Practical Ways For Working Together
2 Timothy 1:15-18
By Paul Robison

“Every year in Alaska, a 1000-mile dog-sled race run for prize money and prestige, commemorates an original 'race' run to save lives.  Back in January of 1926, six-year-old Richard Stanley showed symptoms of diphtheria, signaling the possibility of an outbreak in the small town of Nome.  When the boy died a day later, Dr. Curtis Welch began immunizing children and adults with an experimental but effective anti-diphtheria serum.  But it wasn't long before the supply ran out, and the nearest serum was in Nenana, Alaska--1000 miles of frozen wilderness away.  Amazingly, a group of trappers and prospectors volunteered to cover the distance with their dog teams!  Operating in relays from trading posts to trapping stations and beyond, one sled started out from Nome while another, carrying the serum, started from Nenana.  Oblivious to frostbite, fatigue, and exhaustion, the teamsters mushed relentlessly until, after 144 hours in minus 50-degree winds, the serum was delivered to Nome.  As a result, only one other life was lost to the potential epidemic.  Their sacrifice had given an entire town the gift of life” (sermonillustrations.com).  This is a wonderful example of people working together to help overcome a crisis.  In any congregation, there is lots of diversity.  There are different ages groups, different educational levels, different economic levels, different spiritual levels.  But despite all our differences, there are many similarities that we enjoy because we are united by Christ.  We listen to His teachings, experience the same spiritual blessings, and follow the same elders who guide this particular congregation.  We have much in common.  Our text in 2 Timothy offers us some practical ways for working together.  Listen carefully as we consider this interesting text.
 
Let's read now 1:15: “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.”  The words “turned away from” could also be translated “deserted”.  You see, when we are in a crisis situation, we often find out who our true friends are.  When Paul was arrested a second time and thrown into a damp and dark dungeon in Rome, he was needing some help.  But some Christians, who Paul thought would help him out, did not.  In fact, their decision was to have nothing to do Paul, so that they wouldn't place themselves in danger of being imprisoned or executed.  It looks like Phygellus and Hermogenes were two brothers that Paul thought would come to his aid or that had an influence on others to abandon Paul.  This hurt Paul so badly that we hear what one commentator called “the sweeping assertion of depression” from Paul that ALL in Asia had deserted him.  You see, Paul still had faithful brothers who were his allies, like Timothy and Tychicus, but the hurt was so strong that Paul felt like everybody had deserted him.  Now if desertion is the negative, what is the positive?  It's staying loyal to each other isn't it?  Staying loyal to each other will help us in working together.  Isn't it easy at times to sort of “give up” on other brethren, especially when there are misunderstandings, or false accusations, or jumping to conclusions, or using an inappropriate tone of voice, or feeling used, unloved, of maybe even betrayed?  We want to distance ourselves from other brethren or to give them “the silent treatment”.  But this kind of behavior rarely brings about the restoration of a healthy relationship.  If we are Jesus' family, then we must stay loyal to each other.  There was a teacher in California who learned that a good friend of his named Cal was terminally ill in Michigan.  He flew to his friend and spent a few days with him.  As Lew left Cal's hospital room, Cal remarked: 'Lew, it's all right!'  A few days later, Cal died.  But don't you think Lew helped him to do that?  And isn't it wonderful that Lew was so loyal to Cal that he gave himself (with all the time, sacrifice, and expenses involved) just to comfort his friend in his dying days (Greenfield)?  Someone has observed that relationships are like gardens; they need the sunshine of laughter and affirmation and the rains of difficulties and serious issues.  They also need three rows of turnips: turn up with smile, turn up with a new idea, and turn up with determination, two rows of squash: squash criticism and gossip, and one row of lettuce: Let us be loyal (modified Swindoll).  Let's stay loyal to each other!
 
Now let's read verse 16: “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not shamed of my chain; ...”  Notice here how Paul asks a blessing: “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus.”  Paul was very thankful for this good brother's support and help, so he calls on Jesus to bless his household with His mercy (some commentators think that Onesiphorus may have died on his way back home since Paul asked the blessing to by upon his family).  Asking Jesus to bless each other is another good way that will help our working together.  Asking Jesus to bless other members should be easy since Jesus also challenges us to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28).  When other members do good things for us, or help us, or strengthen us, why shouldn't we compliment their worthy actions by asking Jesus to bless them?  There was once a martial arts teacher who was a Christian in a public high school.  Over the years, many of his students were converted and a number of them became church leaders.  Years later, this success caught the attention of another church leader, so he tracked down this teacher who was now in his 70s.  He asked him how he had made such an impact on these students.  He told him that all he had done was to pray silently for each one while at his desk as he watched them work.  This was the main thing that he had done to influence so many (Larson/Elshof 312).  The apostle Peter exhorts us: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, [now listen here] but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Pt. 3:9).  Asking for a blessing should be natural conduct for a Christian.  Ask the Lord to bless each member!
 
