Thursday, December 29, 2011

Refreshing the Saints

I love food--good tasting food, anyway. I love how flavors come together to create a delectable treat that fills me up and makes me warm and happy inside. I guess that’s why some foods are called refreshments.
There’s nothing like the refreshing taste of a vanilla Dr. Pepper. (or insert your refreshment of choice here) Maybe for you it’s a cup of coffee. A glass of coke without ice. A sip of tea. Or a tall drink of clean, clear water that satisfies the body’s craving for life.
Water is the life-source for all living things—physically speaking, of course. When I don’t drink enough water during the week, each sip I do take is like life to my soul. It tastes so good, that I want more! And yet, I often go for the Dr. Pepper or coffee before I reach for the water. And my body suffers the consequences of my choices—headaches, dehydration, lack of energy.
What is refreshing to you? I mean, spiritually refreshing. What does refreshing even mean?
Re means to do again—to bring [something] back.
Fresh means, ripe, not old, not stale—at its best.
So to refresh means to bring something back to the state at which it is at its best.
I must admit, I’m not always at my best. I love vanilla Dr. Pepper—with extra vanilla, please, and light on the ice. Maybe a little coffee with my french vanilla creamer. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for me. The sweet taste of it sure makes me feel re-energized for a time—then it’s gone. And I have to suffer the sugar/caffeine crash or get some more. But I never have side effects from refreshing water.
What spiritually refreshes you? What fills your cup? What brings you back to your best?
“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. “
-Philemon 4-7 ESV
"Refresh" in the Greek in this context means to give rest, that is to permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength.
I wonder what Philemon did that was so refreshing to others. Yes, there was something about his love and of the faith he had towards Jesus and all the saints, but what did that look like in his everyday life? Whatever it was, I reckon those saints told other people about Philemon’s actions and somehow word got back to Paul—not just about one saint, but many. Philemon took the opportunity to give rest to others—many others. They told others about his godly characteristics that made them feel like they were back at their best again with renewed strength. And Paul was thankful to God for Philemon’s refreshing heart towards others. Philemon's refreshing actions gave comfort and joy to Paul.
Refreshing. Like a good friend who still loves you when you’re at you’re worst and can still inspire you to be your best.
Do you have a friend like that who refreshes others? One who makes others feel at rest that they may grow in spiritual strength?
Are you that friend who does the refreshing? I don’t know that I’m that friend. I’d like to think so at times that I am that refreshing friend. And hope so at others. And well, I’m such an introvert that being around lot of people constantly often drains the energy out of me, and so I’m often in need of being refreshed.
But I do have a friend who refreshes me. We’ve known each other for many years. We didn’t grow up together. We were never neighbors. We didn’t go to school together. Our families didn’t know each other. Neither one of us were believers even when we met, so we didn’t go to church together. We’ve never even lived in the same town. Ever.
We were pen pals. Yep, we used to write old fashioned letters to each other every week. We started writing when we were 12, met at age 13 and we've been good friends ever since. As adults, we've gotten to see each other at least once a year. I feel like whenever we’re together in the same room that no time has passed since we were together last. And we never went to AIM together. But she loves God like those AIM Alumni I've come to know and love over the years!
We both became believers later on in life and have had many a great spiritual conversation together since then.
When she and I get together, there’s just something about being with her that refreshes me—that brings me back to my best at who I am in God—that gives me strength to keep on pressing on. Oh, I’m not perfect when I’m with her, but I’m back in love with God and am excited about Him. My mind seems clearer when discussing scriptures, Bible concepts and principles. I have comfort and joy again.
I feel excited about being a Jesus follower—again.
Being around her brings me peace. There’s no pressure to do or be anything other than who I am when I’m around her. I can sleep in if I’m staying at her house. I can bring homemade turkey broth to make soup. I can bring half-baked sourdough bread and we can laugh together about how awful it tastes! And eat it anyways! And be an ear to listen and a hand to hold during the tough times. And bring God into the conversation at every turn.
Whenever I’m feeling stressed, uneasy, or there’s a war raging within, I love going to her place and just being.
We can talk about our great and wonderful God in the midst of our struggles.
What is it about her that makes me feel so refreshed when I’m around her? I think it has to do with her love for God and how she lives that out in her daily life serving God and her family. She is patient, kind, loving, merciful, grace giving, generous, servant-hearted, thoughtful—a true Christ-follower. She’s not perfect either. But she is someone who inspires me to be more like Jesus because of the way she lives her life for Him. And there’s a peace that floods my soul when I’m around her. I don’t know what that is, or how it works or why that happens. It just does.
I always leave her place feeling like I’ve just been with God— whether I’m stopping by to only spend an hour with her as I’m passing through town or coming to visit for a week.
I don’t know what I give to her in our friendship. I hope it’s something good. And I pray that whatever it is I can do for her that it’s refreshing to her soul, too.
And friends who aren't spiritually refreshing are just like that vanilla Dr. Pepper that’s tasty but not good for you. They may be “fun for you”, but not good for you. You may get some benefits from the friendship, but the long term consequences might be harmful rather than be refreshing. Not to say you should have friends just to receive benefits.
But are your friends dragging you down spiritually or when you leave their presence do you feel like you’re just been with God and refreshed heart and soul?
I pray to our God for you, dear reader, for friends who spiritually strengthen you and that you are the friend who refreshes others. Bring out the best in them to the glory of God. And be that kind of refreshment to others. You never know what God will do through you!
“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

-Jewel Melton
 Zapresic, Croatia
 AIM 2002