Do you ever feel like a useless person, that you have never made any difference in anyone’s life, even your own? We all like to feel useful. We enjoy it when we hear someone tell us “Well done” on a job we have done, a race we have run, or even as a preacher, a sermon we have preached.
In the apostle Paul’s epistles, there is a one chapter epistle he wrote as a personal letter to a man by the name of Philemon who had a runaway servant, by the name of Onesimus. That name means “Useful”.
Onesimus ran away, and found was directed in his running away unto Paul, and the apostle gave him the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Onesimus began to live up to his name. Hear the words of the apostle to Philemon…
“If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.” Philemon 1:17-19 (KJV)
This is an account of Paul being an intercessor for Onesimus in taking this letter to his master. I think we must give Onesimus much credit here. Philemon could have pronounced his death and killed Onesimus himself if he chose to do so. Onesimus may have stolen from Philemon before he ran away. That does seem implied by Paul’s statement, “If he has wronged you, or owes you…”. So Onesimus’ journey was probably filled with some dread, but also relief.
Paul is stepping in like a savior, and willing to take the brunt of the punishment. He is resting too, in the truth that Philemon is a follower of Jesus Christ as well.
What can we learn from Philemon, Paul, and Onesimus?
- Philemon has the opportunity to forgive and not only receive back a servant but a brother and servant of Jesus Christ; all he must do is forgive;
- Paul shows us what it is to intervene on the behalf of someone else, even if it cost us something;
- Onesimus teaches us what it means to have a changed life through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do you want to live a “Useful” life? You become useful when you give your life to Christ through faith in Him and His finished work on Calvary’s cross. Useful was useless until he came to Jesus Christ. Then, his name meant something.