Philemon and Apphia had a non-Christian worker who let them down big time. Whether Onesimus cheated on them or stole from them we don’t know. Anyway, he takes off, heads to Rome, gets arrested, and ends up in custody. Just as God would have it, he encounters Preacher Paul who’s also in the clink. Paul’s not there because of tax evasion or for ripping off his congregation or for DUI charges; he’s in custody for preaching Christ.
Peek in beyond the various levels of security. Can you see Paul just now? He’s speaking compassionately to the run away slave. Why would he bother? There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire and they were of no more value than a meager piece of property. They were treated cruelly. But Christianity changes perspectives and values. Paul loved Onesimus and assured him that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of all kinds. Salvation changed Onesimus’ life. Before Onesimus’ release, Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon asking him to welcome back the former slave with open arms – not as a slave but as a brother in Christ. Paul then wrote these words:
Paul knew Philemon and Apphia’s track record. They were Christ-like in their consistency, obedience and faithfulness. He had observed their pattern of behaviour and concluded they were very predictable and consistent in doing what was good and right. They were not believers who did what they had to do because they had to do it. This couple had a pattern of cheerful obedience – not reluctant, dragging-your-feet obedience with a grimacing smile.
Paul was very confident Philemon and Apphia would respond appropriately and in a Christ-like way to Onesimus’ return. He had observed their life for the Lord up to this point. They had a good reputation. They were credible and predictable, solid and reliable.
Do other believers see me this way? Do the elders of the local assembly have confidence in me? Can they count on me to be always there – my seat filled? If I publicly participate in worship or in a Bible Study, do I take spurts when I’m on target but then go for weeks without opening my mouth? Or do I participate consistently? Am I on fire for the Lord for two weeks after a Bible conference and then it all fizzles out? Am I gung-ho for a month or two but quickly lose interest? Do I say one thing but practice something else?
The Apostle Paul gave these Christians an ‘A+’ for consistency, cheerful obedience, and for going the extra mile. What would my report card look like? In a time of need, can others count on me because I have established a track record of being faithful and reliable since I was saved?
Proverbs 25:19 says: Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth and a foot out of joint. In other words, relying on an unpredictable person is like taking a bite with a broken tooth or putting your full weight on your sprained ankle. Ouch!
One of the beautiful features of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ was His consistency. Every hour of every day His behaviour was consistent with His words. Everything He did was pleasing to His Father. Jesus said: “I do always those things that please Him.” John 8:29 His responses to circumstances and situations were predictable and consistent.
“Lord, help me to be a consistent Christian in my devotion to Christ, in my service to others and in shining for You in this dark world.”
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