This past Sunday we looked at 2 Timothy 1:15-18. We were introduced to 3 men that had dealings with Paul as he was imprisoned in Rome (for the second time).
All three of these men were from Ephesus and the province of Asia. They were from the town where Paul had spent about 3 years planting and cultivating the church. They had heard the stories, possibly even seen firsthand some of persecution that Paul had suffered in order to testify about Christ.
But as we discussed, they hadn't seen anything yet! What Paul, and 1st Century Christians, would face after Rome burnt in 64 AD was a new and terrible level of persecution.
For Phygelus and Hermogenes, the decision to look out for their own interests, to leave Paul behind and seek refuge somewhere else was the path they took. Yet for Onesiphorus, he chose to paint the target on his back, to seek Paul, to make it clear he was a Christian. There was no hiding, or dodging. If he was going to Mamertine Prison to search Paul out it would be easily known and circulated that he was with the Christian Leader.
Have you put yourself in the shoes of Phygelus, Hermogenes, and Onesiphorus? Have you stopped and asked yourself what you would do? We know what we would like to say! I mean if you're reading this what we want to say is that we would stand firm, stay the course, face whatever came down the tube. We want to say that we would never deny Christ, never turn our back on our brothers and sisters...that's our knee jerk reaction-and it's a good one.
But is it the honest one? Consider what we know was taking place, the persecution, the almost certain sentence of death for Christians living Openly, the thought of leaving behind children, family and loved ones....
All I can say is that I am blessed not to live at that time, but I'm also convicted. When I look at what our spiritual forefathers faced, the opposition, the torture...then I look at my life, living in modern America where whatever persecution comes my way really is slight and momentary in comparison...Why do I not do more, why do I not take advantage, what is there for me really to be afraid of?
I can't beat myself up about blowing past opportunities, and I can't sit and make excuses for why I do what I do...what I can do is ask myself going forward, "who do I want to be in the story?" Do I want to be the guys who ran away and stayed safe, or do I want to be the one who risked it all for the cause of Christ?
I hope this last sermon, and by way of reminder this blog, motivates us all to be the Onesiphorus's of our time. Boldly living, carrying, and sharing the gospel message, even into places where it may cost us something, even when it may cost us everything.