Paul wrote this in the book of Philemon while a prisoner in Rome: “Confident… that you will do even more than I ask” (Philemon 21). Philemon was a wealthy man who likely came to faith in Christ during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. He lived in Colosse and the church there met in his home.
It’s been said, “The Lord looks not for ability, nor inability, but availability.” You’ll see this beautifully illustrated in the book of Philemon.
Being Philemon’s slave Onesimus wasn’t ready to accept Philemon’s Christianity. He might have thought, “If I was rich like him then I’d become a Christian too.” He likely stole from Philemon and ran away, but God led him to Paul in prison. Watching Paul cope in difficult circumstances made him see that Christianity was not only for the privileged, it was also for the forgotten or disadvantaged, like prisoners and slaves. Paul was available to God in prison and helped Onesimus trust in Christ.
Then as Onesimus made himself available to God he became profitable to Paul. But Paul felt obligated to send him back to his master. Paul was confident he would now also be profitable there. So Paul wrote this letter to encourage Philemon to make himself available to lovingly accept back his runaway slave.
Paul wanted him to see Onesimus as a brother and help this young believer grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is a picture of true, but tough love. It’s also a picture of “availability as the name of the game” in the church of Jesus Christ.
Are you readily available to do God’s biding?