Bella Vista Church of Christ



Jeff Grisham


Don't Give Up


Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.

(Acts13: 13-14 ESV)


  I know. The title of this article and the text don’t seem to match, but bear with me. This little section of the first missionary journey of Paul, Barnabas, and company, if taken by itself, could be a very sad story of someone who (if you will allow the paraphrase) put his hand to the plow and looked back. After their first encounter on Cyprus, John left the mission team and went back to Jerusalem. Although the reason for John Mark’s return to Jerusalem is not given, it seems that Paul believed it might happen again and refused to take him along on the next journey. Barnabas disagreed. The result was that Barnabas took John Mark and went one direction, and Paul and Silas went another (Acts 15:36-40).


  What happened to Barnabas and John Mark? They make their exit from the book of Acts at this point, as Luke continues to write about the work of Paul. Do we ever hear again from either of them, and particularly John Mark? We do, in fact, hear from and about John Mark in other places in the New Testament. Paul speaks of him when he writes to the church at Colossae. Colossians 4:10 reads, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him)” And in 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” Peter calls John Mark his “son” in 1Peter 5:13.


  Not only do we hear about John Mark in other places in the New Testament, we also hear from him. It is widely believed by scholars that the John Mark who deserted Paul and Barnabas on that first mission trip is the author of the Gospel of Mark. It is amazing isn’t it? The one who is called useful to Paul’s ministry, Peter’s son, and is accredited with authoring one of the accounts of the life of Jesus, was someone who had at one point turned back from the work to which he had committed.


There are some lessons to be learned here...


  First, do not stop encouraging one another. In the life of John Mark we see the importance of encouraging people in personal struggles. Barnabas was not afraid to display confidence in his young relative and took him as his traveling companion and fellow worker in the mission field. Instead of giving up on him, he encouraged and walked with him.


  Second, don’t give up on people. In the life of John Mark we see the potential danger in judging someone too quickly. It appears that Paul initially judged John Mark to be unreliable. It also appears that Paul’s view of John Mark changed a great deal over time. We never know how God may use someone that we think can and should be written off. After all, how many of us who follow Jesus have done so flawlessly. Hasn’t God been able to work in and through us despite our many faults and failings?


  Third, we cannot let our own failures become permanent. John Mark continued to follow his desire to work in the Kingdom. He went with Barnabas. He was a traveling companion of Peter. He authored his account of the life of Jesus that we still hold dear today. All of these things were done after he left Paul and Barnabas on that first journey. We cannot let a momentary failure or poor decision or a struggle with sin keep us from following Jesus and working in the Kingdom. God is still at work. God still loves. God will forgive our sins and will strengthen and empower us to do his will as long as we are willing to confess and keep going.


  Don’t give up.


—Jeff Grisham