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The Power of A Pat on the Back

Through the years of my ministry I have had many examples of people who have been for me and some have deserted me.  I have been blessed with great examples of people who believed in the ministry God was doing through my life and their great loyalty has been a benchmark in a life that is totally dependent on God’s grace and direction.  God is the foundation for all I do, but these people are a direct part of that foundation and I exist to fulfill the call on my life because of them.  I am not anywhere near as committed as the Apostle Paul, but like him,  I have needed people along the way to keep me serving and sharing the Gospel.

In 2 Timothy 1:15-18 Paul talks about some of the good ones and some of the bad ones.

15 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.  These two not only didn’t stand with Paul, they deserted him and actually probably turned against him.  Men who had been vibrant supporters of Paul had done so at a time when the persecution of Jesus’ followers was at an all time high.  In 1 Peter 4:  Peter asks the Christians not to give away in the midst of the fiery trials they were experiencing.  In verse 7-10 he says 7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  In verse 12 Peter compels those following Christ to handle the fiery trials with unwavering faith and commitment and to be faithful in their to commitment to others in the faith.

I look at those who deserted Paul and if those men who had travelled with the Apostle Paul himself fell away, how much more so will those who follow my ministry have a tendency to quit on me.  But like Paul, I need to keep my focus on the mission ahead and remain faithful to the cause of Christ.  I would hope I would be the type to stay with Paul to the end, should I be traveling and ministering with him. But I would have the same temptation of the two who deserted him to just quit and not have to deal with all the ministry and persecution stuff.  I might quit just like them under the fiery trials they were facing, but in my mind I would hope to stay and remain faithful.

Paul also had those who were faithful to help him to the end.  Onesiphorus was one such follower who was a constant encouragement to Paul.  In verse 16-18 Paul says,

16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; 17 but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me— 18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.  It is believed that Onesiphorus was one of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus to preach.  It is also believed that he died a martyr and held to the faith till the end.  He was a finisher in every form of the word and his continued encouragement to Paul was pivotal in Paul’s life and pivotal in the kingdom’s work.  Of course, we remember the great encourager Barnabas was to Paul at the beginning of his ministry and mission efforts.  Vital people like this can make or break a ministry and those who come alongside a called person have their own calling and are a huge part of God’s purpose.

It is very easy to see that we need each other desperately and the bonds of Christian service can either make us or break us.  I have tried to be an encourager to those I follow and pray for in their ministry.  These are people who I know in my heart want to serve Christ and do so in faith.  It is my desire to fan into flame the message of the gospel to shine brighter each day in their lives.  I don’t worship them.  I just worship God who called them and believe I can be an Onesiphorus for them.

So, if you are in the habit of being an encourager to someone in the ministry, just know it is not only appreciated, but vital to the furtherance of the gospel itself.  Never minimize the person God has put on your heart to encourage and support.  It may be your pastor, or an evangelist, or a dear friend in the ministry.  Whoever it is, don’t be like the two who quit Paul in Asia.  Be like Onesiphorus and be a blessing to the one you are called to support.  You never know what God will do in their life that will impact not only one life, but many. The story below has a very good point about encouragement and helping someone keep going..

CBS News anchor Dan Rather admits he was always fascinated by the sport of boxing, even though he was never good at it. “In boxing you’re on your own; there’s no place to hide,” he says. “At the end of the match only one boxer has his hand up. That’s it. He has no one to credit or to blame except himself.” Rather, who boxed in high school, says his coach’s greatest goal was to teach his boxers that they absolutely, positively, without question, had to be “get up” fighters. “If you’re in a ring just once in your life–completely on your own–and you get knocked down but you get back up again, it’s a never-to-be-forgotten experience. Your sense of achievement is distinct and unique. And sometimes the only thing making you get up is someone in your corner yelling.”

The one’s who quit on Paul didn’t realize they might have stopped a great movement of God had Paul not only gone ahead despite their quitting.  Onesiphorus didn’t realize how much his constant encouragement to Paul kept the great apostle moving forward.  His commitment to the Lord in Paul’s life was priceless, but of much worth.  The people who believe in God doing something great in my life have that same priceless quality and they keep me going.  I must say the same words Paul said about Onesiphorus in verse 16 where he says, 16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.

We may never realize what a pat on the back from us will accomplish in the life of someone on a life mission for Christ.  We will realize the blessing we feel when we do it, because it completes a purpose God has in our life and in that a great joy is realized.  Today is the day to “pat someone on the back” and get them to the next step in their walk with God.  C’mon, you can do it.  PAT PAT PAT See?

The Pilgrimage continues…

David Warren

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