Monday, December 15, 2008


Philemon 1 How To Be A Refreshing Person


There are a couple of interesting words here in verse 7

7 For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

But note the KJV translation:

7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

How did we move from heart to bowels?

Do you often tell people how refreshed you are in your bowels?

It has a little to do with the word that is translated here as bowels.. σπλαγχνα

It is properly translated Bowels elsewhere. Speaking of Judas going out and hanging himself, In Acts Peter reminds us that when Judas was cut down…in Acts 1: 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages; and falling headfirst, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out.

But elsewhere the same term is used of your emotions being deeply moved within.

Luke 1: 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,

2 Corinthains 7: 15 And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.

Phil 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,

Philemon 12 I am sending him—a part of myself—back to you.

Or.. receive my bowels.. well that might not be such a good idea!

Phm 1:20 Yes, brother, may I have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.

… I promise you Paul was not asking for his bowles to be refreshed.

Our concept of affections, love and mercy and compassion we usually associate with our hearts.

Its because this is the spot that seems to hurt when we are most emotionally moved. In other cultures they locate it around their stomach.

The PNGers locate it around the Bel…(pidgin English for Belly).

The Jews in the old testament located the seat of the emotions around the reins.. the reins.. the kidney area.

Paul is asking that his emotions be..refreshed.

The other key word here is refreshed. Αναπαυσον to repose or take rest.

Have you ever met someone who immediately refreshed you.

Our dear former pastor from this church Neville Abrahams was like that for me. Since we met Neville a few years ago in Brisbane at the Brisbane Tabernacle, Neville has been a refreshing person to me. He has run g about every second month, with his deep baritone voice , “how are things in the nether region” Newcastle being below Brisbane on the map. His last phone call just a couple of weeks ago was about handling the “fish heads.” (the official heads of our Union of churches).

He always refreshed me. Perhaps there was a teacher or a pastor or a friend who has always been a breath of fresh air to you. There was a teacher I grew up with many eyars ago, never having formal teaching credentials he was by far the best teacher I had ever seen. A kid would p-lay up inhis class, and lovingly he would put his arm around the kids shoulder and thank him genuinely for all the good things he ahd done of recent days. The kid would be overwhelmed with his kindness love and affirmation, that he would never never act up in Peggles class ever again! Amazing!

How can you be a person who refreshes others?

Paul continues his affirmation of Philemon by acknowledging that "the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother" (v. 7). He is letting his friend know that he enjoys his company and finds it, in his own words, "refreshing."

There are some people you meet who are a truly refreshing breath upon your life.

Paul spoke of how he was refreshed through Philemon’s faith.

Paul's encouragement of Philemon motivated him to be proactive in his relationships with others. Those who are in meaningful relationships share what is important to them, and Paul's assumption was that Philemon would be doing just that.

So often in relationships we like to be the receptors rather than the initiators. We get lazy on it, or we allow our own retiring personalities to overwhelm us. Would you believe I am one of the shy retiring types?

Paul is challenging his friend Philemon to become the initiator in relationships. He knows that if Philemon is aware of "every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus," that will catapult him toward a changed way of relating to others. As a result, their lives will be changed as well. Encouragement and refreshing is such a wonderful thing in relationships. Your encouragement of others motivates them to try harder and do what they are capable of doing.

How would you feel if you received a letter today that said, "We have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you"? How would that word of affirmation feel if it were directed at you?

Conversely, how would you feel if you received a letter that was unjustly caustic and critical? Which one would motivate you to be a better and more productive person?

Appreciation is missing in many relationships, causing discouragement, misunderstandings, and strained friendships.

But how can you and I be those sort of people who refresh others. How can we have an impact into others lives that is genuine and real and lasting?

1. It begins with a person’s relationship with Christ

Paul continues to challenge Philemon to be proactive in order to "have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (v. 6 NIV). He wants Philemon to know the joy and peace that come from being related to Christ. In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul tells Philemon and the other Christians in Colosse about his heart's desire: “That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

All the riches, complete understanding, knowledge of the mystery, and all the treasures--only an heir has access to these things. And these are what God wants us to share with the world.

Much is under the surface of this statement in the opening paragraph of affirmation in Paul's letter to Philemon. Paul was anticipating asking Philemon to receive Onesimus later on in the letter. He was keenly aware that if Philemon possessed the "full assurance of understanding," he would have the inward spiritual resources that would make him a refreshing person. He would be wanting and able to forgive and accept his runaway former servant. This phrase of the letter is filled with anticipation that Philemon will do the right thing.

The vertical relationship with the Lord must be in palce first, it then frees us up to share a loving horizontal relationship with others.

