Starting Over With God

John Mark left the team of Paul and Barnabas. There are human reasons for quitting, but never for giving up on God. We need to make sure we are in the place where God wants us to be.

Scripture: Acts 13:13, Acts 15:38


Well, I’m glad to be back with you and we’re studying in the 13th chapter of the book of Acts. We’ve gotten down to verse 13, Acts 13:13. That was an unlucky verse for John Mark, because that’s the point at which he decided to go on home. You’ll notice that, if you recall, I was pointing out to you that God changes the order of priorities between people, the relationships, at his own purposes and for his own program. For instance in 13:1, Barnabas was top man on the totem pole, Saul was the bottom man.

In Acts 13:2, it was Barnabas and Saul, number 1, number 2, Then in Acts 13:7, Barnabas and Saul. But now in verse 13, something has happened. After that miracle, in connection with Elymas, the sorcerer, the leadership changed hands. And now it’s Paul and his company. Now, I’ve been pointing to this as we’ve come on through the book of Acts. And I want now to zero in on it. You and I must be willing for God to designate His leaders for His work.

Someone wrote to me many years ago, and said of a certain great evangelist, “He’s just too good to last, and when he falls we have to be ready to take over”. You know that’s so crass, and carnal that you wince even to say it. But I got a letter from another wise, well intentioned brother, who was fighting God’s order priority; it seemed to me at that point. Well, how ‘bout you, how do you feel about people who may have started beneath you, in terms of importance, and who are now outshining you. How do you feel about them? I think the acid test of God’s grace lies right there. Are you able to pray earnestly for a person who is getting more limelight, and more recognition, and more money probably than you; and yet, somebody, who started way beneath you in the scale of importance. And when people used to refer to you with some respect, now they refer to him or to her or to them. And when people come to seek your counsel, now they go and seek the other person’s counsel. And when you used to get the calls from meetings, now somebody else gets the calls for meetings. Then, my dear brother or sister, to be able to pray earnestly for that somebody, who is outshining you and outstripping you, that’s a test of grace isn’t it.

But you know, I’ve met people like that across the world, and I rejoice in the enrichment that has come into my own heart, through meeting people who are so real with God, that it didn’t matter to them how much limelight they were getting in comparison to other people. It only mattered that God should bless their lives, and the lives of those for whom they’ve prayed. What a blessed, rich, wonderful relationship to God, where you let Him decide the priorities.

Well, it may well have been that this was too much for young John Mark. It’s hard for young people to understand God’s changes of emphasis, and of leadership, and so it says John Mark, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. Now, I don’t know exactly what the problem was. It may well have been that John Mark said to his uncle Barnabas, listen uncle, if they’re going to treat you that way, if you started out being leader of this gospel team and now they’re going to demote you, I’m just not going to stand for it, I’m going to quit. He may have said that. I don’t know. I know it’s entirely possible because I see it happening day after day, where young people, and some who are older say, well I just won’t play ball, I won’t go along with the situation where somebody else is giving the orders, and somebody else is in leadership. I won’t do it, and so they quit. Now, I’ve seen this happen, I guess, and so have you in churches and in other organizations.

Well, it was a long way back for John Mark but he found his way back into the blessing of God. But it is a pity, really, isn’t it? To quit anything that God has given you as a task simply because of human reasons. It’s a pity and a mistake, a tragic mistake, I think, to quit anything at which God has started you for purely human reasons. You get discouraged so you quit. You get offended so you quit. Somebody else gets more limelight or leadership than you, so you quit. Things get, the going gets tough, so you quit. You run out of money, so you quit. You know, now these things happen all the time, don’t they, in Christian work?

And we get discouraged, and we get offended, then we get miffed, we get upset, and our spirits get downcast. We get our eyes on ourselves or on some other human being, instead of Jesus, and we quit. Now that’s what probably, probably happened to John Mark; or he may just have been plain homesick. We have people coming to college, every time there’s a new year, opens in September, we have people coming here, within a day or two they’ve withdrawn. And we say, “why are you leaving”, Jim or Suzy, or whatever the name may be, “why are you leaving?” “Oh I’m just too homesick; I can’t stay away from home”. And away home they go. And that’s the last we see of them, they got homesick. That may have been true of John Mark, or he may have been in love with them, a pair of pretty brown eyes there back in his hometown. Who knows? I don’t know.

