If you have ever traveled any length of time on the highway, you have no doubt seen a sign like this.
If it was a long trip, you no doubt have prayed to see a sign like this!
It basically is a description of a place where you can stop traveling for a minute. You can get out of the car and stretch muscles that went to sleep, re-check the map or GPS, make a phone call to a loved one to let them know where you are, buy an overpriced cup of coffee, or just rest.
You don't plan on living at a rest area, because it is very clearly just a place to rest. (You would go broke on the coffee and vending machines anyway)
We look forward to these places because every one of us needs at one point in the travels of life to stop and rest. When I was a kid and we travelled as a family, the only thing that concerned me was, "Does this place have any monkey bars?"
I have changed a bit in the qualifications of a good rest area now. When I travel, I am on the lookout for something more along the lines of this:
A spot where I can see something, anything but the highway in front of me. I look for a place where I can take my mind off of where I need to be next, and what the deadlines are.
In most cases what I have found was something I would have missed had I kept driving. Once it was an elderly man helping his wife out of the car and helping her up the steps like she was the Queen of England, another time it was a parent pushing their child on a swing, a man stretched out sound asleep on the hood of his truck, and once it was a man who tripped over his large German Shepherd and spilled his overpriced rest area coffee.
This morning, I would like to offer you just that.
No matter where your road may have you traveling today, I invite you to just pull over, and notice what you would have missed if you had kept driving.
I want to invite you to pull over at the rest stop called PHILEMON.
It is an extremely short book. 25 verses in fact and really, this is nothing more than a letter from one man to another. So as you read these 25 verses, please be aware that you are in fact, reading someone Else's mail.
The story is beautiful.
There was once a young man named, Onesimus. He was a servant in the house of Philemon.
One day, Onesimus has decided that he has had enough of Philemon and decides to leave. In fact, he decided to leave with some things that did not belong to him. He leaves with a black mark upon his name, and it is not surprising that some time later he winds up in prison in a destination far from home.
I can see him sitting in that dark prison. Angry? Bitter at the way his life has turned out? He is sitting there, when from out of the shadows he hears a raspy, aged voice.
"Hello there son" I imagine he would hear. "My name is Paul...What is yours?"
What are the odds that this servant ends up sharing the same cell as the Apostle Paul? I do not know about you, but I see God's hand all over this one. Paul ministers to Onesimus, and he is converted. After a time, Onesimus is going to be set free and he wants to return home. He has told Paul about what he had done, and about the bridges he had burned. Can you see Paul's face when Onesimus tells him the name of his former master?
Philemon was a very old and dear friend of Paul, so Paul writes a letter for Onesimus to take back to Philemon. I will not take the time to list out the entire letter, but I would like to encourage you to read it sometime today.
There is one passage that I would like to lift out to you, since you are stopped at this rest area called Philemon, and you would miss this had you have continued to drive.
"For perhalps he therefore departed for a season, that thous shoulldest recieve him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved..."
That is powerful!
You see, I believe that each one of us would fall into one of these character parts.
Philemon: You have done all that you know to do, and yet it was not good enough. You have been hurt, wronged, even trampled on by an Onesimus in your life. Please understand, it is possible to do all that you know to do, and still have your care and devotion thrown back up in your face. Kids do go wrong, and loved ones do walk out on you. "Godly" people do very "Ungodly" things, and if you are a Philemon this morning, there is no doubt that you have been left shaking your head and asking God "Why?".
Then there is another character that this story provides here at REST AREA PHILEMON.
Onesimus: You have wronged someone, and you know it. You are hurt as well, and you have done everything you can think of to justify what you did. Philemon had it coming right? They could have done more right? People don't know your Philemon like you know your Philemon. You have avoided making things right, and your life is similar in many ways to a prison. You cannot be free from it no matter where you lay your head, what you soothe your conscience with. This was not the life you had envisioned as a little boy. If someone had asked you as a little girl to describe what your life would look like...it would never be this. If you are an Onesimus this morning, there is no doubt that you have been left shaking your head and asking God "Why?".
Finally I observe one last character here at REST AREA PHILEMON.
Paul: You have devoted your heart to the Lord, and in spite of your hearts desire to be doing His work His way, you are in a place where your path has crossed and Onesimus. They seem to be a good person at heart, but they are rough...very rough. They talk rough, they smell rough, they behave rough, and they even treat you rough. If you are a Paul this morning, there is no doubt that you have been left lifting your hands to heaven and thanking God for this opportunity!
I think at one point in time in my life I have played each of these parts. I think we all have.
Every single one of us has had or will have times of departure from the Lord, but those times of departure can be just as valuable as the times of arrival.
Luke 15 tells of a young man who departed so that he could return.
I am so very glad that during my departure times that God sent a Paul to help me prepare for an arrival.
If you are praying for an Onesimus in your life, pray for the Paul that God is going to provide for them. Pray that the Paul in their life will have the wisdom to look past the excuses and help your Onesimus see the power of Christ.
If you are a Paul for someone, ask God to help you be the one to help that Onesimus find Christ and through Christ, find restoration!
If you are Onesimus, ask God to help you see the Paul for who they are... an extension and demonstration of God's redeeming love and grace! You have been given a Paul, but you just may have been looking past them. They are not here for the fun of it. They are on mission for God, and they have been brought into your life by the prayers of the Philemon's in your life. You are loved, and God is using Paul to prove it!
The thing about rest areas that is so interesting is that if you drive past them, there is so much that you would have missed seeing.
Thanks for stopping with me for a minute at REST AREA PHILEMON.
Climbing with you,