Have you ever given up on someone? The Apostle Paul did, at least temporarily. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) who accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5).
We aren’t told exactly what happened, but Mark deserted them (Acts 15:38). This was a crucial time in the beginning of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry and I’m sure it left them in a real crunch as they depended upon those who were traveling in this pioneering of ministry with them. When Paul was preparing for his second missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul had a disagreement about taking Mark with them, so they parted ways to further the gospel (Acts 15:36-41). Paul took Silas and Barnabas took Mark. Paul had found Mark, at the time, not very useful for the ministry that he believed needed someone dependable and dedicated for this ground-breaking work of the ministry.
Something must have happened in Mark on his journeys with Barnabas to Cyprus that caught Paul’s attention. Perhaps, he just needed time to grow in the Lord? We are told in Philemon 1:24, written years later, that Mark is a “fellow worker” and in Colossians 4:10 (written about the same time) that Mark was with Paul. Not only was Mark just present and working, Paul now, in one of his last letters, says, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”
What a heart change in Paul! What a character change in Mark! Thanks to God for second chances and people who don’t give up on you. We all have made mistakes. We all have room for growth. Cousin Mark grew in the Lord and became the writer of the gospel of Mark. While it’s easy to give up on “deserter Mark,” nobody would give up on “gospel-writer Mark.” But, it’s the “in between Mark” that needs an encourager and discipler. That’s the Mark that could go either way unless someone pursues, encourages and grows them in the faith.
Thank God for Barnabas, the encourager (Acts 11:22-26) who didn’t give up on Mark! Maybe you’ve given up on someone who has deserted you? Maybe they aren’t as mature as they should be? How can you help them grow? Will you just let them go? Remember who encouraged you when you were Mark the deserter. Reach out to your Mark, encourage them, see their God-given potential, and make a disciple out of them.
Stephen Harrison is the lead pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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