Have you ever been there? Groping for your purpose. Unsure. Struggling to let go of the familiar in favor of the call you thought God ordained. Overcome with doubts and uncertainties. Your own understanding at odds with other believers’ unshakable faith. For whatever reason, you return to that old, familiar place. You give up. Cave in. Let go of the possibilities. Renege on your commitments.
Then, like John Mark, you finally reach full surrender, gain clarity, and come to terms with your passion. And just when you’re willing to sell out to the cause someone slams the door of opportunity in your face.
“No. Thank you.” They say, bringing up your past, your mistakes, your painful season. With yesterday dragged back into the present, you’re left with what used to be instead of your future hopes.
We’ve all been there. Struggling from some inner unsettling that throws us off the path of our purpose until our faith can recoup its losses. The key to this recovery is found in the rest of John Mark’s story.
In Philemon, Paul acknowledges John Mark as a “fellow worker.” Another time, Paul tells Timothy that Mark is “helpful to me in my ministry.” Historians speculate that it was this John Mark who became the founder and overseer of the Alexandrian church and the writer of the book of Mark. So how did he get beyond the barriers of the past to become the man God intend him to be?
According to Acts 15, Barnabas, who disagreed with Paul’s rejection of John Mark, took the young man with him to Cyprus. Cyprus was a familiar place to Barnabas, the location of the land he had sold to generate income for the fledgling Christian movement. Under the tutelage of this relative, John Mark was able to witness the power of love and sacrifice. The bigger picture of the Kingdom lay evidenced before him, and he was able to reconnect with God’s work, laboring alongside Barnabas in the ministry. Hidden lessons lie between the lines of the narration.
- 1. John Mark had his own personal experience with God. More than the faith of his mother or of Barnabas, his own faith permitted him to regain his footing and move forward. We, too, overcome setbacks and disappointments when our own faith is fully rooted in God instead of people-approval or circumstances.
- 2. He was connected to someone who believed in him and who saw his potential. Surrounding ourselves with those who cheer on God’s purpose in our lives gives us encouragement to believe God’s promises and to hope in His plan.
- 3. He kept a right spirit. Instead of flouncing off in anger at Paul, he submitted to the transition. Our biggest challenges come when things do not go our way. Our attitude in those moments can grant future altitude in our spiritual walk.
- 4. He maintained spiritual vision. Instead of focusing on the hindrance to what he assumed God wanted for him, he chose to walk through the open doors that were available to him. He saw Kingdom possibilities and carried on with the work of God.
- 5. He proved his character. Instead of growing bitter and angry and setting himself against Paul, he set himself FOR God and the Church. In doing so, he had an attitude of faithfulness, perseverance, forgiveness, and unity that overrode Paul’s previous assessment of him. As a result, a new reputation of endurance and love arose to replace the stigma of his past. If we continue to have a right spirit and do the right things, remnants of past mistakes will release their hold on our present and our future.
Failure is inevitable. Criticism of others is likely. Disappointment in people we look up to is guaranteed. But we don’t have to be defined by the negative. Recovery from setbacks, restoration of purpose, and reconnection in relationships are ours to enjoy if we learn to submit to God and to preserver in what is right. It’s a testimony we can share with John Mark.
Tip/Tidbit: Are you struggling with a God-assignment? Take courage and press on. Is past failure a part of your present? Continue to do what you know is right. Have you come through trying times? Help someone else reach their potential.