Was this not what the Lord implied in Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important commandment. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

2. It continues with valuing of relationships with others

In 1981 Daniel Yankovich wrote a sociological study of the 70’s entitled “searching for self-fulfilment in a world turned upside down.”

rather than operating on the principle that we are here to serve and even sacrifice for others, as Americans for the most part really had done previously. He found that by the late 1970s, 72 percent of Americans spent much time thinking about themselves and their inner lives. So pervash was this change that as early as 1976 Torn Wolfe tagged the 70s as the “Me Decade” and compared it to a third religious awakening.

Shouldn’t thinking about ourselves make us happy? If we redirect our energy to gratifying even our tiniest desires, shouldn’t we be satisfied with life? Self-absorption fails on the personal level, and it fails in the area of our relationships with other people too.

In 1978 Margaret Halsey, a columnist who frequently writes for Newsweek referred to Wolfe’s description of the ‘70s as the “me” generation. Highlighting the belief then rampant that “inside every human being, however unprepossessing, there is a glorious, talented and overwhelmingly attractive personality [that] will be revealed in all its splendor if the individual just forgets about courtesy, cooperativeness and consideration for others and proceeds to do exactly what he or she feels like doing.”

The problem, as Halsey pointed out, is not that there are not attractive characteristics in most people, but that human nature consists even more basically of “a mess of unruly primitive elements” that spoil the self-discovery.

Charles Reich in his best-selling book The Greening of America wrote,

Modern living has obliterated place, locality and neighborhood, and given us the anonymous separateness of our existence. The family, the most basic social system, has been ruthlessly stripped to its functional essentials. Friendship has been coated over with a layer of impenetrable artificiality as men strive to live roles designed for them. Protocol, competition, hostility and fear have replaced the warmth of the circle of affection which might sustain man against a hostile environment. America [has become) one vast, terrifying anti-community!

Are our churches exempt? Sometimes perhaps, but not everywhere and not always. Michael Scott Horton has written,

Our churches are one of the last bastions of community, and yet, they do not escape individualism. - - . Many of us drive to church, listen to the sermon, say “hello” to our circle of friends, and return home without ever having really experienced community.

Brethren it should not be this way!

3. Refreshing is conveyed by Encouraging Words

As he continues to write, Paul warmly states, "For we have great joy and consolation in your love" (v. 7). Philemon has evidently shown great kindness and friendship to him, and Paul is not ashamed to talk about it.

Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands is the former home of the late, great Scottish-American industrialist and steel manufacturer Andrew Carnegie. Charles Schwab is associated with his name.

Charles Schwab worked for the multimillionaire Carnegie. He became the first man to earn a one-million-dollar salary--an astronomical amount at the turn of the century. One might be quick to assume that he knew more about the manufacturing of steel than anyone else in the world. Wrong! In fact, by his own admission there were many others with far greater technical know-how than his.

Why, then, would Andrew Carnegie pay Charles Schwab a million dollars a year? Schwab was paid such a handsome amount primarily because of his ability to motivate others into productive work habits and relationships.

Charles Schwab put his secret in his own words:

I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among men the greatest asset I possess. And the way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of men as criticism from their superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a man incentive to work. So, I am anxious to find praise but loathe to find fault.

Charles Schwab let others know what he liked about them and then positively motivated them to build the most successful industry in the entire world.

Many centuries before Schwab helped Carnegie build his financial dynasty by encouraging others, Paul used the same technique in this piece of correspondence to his friend Philemon. And it still works today.

4. Refreshing is conveyed by Affirming Words

Affirmation is essential to positive relationships. Paul recognizes this, and his letter to Philemon begins with these supportive words: "I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers" (v. 4).

Cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving will draw us nearer to God's heart and eclipse negative attitudes and feelings more quickly than almost anything else.

Hearing of someone's thankfulness for you or for something you do gives a marvellous boost to the relationship. There's nothing you won't do for the person who is genuinely thankful for you.

When you hear someone pray, "I thank You for _____, and for their willingness to experience discomfort to reach out to others." It can’t help but lift you and refresh you. Likewise it builds your relationship with the other person.

Paul was aware of the power of communion with God, and he knew the encouragement it would be to Philemon to know that he was regularly in Paul's prayers.

How do you feel when someone says she is praying for you? If you ask for prayers, you can hope that the person will do it. But what if a friend sees you and out of the blue says, "I always thank God as I remember you in my prayers"? You know that person is praying for you. What a lift it gives! And what a difference it makes in the relationship and in your feelings toward her!

Paul didn't shrink back from letting his friend know it.

A simple compliment can make someone's whole day and boost the person's self-esteem. It can make your employees more productive in the office, your family more respectful and loving around the house, and your friends enjoy your company and look forward to being with you.

Consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has dominated world headlines for more than four decades. There was a standoff for years.

