I urge you, brethren–you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints–that you also submit to such and to everyone who works and labors with us. I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore, acknowledge such men. (I Corinthians 16:15-18).
Refreshing others. What a wonderful ministry. As opposed to wearing them out and using them up. Leaving them stronger than how we found them.
I’m struck by Paul’s tribute to Stephanas at the end of his epistle to the Corinthians. Along with his family and friends, this brother in the Lord did three things which earned him an “honorable mention” in Holy Scripture—
1. They were addicted to ministry. That’s quite a tribute. In our day, when people see needs, they frequently imitate the Lord’s disciples in the early part of John 9 and get into debates over who is to blame. But there are among us a few who have no time for such pointless dilly-dallying. They jump in to see what they can do to alleviate the situation.
There are so many kinds of addictions, but surely this is the best.
2. They filled the cracks of service. Paul says, “They completed what was lacking on your part.” It would have been so easy for Stephanas to become angry over dropped commitments and critical of failed promises. But he didn’t. When the pledges of support from Corinth did not arrive as promised, Stephanas stepped in and ministered to Paul in whatever ways he required. (I would not be surprised if Paul needed some cash, and his friend came through in that way also.)
3. As a result, Paul says, “they refreshed my spirit.” All around the great apostle people were bleeding him dry — draining his spirit, eroding his strength, exhausting his patience. Then, Stephanas and his friends showed up. By the time they departed, Paul has been recharged, renewed, and refreshed. He’s ready to go again.
That’s the kind of person I want to be. “Lord, make me a refresher. I want to be one who finds the brother in the ditch or sprawled along the wayside where life has felled him, and stands him on his feet.” And that reminds me of Eliphaz’ tribute to Job. Surely, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have strengthened the feeble knees (Job 4:3-4). How good is that?
May I never be one who burdens God’s workers and exhausts them…
–I want to be a quiet strength to my ministers. As a veteran pastor myself, long retired and active in an itinerant ministry now, I know what my pastors are dealing with. I see their ministries and have thoughts on what they are doing. And once in a while, I also think of a suggestion on how they could do it better. That’s when I pray for myself to be quiet and to keep this to myself.
–I pray for my preacher friends, for God’s power and protection to be upon them. And I do one thing that I consider very crucial to my praying: I do not tell them I’m praying for them. Why is that important? Because it seems to me that people with an ongoing prayer ministry often spend more time telling people “I’m praying for you” than actually doing it. It reminds me of those prayer meetings we used to hold on Wednesday nights when we spent 30 minutes sharing requests and five minutes in actual prayer. So, as a discipline to myself, I make it a point not to tell Pastor Chip Stevens or Pastor Don Davidson or Pastor James Beckley or Pastor Mike Miller or Pastor Jay Adkins or Pastor David Crosby or Pastor Jeffery Friend or Pastor Chuck Herring or Pastor Mark Byrd or Pastor Greg Pouncey or Pastor Jon Daniels or Pastor Chad Gilbert that “I’m praying for you.” To say those words leaves the impression that I want something from them. But I don’t. So I tell the Lord, and leave the matter with Him.
–Once in a while, when impressed by the Lord, I write a check and send to a minister whom the Lord brings to my mind. It’s between Him and them whether they needed the gift or not; my job is to obey. I can tell you story after story from my earlier years when a timely check arrived by mail to refresh my spirit and encourage my heart.
I want to be a refresher. An encourager. One who blesses.
“Dear Lord, make me one who refreshes Thy servants, who finds the right words that strengthen feeble knees, who prays for just the right remedy they were needing, whose very presence is an encouragement. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”