This Week's Focus Passage

‘Because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through thee.’

Focus Passage: Philemon 7

‘Because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through thee.’

How does one saint refresh the heart of another saint? Paul speaks of this here in his letter to Philemon in verse 7, and again in the 20th verse, when he seems almost to be begging Philemon, Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my heart in Christ. In this last, he has added most importantly the, in Christ. Philemon has refreshed the hearts of the saints, the apostle asserts, and he would have him to refresh his own heart as well. While most believers would readily admit there are frequently times when we could, and would, most assuredly appreciate some sort of refreshing, not many appear to know the wherewithal of accomplishing or obtaining such. The Greek verb anapauo which is, in our text, translated refresh, and is a correct rendering of the original, means “to give intermission from labor, to give rest, refresh (ana, back, pauo, to cause to cease) is translated to refresh in 1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; Philemon 7:20.” Vine’ Dictionary. This would be most agreeable to the usage employed by our military for giving a soldier a respite from the agony and the physical demand of the battlefield, heard for the first time—at least in my own memory—in news reports surrounding the Vietnam War. They called it R & R which stood for Rest and Relaxation. It was indeed a time especially provided for refreshing from the rigors of combat; from the fear of death at any moment; from the sight of friends and foe dying, often in the most horrific manner. This was poignantly illustrated for me by a particular account of the famous, or infamous, battle of Gettysburg during the ‘late war between the states,’ sometimes called the civil war (it was hardly civil) or sometimes, the war of Northern aggression. In one of the many contests for many hills surrounding Gettysburg, there was something of an intermission in the shooting, when a Confederate stood up waving, not a white flag, but his canteen, as he walked several yards among the many bodies lying between the opposing forces in order to give from his vessel to a wounded Union soldier crying out of his thirst. Guns and soldiers remained silent while this Confederate refreshed his enemy. Many cheered from both sides as he walked back to his own lines, and the firing began again shortly thereafter.

A ‘G.I.’—standing, perhaps sarcastically, for ‘government issue’—would necessarily be in the greatest need for R & R after several weeks or a few months on the front lines. The sarcasm evolved from the general view among these G. I.’s that they were “all equally as disposable as helmets, boots, tents, canteens, rifles, jeeps, trucks, and combat aircraft.” We might note that even these items stood in need of periodic maintenance; we could say ‘refreshing.’ Are not believers engaged in battles and warfare? Was Paul not considering Timothy as a soldier of Christ when he charged him in the first letter he wrote to his young colleague,

This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare—1 Timothy 1:18?

And while the weapons of our warfare our not of the flesh, as Paul had written to the church at Corinth, we stand not any less in need of being refreshed; of having our hearts refreshed, one through another.

How may we attempt to refresh one another? How may we succor our brother or sister in the Lord? How may we bring comfort to a suffering child of God? When we call to our minds that perhaps the best-known title of the Holy Spirit is that of Paraclete, which is Comforter, which is the one who comes alongside, we ought to come to attention to the fact that we are indwelt of God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Promise, the Spirit of Adoption. Ought not the people of God, through that indwelling, be able to comfort one another? And about the means whereby to comfort, to refresh one another, is not the primary task of the Holy Spirit to take the things of Christ and to declare them unto His people? Does this not speak of the Word of God? Does not the Holy Spirit speak to us through His Word? Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me, says David in Psalm 23:4. Does he speak of the Word and Spirit as thy rod and staff? This is my comfort, my refreshing, in my affliction; for thy word hath quickened me, revived me, says the psalmist in 119:50. We may, and should, give comfort, refreshing, to others through the word of God. The psalmist cries again in 119:82, Mine eyes fail for thy word, while I say, when wilt thou comfort me? Is not the Word of God the source of comfort bound to Isaiah 40:1 as God commands this comfort be given to His people?

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah’s hand double for all her sins.

Does the apostle Paul not teach us that we have been comforted in order that we may comfort our brethren when they stand in that need; that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, 2 Corinthians 1:4? He speaks to those in Thessalonica of the Lord Jesus Christ coming for His own that they might ever be with the Lord, and concludes, Wherefore comfort one another with these words.—1 Thess. 4:18. John Murray wrote regarding these matters that, ‘We must as Christians be constantly refreshing ourselves at the streams of heavenly and heaven-revealed truth.’ We must feed on the Word of God; we must take in fresh draughts of the Word of God daily; we must make it our constant diet if we are going to be well nourished, and not grow lean. For those of our brothers and sisters who are afflicted, we may safely seek to comfort and refresh them with that very word. May we always have it in plenty in our spiritual knapsack, and at the ready for any found in need, as the body of Christ looks and longs together for that day when the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6 is fulfilled. And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down (be refreshed) with the kid.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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