Since reading a book many years ago on “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion” by Gordon MacDonald, I have been aware of the need for VIP’s in my life. Not “very important people” but rather, “very invigorating people.” The need for people from whom I can draw encouragement and energy. Relationships which, rather than being draining, are, in fact, invigorating. The sort of relationship spoken of in Proverbs 27:17 where “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” And, as I read the first part of Paul’s short letter to Philemon, it occurs to me that Philemon was a VIP.
That Philemon was a man of means is apparent as he was a slave owner . . . a business man who had acquired his own workforce. That he was a man with an impact is evident, as well, from Paul’s opening commendation of him. Philemon’s reputation was spoken of abroad as Paul, in his prison cell, had heard of the faith and love he evidenced both towards the Lord and toward all the saints (1:5). Paul writes that he had great joy and encouragement in Philemon’s love, “because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” (1:7)
That’s what VIP’s do . . . they refresh the hearts of the saints. Their faith and love find expression in acts of thoughtfulness and kindness and in words of encouragement . . . and the result is “refreshed hearts.” Souls that are dry and thirsty are watered . . . minds filled with concern and turmoil are calmed . . . spirits that carry a heavy burden are lightened and lifted . . . and all through the practical out-working of the faith and love found in a relationship with Christ and a concern for members of His body — the saints.
You sense that Philemon shared what he had with others . . . that he was known for his hospitality (1:22). Perhaps his place was bit of a refuge for weary travelers . . . a welcomed pit stop for those who needed a good nights rest along with a good meal. This man of means used that which God had prospered him with to show some practical love to fellow believers . . . and it refreshed the hearts of the saints . . . allowed them to take a breather. But beyond his ministry to the “physical man”, I wonder if Philemon also didn’t have a table prepared with spiritual delicacies . . . if he didn’t also speak of his love for, and life’s experience with, the Lord. A word in season . . . an offering of grace from the lips . . . a bit of encouragement in the Lord . . . love articulated such that those who heard his words came away strengthened in the inner man.
To be sure, there are times that I need to be on the receiving end of a “heart refresher” like Philemon . . . times when I need to be on the “take” side of give and take. But oh, to be a VIP to others. To be on the lookout for those who are in need of a bit of rest . . . and in need of a boost . . . who can use a VIP in their lives to be used of the Spirit to infuse some renewed spiritual energy such that their heart is refreshed, as well. To take some of that refreshing that I have received through others and allow it to flow into someone else’s life for their renewal . . . I think that’s kind of how the body of Christ should be operating.
As we seek to minister to one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to practice hospitality, to share a word of encouragement, . . . those offerings are taken by Christ and, through the Spirit, used to minister to the each other . . . supplying what is needed to every part . . . by every part . . . as every part does it’s share . . . as the “body builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16).
Here’s to the VIP’s in my life . . . thank you, Lord! Here’s to being a VIP in someone else’s life . . . being a Philemon . . . for the blessing of others . . and for the glory of God . . . amen!