Verse 16 also states that Onesiphorus often refreshed Paul.  The word “refresh” means “to relieve or to revive”.  A nice cold drink on a hot day relieves you, and a good night's sleep after you've gone to bed very weary can revive you.  Now Paul is not using the word physically but emotionally.  Onesiphorus' presence boosted Paul's morale.  After others had deserted Paul because of his imprisonment for the Gospel, Onesiphorus was a loyal fellow Christian who didn't mind if the Roman guards to whom Paul was chained saw his face and knew without a doubt that he was both a friend of Paul and a follower of Christ.  The apostle Paul wrote this about Philemon of Colosse in verse 7: “For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you brother.”  So, another way that we can improve our working together is to refresh each other's spirits or boost each other's morale.  Someone made this observation about the church: “The hard reality is that the Church is much more than its programs or teachings or structures.  There is a relational component to God's vision of the Church that breathes life into the Bride of Christ. … God's view of the Church has always had a notion of a gathering of people—an assembly convened for fellowship, support, encouragement, and love.  God, who designed men and women as relational creatures, designed the Church as a 'relationship place'--the environment in which people could find the best answers for their need to love and to be loved” (Hinkle, Woodruff).  Doesn't this definition of the church as a relationship place show us that refreshing and uplifting one another should be a normal practice of those who are brothers and sisters in Christ?  Refresh each other or boost each other's morale!
 
The last part of verse 16 affirms that Onesiphorus was not shamed of Paul's chain.  Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul's devotion to Jesus and His Gospel, and the imprisonment from a pagan Roman State that such a devotion prompted.  Onesiphorus did not let Paul's hard circumstances diminish his loyalty to him.  He was willing to be associated with Paul and to suffer together with him if necessary.  Now that's brotherly support isn't it?  Supporting each other, especially in hard times, will help us in working together.  Another preacher wrote: “Caring for another calls for personal involvement.  However, getting involved in someone else's life situation can be very time-consuming, awkward, possibly unwanted, emotionally draining, and even expensive.  Therefore, you may need a great deal of courage to get involved, at least to remain involved for long. … To get involved in others' lives, you have to care enough to go out of your way to be present when you're needed. … The courage to get involved not only requires your willingness to be present when needed but also your compassion and empathy.  Having compassion means 'to suffer with' someone who is hurting.  Empathy is understanding another's dilemmas and feelings [during an experience]. … Caring for others must begin in the emotions” (Greenfield).  Onesiphorus got involved physically and emotionally as he supported Paul.  Isn't that a great example for us?  Shouldn't we also be involved in each others' lives, especially at times when difficulties and trials come to other members?  A father and son were once using a hammer and chisel to remove old asphalt and patch it.  Both were getting tired and becoming inaccurate.  Suddenly, the son pounded his finger with the hammer.  He jumped up in agony, holding back the tears, and ran toward the house.  The father realized that nobody was in the house, so he took out after his son.  The father heard him screaming and also knew that his son didn't like ice packs.  So the father took a bowl and put some ice and water it.  The son agreed to put his hand in the bowl if his father would.  Both of them lay on the tile kitchen floor with their hands in the bowl.  After about 10 minutes, the son started feeling better and said to his father: “I'm glad you're here.”  The father said that he learned a valuable lesson that day: he couldn't take away another's pain, but his presence could somehow make it more bearable (Larson Elshof 293).  Are we caring enough to really support each other in all kinds of circumstances?  As Onesiphorus supported Paul, let's support each other!
 
