The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…and Onesimus

I found I was really blessed today through reading Paul’s letter to Philemon. If you have never read it or if it is  a while since you have done so, why not read it now? It won’t take you long.

Central to the content of the letter is a man called Onesimus. He was a slave who had stolen from his master Philemon and ended up fleeing to Rome. There he met Paul and was converted. Paul really valued the helper Onesimus became to him and wanted to keep him with him but decided the right thing to do was to send him back to Philemon not simply as a runaway slave but now as someone who was a brother in the Lord to his master. Actually ,in shortly over twice the time I have taken to write that paragraph you could have read the whole letter for yourself!

I know the name Oral Roberts will be a name that will cause differing reactions among my readers: that is probably now the biggest understatement of any blog I have written whatever I claimed in a previous blog was the statement deserving that award!  However, I have to say that one of my operating principles as a pastor came from listening to Oral Roberts preaching on a Satellite T.V. channel. He preached around the meaning of Onesimus’ name. It means “useful” or “profitable.” However he had been anything but true to fulfilling his name! He had not been profitable and indeed had been worse than useless to Philemon. All he had become was a piece of driftwood. Then Oral Roberts said this: “When driftwood catches fire it makes the best fire of all! He became driftwood set ablaze!” Through meeting Christ, Onesimus really did become useful . He was certainly useful to Paul. Some say he became a bishop in Ephesus.

As a pastor, even if it now mostly an online pastor, I keep the story of Onesimus in mind.  I suppose it almost goes with the territory of being a pastor that you are very loathe to write someone off as a useless piece of driftwood. You simply hope that one day they might indeed by the grace of God become driftwood set ablaze. Pastors are loathe to admit there is such a thing as dead wood that needs to be cut out and cut away. They don’t want to simply run ahead with their keenest supporters. Shepherds want to get as many of the flock into a state of health, feeding on good fresh pasture as possible.

Perhaps you are reading this and you feel yourself to be a piece of driftwood. You are maybe on the run from your past. You are maybe even on the run from the Lord. Perhaps you don’t know what on earth is the purpose of your life. Stop right where you are, and call out to the Saviour of Onesimus, the one who can turn a drifting or aimless life into a life that is profitable to God, to others around you near and far and  indeed to yourself.

Or could it be that there is someone you care about that is drifting? Not long ago, I heard of someone who through these blogs found their way back into a relationship with the Lord much to the delight of their family. Can you believe that piece of driftwood you are thinking of can yet catch fire? I hope this may help you to persevere with someone, to persevere in faith, hope and love, just at the point you were maybe thinking of throwing in the towel. I had a dream one night about demons telephoning their hellish headquarters in alarm because they had come across a Christian who was not giving in, but was fighting on and persevering; I may tell you about it one day. For today/tonight though,  I am just saying that the piece of driftwood you are frustrated about, who you cannot think about without sadness or discouragement may one day become the right hand helper of a significant leader, or indeed become a leader themselves. Onesimus was not the first or the last person dismissed by others as  “a useless cause” or “a waste of space” to be transformed by the grace of God to be a much loved and useful citizen in the Kingdom of God, here on earth. Tonight, before you shut your eyes, or tomorrow when you awaken, praise with me  the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of Onesimus!

“God of Onesimus, bless the driftwood who may find themselves reading this: bless  too the driftwood loved by those who read this! We pray for a season of driftwood set ablaze!”

God bless


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