Have you ever said someone is a joy to be around? What makes that person different? Why is that person such a joy? On the other hand, I’m sure you’ve run across folks you hate to be around because they are always looking at the down side of everything. They wear their pessimism like a well-loved coat, and refuse to see what is bright and beautiful around them. Or perhaps that person is so arrogant and self-centered you just can’t stand them. Or maybe the person has an annoying habit or way of taking or just something that makes your skin crawl. You’ve got an idea of what I’m talking about.
What kind of person are you to others? I know that once upon a time I was that arrogant and self-centered person whom others could not stand. Pride is something I fight every day. And I won’t claim to be significantly better. But I will say that any improvement is due to Christ’s redeeming work in me. I want to be less that kind of person and more the type of person that brings joy into the hearts and lives of others. This is what God wants us to be, too.
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. – Philemon v. 4-7, ESV
These are the words of Paul to Philemon as he wrote on the behalf on Onesimus. One might say Paul was “buttering up” Philemon, but we know that’s not Paul’s style. If Paul said he derived much joy and comfort from Philemon’s love, that’s the truth. Why did Paul feel this way? He gives us all the information we need in those verses. Philemon had love and faith in Jesus and for the saints. Probably because of his love and faith in Jesus Christ, Philemon was able to love those who believed in Christ and had confidence in them. In addition, Philemon shared his faith. He didn’t hide it. Why should he? God took a sinner and transformed him into a saint. He took condemnation and produced reward. He took loneliness, emptiness, and a lack of purpose and delivered companionship, fulfillment, and a mission. Why wouldn’t Philemon want to share that? Add to all that the fact they Philemon also served to refresh the hearts of fellow believers. He wasn’t that negative person. His faith in Christ was likely contagious. He got folks remembering their own gift of grace through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So compared to Philemon, how are you and I doing? Can the words Paul used to speak of Philemon be accurately used for us, too? Does our love and faith in Jesus Christ shine through? Are we refreshing the hearts of the saints? Are we sharing our faith in a way that clearly communicates what the Lord has done for us, why He deserves the glory, and how thankful we are for His gift of grace? If you’re like me, you probably have some gaps. Okay, maybe a lot of gaps. But the thing of it is that we’re not in this alone. We have each other. We are supposed to be loving and refreshing one another. We also have the Holy Spirit. God didn’t send us off on an impossible task with no chance of success. He sent us off with a very difficult task, yet through Him we have the means to accomplish it. We can be a joy to others. We can be that person who encourages and uplifts those around us. We can because God will do it with us, through us, for us, or in spite of us, however He must. Hopefully it’s not that last case.