Now let's read verse 17: “But when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me.”  When Onesiphorus arrived in Rome, it was not going to be easy to locate Paul.  How much time it took him and how many people he asked is not revealed to us, but from Paul's wording, it looks like Onesiphorus was very diligent in his search for Paul.  Onesiphorus not only wanted to find Paul for himself but also he wanted to share with him the greetings and news from the congregation in Ephesus.  Onesiphorus' persistent search for Paul showed his concern for Paul's welfare.  That's a lesson for us as well.  We need to show our concern for each other, which will help us to work together.  Our deeds show our concern: making that phone call, writing that e-mail, preparing that dish, making that visit, having that  confrontation, being at that bedside, attending that wedding or that funeral.  On the other hand, when we do nothing about a situation, what does that say about our concern?  Someone gives us this reminder: “It takes courage, courage to act better than you feel.  Courage to give better than you get.  But we've seen that courage before.  It's cross-courage, Gethsemane-grit.  Because Jesus built His life on [concern], we who were nothing are now sons and daughters of God.  People all around you wait for a similar love to transform their lives in a similar way” (Hinkle, Woodruff).  Let's try to be sensitive to those opportunities that come our way to show concern.  Show concern for each other!
 
Now let's read verse 18: “The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.”  The apostle Paul was always looking forward.  Even while imprisoned, his hope in Jesus' second coming burned brightly.  Most commentators note how the first “Lord” in this passage probably refers to God while the second “Lord” in this passage refers to  Jesus.  “The Lord [God] grant to him [Onesiphorus] that he may find mercy from the Lord [Jesus] in that Day.”  Notice those last three words: “in that Day”.  Of course, this is a reference to the Judgment Day.  Let's imitate Paul by reminding each other often about the Judgment Day.  Someone once said to make every serious decision while walking through a cemetery.  You see, keeping the end in view can be a very helpful way to evaluate the present.  But beyond the grave is our ultimate destiny: to stand before the judgment seat of Jesus in that Day.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  These are the inspired words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10.  Keeping this ultimate end in view will also help us to properly evaluate the present.  “Would Jesus be ashamed of my action or proud of my conduct when I stand before Him?” is a good question that we need to ask ourselves often.  Remind each other about Judgment Day!  “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.  You are sons of light and sons of the day.  We are not of the night nor of darkness.  Therefore, let us no sleep as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6).  Let's keep reminding each other about the Judgment Day!
 
Now notice in the last part of verse 18 how Paul commends Onesiphorus once again by saying that he had ministered to him in Ephesus in many ways, and Timothy was well aware of all of those occasions.  Isn't that a wonderful example for us as well?  Can't we minister to each other in many ways?  All this takes is finding someone's need and then giving them a hand.  This kind of service doesn't require a degree or any special study.  On the contrary, all it requires is a little creativity, a big heart, and some willing hands.  “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.  Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen.  Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save.  Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore.  Touched by a loving hand, waken by kindness, chords that were broken will vibrate once more.  Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save” (Crosby).  Let's be like Onesiphorus and minister to each other in many ways.
 
Here's one last way that we can foster working together based on the entire passage.  Why did Paul talk about Phygellus, Hermogenes, and Onesiphorus?  Isn't he using them as examples to Timothy.  Timothy is not to desert him as did Phygellus and Hermogenes, but he is to seek him out, be unashamed of his bonds, and support him, like Onesiphorus did.  In fact, Paul tells Timothy in 4:9 to be diligent to come to him quickly.  Timothy will probably have to look for Paul and risk persecution, just like Onesiphorus did.  So here's one last way that will help us to work together: imitate each other in doing good!  Put into practice the same good deeds that other Christians are doing.  “Those who believe in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).  “... [Do] not become sluggish,  but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).  Imitate each other in doing good!
 
“A stranger drove his car into a ditch in a desolated area.  Luckily, a local farmer came to help with his big strong horse, named Ricky.  He hitched Ricky up to the car and yelled, "Pull, Nellie, pull!"  Ricky didn't move.  Then the farmer hollered, "Pull, Buster, pull!"  Ricky didn't respond.  Once more the farmer commanded, "Pull, Coco, pull!"  Nothing.  Then the farmer nonchalantly said, "Pull, Ricky, pull!"  The horse easily dragged the car out of the ditch.  The motorist was most appreciative and very curious.  He asked the farmer why he called his horse by the wrong name three times.  The farmer said, "Oh, Ricky is blind, and if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn't have even tried" (sermonillu-strations.com).  We need each other, and God has provided a unique relationship place where we can work together in service to Him and to others.  The men of Alaska were serious about bringing the serum to save their city.  When are we going to get serious about sharing the Gospel to save our city?  When you are baptized into Jesus, He will add you to His church.  You no longer have to pull by yourself.  If you've failed to refresh, to support, and to show concern for other members within the body of Christ, it's not too late to ask forgiveness and to start ministering in many ways!  Let Jesus bless you today as you totally devote your life to Him.