Mutual affirmation opened the door for the unprecedented peace accord signed in 1994. The Israeli leadership showed sympathy toward the Palestinians' plight. They recognized the Palestinians' right to individual dignity and some type of self-rule. And they acknowledged the tragedies of the massacres of villages like Deir Yassin where 250 women, children, and old men lost their lives in April 1948.

The Palestinian leadership recognized Israel's right to exist within safe and secure boundaries, genuinely retracting earlier statements about driving the Israelis into the sea. They acknowledged the modern Jewish struggle and the atrocities that took the lives of their fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters in such places as Dachau and Treblinka. In short, they simply spoke some words of affirmation.

Perhaps this sounds a bit simplistic. But my point is, affirming someone else has an incredibly disarming effect and can become the launchpad for positive and fruitful relationships.

There is little hope for successful negotiation in any relationship that is characterized by heavy-handedness and a lack of charity. As premier of the Soviet Union in the late fifties and early sixties, Nikita Khrushchev did not get very far in his relationship with the United States with the comment, "We will bury you."

Affirming Words Must be genuine verse 5

Affirmation must be genuine to be effective.

Many secular volumes dealing with relationships within the marketplace are built on manipulation and are often dishonest in their approach to gain leverage over others. But these methods have no place in our relationships because we owe it to our fellow human beings to treat them with dignity and respect. Manipulative methods usually backfire anyway because most people can see through them. Make sure the pat on the back you give is unfeigned. The book of Proverbs confirms, "As cold water to a weary soul,/ So is good news from a far country" (25:25).

Affirming Words Must Be Specific 5

Paul's words are not empty flattery. Philemon knew of Paul's sincerity because he was specific in his praise: "Hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints" (v. 5).

Mark Twain, who left us volumes of quotes and quips, was never more on target than when he said, "I can live for two months on one good compliment!"

Affirming Words Must Be Loving

Genuine faith will prove itself with loving actions, and love is the glue that holds together all permanent relationships. People are able to truly love others because they have come know how much God loves them.

As a former idol-worshiping pagan, Philemon was keenly aware of the dramatic difference that God had made in his life through Christ. His gratitude and Spirit-filled life showed themselves in a gracious and kind nature that was obvious to everyone, and news of his good reputation had made it back to Paul.

Philemon's love for others was a result of his relationship with God. First John 4:7 tells us: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."

The Lord Jesus refreshed others in a wonderful way: 

One day in the village of Bethany a woman came to Him and anointed His feet with very expensive perfume that cost the equivalent of a year's salary in the first-century world. Several people began to rebuke her for what they considered to be a waste. How do you think that woman felt when Jesus looked into her eyes and said, "You have done a beautiful thing to me" (Matt. 26:10 NIV)? Talk about renewing a person's spirit! That is why she later followed Him all the way to the cross, even when most of His disciples had left.

And what about the woman caught in the act of adultery? The legalists of the day had their fingers pointed at her in accusation and were preparing to execute their judgment. How it must have affected her when Jesus interrupted the proceedings, got rid of them, then saw her repentant heart and said, "I don't condemn you. But go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Perhaps for the first time in her life, someone gave her a word of affirmation, and it changed her destiny. She, too, was one of the women faithful to the very end.

Then there was Simon Peter, the fisherman. He had been so self-confident. But when the chips were down, he caved in and denied he knew Jesus. How relieved he must have been when some days later Jesus met him on the shore and let Peter know that his failure wasn't fatal. Peter was never the same again, and he went from that encounter to become the undisputed leader of first-generation Christianity.

Affirming Words Must Be Without Prejudice

Paul mentions Philemon's love for "all" the saints. Philemon had good relationships because he didn't play favorites. He reached out in love not just to those who were popular and prosperous but to those who were powerless and poor.

James emphasizes the importance of this character trait:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. . . . If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1, 8-9)

Paul commends Philemon's love for others before bringing up the touchy situation with Onesimus. Philemon's love for "all the saints" will obviously include Onesimus, the runaway former servant who is already on his way home in remorse.

When it comes time for Philemon to meet the challenge of accepting Onesimus, Paul's confident words about his character will have long been etched onto his heart. What choice will Philemon have but to receive Onesimus and restore the relationship?

Show genuine love for "all" the saints in Christ. You will be surprised at the blessing it will bring to your life.

The problem with many of us in our interpersonal relationships is that we are reactive and not proactive. We sit around waiting for others to take the initiative so that we can react to them. And guess what? They are waiting for us!

Author Jim Woodruff once said that a mentally healthy person looks for someone to love, and a mentally unhealthy person looks for someone to love him or her.


With gratitude to O.S. Hawkins and J.M.Boice

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