In Part 1, we learned about how spiritual renewal and salvation are found only in Christ.
In this post and in Part 3, I want to look at 5 instances where the apostle Paul talks about being refreshed in the Lord: being renewed in spirit, being encouraged, being strengthened. And in doing so, consider 5 ways we can encourage or refresh each other.
Note: Keep in mind that the apostle Paul is directing his remarks about Christians to other Christians.
The first instance is found in Romans chapter 15. Here Paul expressed his desire to visit the Christians in Rome. Beginning at verse 22. . .
22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (English Standard Version)
#1: We Can Refresh and Support Each Other Through Prayer.
Paul was looking forward to a time of rest and renewal with them but he had to get there first. And he wanted to get there in accordance with God’s will. So he urged the Romans to unite and strive with him in prayer. . .
- Pray “that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea”
- Pray “that my service in Jerusalem maybe acceptable to the saints”
Paul first expressed his eagerness to fellowship with these Christians in Romans 1:11, 12. . .
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (New American Standard Bible)
Again what was Paul talking about here? Mutual encouragement! Your faith encourages, strengthens and comforts me. My faith encourages, strengthens and comforts you. You may be facing a crisis or just going through the challenges of everyday life. But just knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ are right there with you – encouraging you, helping you, wrestling in prayer with you can make all the difference.
Notice Colossians 4:12, 13. . .
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (ESV)
#2: We Can Refresh and Support Each Other By Strengthening and Standing With Those Going Through Difficult Times.
Because this point is so closely related to point #1, let us briefly look at 2 Timothy chapter 1. Paul was in prison for the sake of the Gospel and was likely executed shortly after writing this letter. Beginning at verse 15. . .
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me — may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day! —and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (ESV)
Onesiphorus encouraged and helped Paul in the midst of Paul’s trial of imprisonment (as in other times). Most of us are familiar with what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25:35, 36. . .
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. (NASB)
We can all agree that filling a need, showing hospitality, and showing compassion benefits both the giver and the recipient. But when the love of Christ is present, the healing power of spiritual encouragement touches and transforms the heart and soul the way nothing else can! Strengthen and stand with others going through difficult times. Bless others the way God blesses us in our times of affliction. . .
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are . . . – II Corinthians 1:3, 4 (NASB)
Our next example is found in I Corinthians chapter 16.
Here Paul commends the encouraging example of three brothers in Christ. Notice verses 13 through 18. . .
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition. (New International Version)
#3: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Being Devoted To The Work Of The Lord.
Paul tells us that the household of Stephanas “devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” The King James Version translated this phrase: “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Not addicted to love or addicted to drugs but addicted to the work of the church.
The point is they didn’t take their responsibilities lightly.
They consecrated themselves.
They were deliberate.
They were committed to action.
They appointed and positioned themselves to carry out the Lord’s work.
They didn’t have a half-hearted, reluctant attitude.
Aren’t faithful, steadfast Christians more encouraging than fair-weather Christians? Isn’t it refreshing when hardworking Christians cooperate in whatever good work or service they set their hands to do? God has given every Christian talent and ability. Whatever He has given you, use it wholeheartedly to serve others and glorify Him!
In Philippians 2 beginning at verse 19, we have two other men who devoted themselves to the work of the Lord and are examples for us today. . .
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. (NIV)
How rare (or common) are two Christians like Timothy and Epaphroditus in the church today?