Can you recall a time in your life when you failed? Did you rebound from that failure and learn from it? Or did you let it dictate your future and decide that you would never amount to much?
Today in our reading, Acts 13:1-13, we see how John Mark recovered from a failure. We have to read beyond our reading for today to see the full story, but it is sure nice to know that his story does not end at the end of Acts 13.
John Mark was brought up in a prayer filled home. In Acts 12:12, we read that after Peter was miraculously rescued from prison
“he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.”
As a young man, he was surrounded by the greatest men and women of the New Testament church. He grew up listening to these men and their stories of the times they had spent with Jesus. All of their prayers and struggles would have been shared with him.
John Mark may have grown up dreaming of the day that He too would be able to travel throughout the world preaching the gospel. His uncle was Barnabas, and so when Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go on their missionary journey, John Marks’ opportunity to preach the gospel came to be.
There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant. Acts 13:5
He would accompany them on their trip to take care of the work behind the scenes so that Paul and Barnabas could focus on their ministry. John Mark had to be so excited to be doing what he had only dreamed of!
But, only 8 verses later in Acts 13:13 we read
Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.
The word translated as “left,” in the original means “to desert”. It means to leave in a negative way and to willfully abandon. We do not know exactly why he left. Maybe he was homesick? Possibly he missed his wealthy lifestyle at home with servants to meet his needs. Maybe he found he preferred to be served rather than to serve. Or, maybe like many of us, he had unrealistic expectations.
No matter the reason he left, sometime later we read,
Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Acts 37-39
Paul thought that he had messed up too bad the first time and was not prepared to give him a second chance. John Mark probably thought that he had messed up so bad that he ruined his chance at ever being used by God on a missionary journey again.
Thankfully John Mark did not give up even after a failure. In the years ahead, John Mark proves himself over and over again. Paul forgives him and goes on to recommend him to others. We see this in Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:9-11.
John Mark had wondered if he would ever have another chance to fulfill his calling and be involved in ministry. Now we see Paul confirming this, “He will be helpful to me in my ministry.” From John Marks life we can take encouragement that failing at ministry or at anything in life does not erase the possibility of future use. People may give up on us, but God never will.