Idaho faith: Friends and fellowship help us find ‘God’s footprints,’ invest in others

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Recently, an old friend of mine, Jon Barnes, called and invited me to lunch, which I readily accepted. We had not seen much of each other for some time, but always found pleasure in fellowship. Since it had been some time, we needed to catch up on each other’s lives and families. Then the conversation naturally transitioned to the welfare of mutual friends. Walking down memory lane is the privilege and pleasure of old friends.

Before we parted, Jon asked if we might have prayer together. As brothers in faith, it was the most natural way to conclude our time of fellowship. Jon prayed for God’s blessing to rest upon my life, family and ministry. Jon’s visit was edifying, and I trust we were mutually encouraged to live “the fourth quarter” (using Jon’s expression) with honor, and finish our earthly journey investing in other people. What a wonderful way to spend the lunch hour on a Friday.

Jon’s visit reminded me of the apostle Paul’s remarks in 2 Timothy 1:16-18 about a man named Onesiphorus. You may not have heard of Onesiphorus; few people have. At the time of his writing, Paul was in prison, and considered an undesirable by the authorities. But the apostle chiseled Onesiphorus’ name in Scripture history by this compliment: “ … for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain. …” That statement, along with those that followed, was filled with meaning.

First of all, Paul would not have been an easy person to find in Rome. He was in an isolated dungeon, and surrounded by security forces. To admit to any association with Paul was inviting possible trouble. Not only was Onesiphorus not afraid of admitting a friendship with a notorious prisoner, but he traveled from a distance and “very zealously” pursued a chance to see Paul.

But the outstanding compliment about this man was what he did once he was in the dungeon with the imprisoned apostle. Paul said “… he often refreshed me …” That word, “refreshed,” referred to being a cool breeze to a person who might become overheated. To someone in a stuffy dungeon, that word would have special meaning! Onesiphorus was a “cool, refreshing breeze” to a weary, aging prisoner who was facing the reality of execution.

Onesiphorus’ frequent visits reminded Paul of the worth with which his friends regarded him. The old, imprisoned missionary was able to live in the spiritual and emotional strength of this one man’s visits for many days afterward.

There are people in Scripture, like Jonathan and Barnabas, who are memorialized for their ministry of friendship. Jonathan’s friendship and support was key to young David becoming king. And Jonathan was the heir apparent to his father’s throne, so he selflessly stepped aside to support a young man he knew was chosen by God to lead Israel. There are not many people who possess Jonathan’s heart and attitude.

Barnabas (Son of Encouragement) was a nickname people gave Joses, a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36). He had befriended and helped so many people, including John Mark and Saul of Tarsus (who later became known as “Paul,” his Roman name), that people just called him, “Encouragement.”

Wouldn’t you like to have a friend like Jonathan and Barnabas in your life? Even better: how about becoming a friend like them, and investing in other people? Then you will discover the real joy in living!

One man replied, after the visit of a friend, “When he left, I found God’s footprint on my floor!” God’s footprints led right out to Jon’s car.

Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise. The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.