of crying and asking "where did she go?" I said, she drove off....

Later I found out that the first lady had been at the second lady's house, had noticed that the second lady seemed stressed out and had quietly slipped away to the church kitchen to help the second lady out with her stress load by browning the hamburger. Needless to say, the second lady was refreshed in the Lord, the first lady was refreshed in the Lord and I as well was refreshed in the Lord.

Would the care note not have been filled out like this by the second lady?

I feel refreshed/encouraged when someone notices my stress and helps relieve some of it through browning the hamburger.

May we be encouragers and refreshers as we journey towards heaven!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 04 Sep 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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