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A Tough Issue in the Air

A Tough Issue in the Air

Words of Faith 12-19-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Philemon 1

   [4] I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, [5] because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.   [6] I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.   [7] Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.  

 

     Can you imagine the look on Paul’s face when he realized that the man who had recently been saved in Rome, Onesimus, was a runaway slave owned by another man Paul had led to Christ? A fellow who was now a dear wealthy friend in Colosse?  Coincidence?  Paul did not believe in coincidence.  He believed in providence. He believed in the foresight of a sovereign and caring God. This was no accident.

      But what was Paul to do?

      As Paul wrote this tiny letter, he had a bold request on his mind.  The question was how to ask.  He had already counseled Onesimus that the right thing to do was to return to his master and make amends.  But what was the right thing for Philemon to do? 

      Paul saw the opportunity for Onesimus to go along with Tychicus and carry the precious Word of God to the Colossian church.  He did so knowing full well that Onesimus could be arrested on sight for the charges against him.  There was a tough issue in the air.

      I once had a professor who interpreted these first verses as a smarmy attempt to butter-up Philemon and manipulate him into doing the right thing.  I don’t think so.  As we will see, Paul does appeal to the Christian conscience of Philemon and his indebtedness to Paul.  He chose not to dispatch an apostolic order.  But these words reflect the consistent character of Paul—gratitude, rejoicing in the faith, prayer for a dear brother, encouragement, and refreshing in the Lord.

      The fact is that there was a hard issue in the air and there was a tough request to be made, but that did not get in the way of Paul’s genuine concern for Philemon and gratitude for his friendship.  That is important. 

      Paul gave thanks for Philemon and remembered him in prayer.  Paul appreciated Philemon’s growth in Christ. He prayed for him to be active in sharing the love of Jesus and the Gospel of grace.  Paul was grateful for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment that come from seeing a person take hold in the faith and become a Christian leader.  None of this was false.

      It is a cynical view that assumes that Paul would be manipulative like people are in our modern world. Paul's warm greeting was genuine, and his appreciation pure.  His gratitude is something we should aspire to, not something we should doubt.

      Sometimes we have tough matters that arise within our circles of Christian faith.  The world says that we should manipulate to get our way.  The world says that we should set aside any warm feelings from the past, then hit hard and hit low.  The world says that we should use any means necessary to win.  This was not Paul’s response.

      Even in a situation where Paul saw something that was potentially very wrong in a brother, he did not assume the worst, he expected the best.  In a situation where he could have made accusations from afar, Paul did not allow and assumption to cloud his genuine love for a brother in Christ.  In a situation where he of all people could have played the heavy, Paul remembered that relationships are eternal, and damage done to relationships can be long-lasting.

      Rather than come into the situation like a bull in a china shop, flashing assumptions, and accusations, Paul expressed precious remembrance, encouragement for growth, thanksgiving for love and evangelism, and refreshment.  Rather than write about how “troubled” or “discouraged” or “shocked” or “stunned” he was by the fact that Philemon apparently still owned slaves, and had put out a BOLO (be on the lookout) for this runaway, Paul remembered Philemon’s great love as a joy and encouragement that had refreshed the hearts of the saints.

     Are you facing a tough situation?  A conflict with another believer?  Paul gives us a tremendous guide.  Don’t do things in the way of the world.  Don’t manipulate, lobby, or politick.  Start by expecting the best and rejoicing in the goodness of God.  Ask questions.  Listen. Leave matters that belong to God in His hands.

 

     Father God, I give thanks to you in prayer for those people and situations that are tough and quite beyond my understanding.  I pray for faith in the Lord Jesus and for your love for all believers to abound. I pray that the Body of Christ may be active in sharing the faith so we will all have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  I rejoice in the love of believers that has given me great joy and encouragement and has refreshed the hearts of those who follow Jesus.  In Jesus' Name.   

 

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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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