Think of some of the best compliments you have ever received:
- “You look great! Haven’t aged a bit.”
- “I like hanging out with you!”
- “Nice job.”
- “That was brilliant!”
- “You are such a hard worker.”
- “Your integrity and dedication are admirable.”
These are all great, but there is one that tops them all. The compliment of all compliments was given by Paul of someone most unlikely.
A little background first though.
In Acts 13-14 we read the story of Paul’s first missionary journey. The church at Antioch sent both him and Barnabas off to Cyprus and Asia Minor. John Mark was with them as their helper. God did great things through them. Miraculous signs, wonders, and conversions.
But with the good came the bad.
Trouble. Resistance. Persecution. Paul was even stoned and left for dead.
And somewhere in the middle of all this John Mark got cold feet and abandoned them.
At the conclusion of their trip, Paul and Barnabas returned to the church at Antioch and celebrated all that God had done through them. After a period of time, the two decided to go back and revisit the believers to see how they were doing. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul would have none of it.
They had such a sharp disagreement that Paul and Barnabas separated ways over it. An incredible partnership dissolved over an irreconcilable difference regarding one man.
John, better known as Mark.
Mark had “deserted” them. The same word from which we get apostate. In other words, Mark had fallen from grace. Renounced his faith. Relapsed.
Now fast forward 20 years.
Paul is at the end of his career. He is in a prison cell awaiting execution and giving final instructions to his son in the faith, Timothy. He writes:
“Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
Helpful. Profitable. Advantageous. Useful.
The man who bailed, buckled under pressure, quit, . . . goes from useless to useful.
Think about it. Of all the people the Apostle could have requested Timothy to send (Paul was well networked, just read Romans 16 if you have any doubt), he asks for Mark. He has perhaps only months to live, and the one person he wants with him is Mark, the man who years before was anything but useful.
If we learn anything from this story, it is this: Redemption is possible.
God can make winners out of losers.
But how does God do it? How did Mark go from useless to useful?
Barnabas. Son of Encouragement. He didn’t give up on our man. He stayed with him.
And the result, Mark recovered. (And aren’t you glad!? No Mark, no gospel of Mark.)
Thank God for hope. The gospel truly is the power of salvation for all who believe!
And thank God for the Barnabases of life!