The Bible doesn’t give you a reason. The Bible does point out the nature of human nature so that you know pretty well what may have happened. In any case, he left. It was a mistake. Who can tell what may have happened if John Mark had stayed with his uncle Barnabas and with Paul; and had survived the change in leadership, and had adapted himself to the ways of this gospel team, this missionary team, and had gained the experience. He wouldn’t have that parenthetical time in his life when he was lost sight of, you see. It wouldn’t have been necessary for Barnabas to take him and carefully to bring him back across the great divide of failure, but so it was. And when you quit a thing, you can’t go back and redo it. Remember that, will you?

Some of you young people listening to me. You’re tempted to quit on God. You’re tempted to give up on your Christian life. You’re tempted to go back to the world. Remember God can forgive, but you can’t go back and relive those things. You can’t go back and redo them. Don’t you wish you could go back and relive some days, you folk who can look back a few years? Don’t you wish you can go back and relive some situations? Oh sure. You’d do it differently, wouldn’t you? Knowing what you now, oh yes, you would. But you can’t go back. You can never go back. And so make your decision today on the basis of; let me do now what I shall wish I had done when I meet my Lord face to face.

Well John Mark made a mistake there, he quit. It’s always a mistake to quit under the pressures of human reasoning, Alright. Now it doesn’t say anything about how they felt about it until later on in the text when the second missionary journey was to start, and then Barnabas said, “Well let’s take John Mark with us”. And Paul said, “Nothing doing”, fool me once. You know, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. So they felt pretty bad about it evidently. Felt pretty bad about it. Paul thought, “Not good to take him with him, who departed from them, from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work”. That’s clear over in chapter 15 verse 38. And it says the contention was so sharp between them; that word contention is a Greek word paroxysm.

They had fits. (Laughs) They really had an argument. They departed asunder, one from the other. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Now isn’t that interesting? Where had they started? Where had they started? They sailed to Cyprus, 13:4, and you see it was at Cyprus evidently; that the change in John Marks’s thinking had come about. Because after Cyprus, John left them, Acts 13:13. By the time they left Cyprus and came to Perga in Pamphylia or on the mainland, he said, “this is it for me”.

So Barnabas went back to Cyprus. He said to John Mark, now look buddy the way to start over with God is to start over where you left. Let’s go back to Cyprus. Isn’t that something? Well then, what does that mean for you and for me? It means if you want to get going with God, some of you, maybe, have quit on God, maybe you have backed off from your God given duty. Maybe you have gotten discouraged and you’ve used human reasons to quit on a God given assignment. How do you get going again?

You’re right straight back where you quit. If you lost your pocketbook, assuming that no one had picked it up, where would you find it, right where you lost it? And so if you’ve lost your joy and your blessing, and the sense of God’s presence, where will you find it, right where you lost it. You go back, and you make that thing right. And so Barnabas, bless him, in restoring this young man who had quit on them right after Cyprus, when he left from Perga, Barnabas said, “let’s go back and start over where you lost it”. Isn’t that something? Try that for yourself today.

You want some special blessing; go back where you lost it. You want some special assurance; go back where you left it. You want some special usefulness; go back to the job you quit on. That’s something, isn’t it? Let’s take a break here. Now, what we’ve said today about John Mark is that, there never is a good reason for quitting on God. Human reasons of pique, or of being offended, or being discouraged, or being tired, or being scared; none of them show up well in the light of God’s eternal values. If you have lost God’s blessing, the way to find it is to go right straight back where you lost it. And you’ll find God waiting there to meet you once again. Pretty good idea, wouldn’t you say? Okay we’ll go on in Acts 13 the next time we get together. Now, let’s pray.

Dear Father, in Jesus name, I commit to Thee this day not only in my life but in the lives of these thousands of people with whom I have fellowship day by day around Thy Word. Oh God, walk in our shoes today. I ask you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Amen!

God bless you dear friend and all the way, that’s all for now.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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