Have You Heard of Onesiphorus?

Posted on Posted in Strategy

I want to tell you about a guy that few people know about.

He’s mentioned by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16. His name is Onesiphorus.

Paul wrote a letter to Timothy and said, “May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains.”

That’s all we hear about Onesiphorus in the whole Bible.

We don’t know if he was young or old.

We don’t know if he was rich or poor.

We just know that he visited and encouraged the Apostle Paul.

I’ve never come across any Bible study that mentions Onesiphorus. Any time I try to find Bible study curriculum for students, I’m faced with the usual suspects:

There’s Noah, who built a boat.

There’s Daniel, who rose to rockstar status during the Babylonian exile.

There’s Esther, who stood strong (like Katniss Everdeen) in the face of the Capitol.

There’s Peter, who followed Jesus but kept messing up.

There’s even Barnabas, the encourager, who travelled with Paul to share the gospel in far-off places.

In all of those studies, there’s never a mention of Onesiphorus.

No one besides Paul mentions Onesiphorus.

There’s just nothing glamorous about him.

But when Paul mentions Onesiphorus, he recognizes him for one simple thing. It’s so simple that any of us can do it.

He didn’t recognize him for being the best speaker.

He didn’t recognize him for giving the most money.

He didn’t recognize him for getting everything exactly right.

Paul recognizes Onesiphorus for visiting him and encouraging him.

When you think about that, it makes sense. Those things are incredibly important.

As I think about my life and my faith so far, it wasn’t the lights or the cameras or the action that kept me close to Christ; it was the kind gestures that came from people at just the right time.

When I was a new Christian, some guys invited on a road trip to see a Matt Redman show.

In college, a guy from my church sent me a text message every Friday morning that said, “I’m praying for you. Let me know if I can do anything for you.”

In ministry, a parent will send an email that says, “Thank you for making a difference in my son’s life.”

Those are the kind gestures that came from people at just the right time for me. Those are the things that have kept me close to Christ through the years. And that’s what I picture Onesiphorus doing for Paul as he went to visit him and encourage him again and again.

As you’re working on all the important tasks of ministry, don’t give in to the temptation to rely on your talent and technology. If you do that, you’ll be done when the church down the road gets better talent and new technology than you have. You have to think beyond the stage.

You have to be intentional about doing the things that build relationships and community among your students. That includes visiting and encouraging people wherever they’re at, each step of the way.

Sometimes it’s showing up at a game.

Sometimes it’s taking a student to breakfast.

Sometimes it’s a text message to say you’re praying for them.

We never know when one of the students in our ministries will think back on their faith and remember a kind gesture that we made for them at just the right time.

Your Move

Think about Onesiphorus, and then pick out a few students to visit and encourage this week.

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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