A Pastor’s Ponderings: Turning Losers into Winners

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Dave HollandBy Pastor David Holland

And John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. Acts 13:13 (NIV)

“Look Mom, there’s a naked boy running through the garden,” My mind imagines a girl saying as she observes John Mark running for his life. Mark 14:50-52 paints the picture, “Then all his disciples deserted him (Christ) and ran away. One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.” This humiliating start begins a journey that would lead to greatness. God would ultimately transform this naked boy into a giant in church history.

The story of John Mark continues in Acts 12 as we find him in a Christian home. The apostle Peter had been arrested and was being held in jail awaiting execution at the hands of Herod. An angel crashed that party in the middle of the night and led Peter to freedom. Peter then went to the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, where many people gathered in fervent prayer. I’m sure Peter’s miraculous release made an impression on John Mark; he later became Peter’s companion and secretary. Together, they penned the Gospel of Mark.

Mark surfaces again in Acts 13 as the assistant to his cousin, Barnabas, and the apostle Paul during their first missionary journey. Eventually the persecution came raining down as stones, so Mark quit and returned home. Fear takes hold and Mark runs. Instead of returning home as the successful missionary, Mark arrives at Mom’s house as the quitter. The embarrassment he felt must have been unbearable.

A year or two passed before Paul and Barnabas returned to the church in Jerusalem. They arrived bearing the scars of persecution and sharing stories of miraculous conversions. They were heralded as heroes while John Mark hung back, wearing shame like a shawl.
Soon, talk about a second missionary journey began. Barnabas, always the encourager, raised the idea of taking John Mark along again. Paul vehemently disagreed. Their contention was so great the apostles parted company. Barnabas left with John Mark. Mark must have felt embarrassed as the center of this argument. Shame once again followed this young man.

Years later, in a redemptive twist of the gospel story, Paul wrote from a prison cell, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him.)” (Colossians 4:10). John Mark reappeared as Paul’s friend. How did that happen? I believe Mark matured over time as the Lord did not give up on him. “Faith supplies staying power,” says Norman Vincent Peale. Mark hung in there despite his failures. God will do wonderful things in us if we persevere and grow through our shortcomings.

Scripture points to John Mark again in 2 Timothy 4:11, as Paul writes to Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. ”The former quitter had now become a vital worker in the kingdom of God.

Christian history tells us that John Mark later became the founder of the church in Africa and the Bishop of Alexandria. Mark ended his journey confronting the idolatry of his city. The pagans responded by pulling his body apart, literally limb from limb. The change in John Mark through the years was staggering. God transforms our fear into courage, our shame into boldness. The incredible love of God endures as He turns losers into winners.

Dave Holland pastored churches for 38 years before retiring in Destin. He recently released his new devotional/Bible study based on the Gospel of Luke titled “Extraordinary Jesus: Ignite Your Season of Miracles.” You can get a copy of this book from his website, DaveHolland.org, or at Amazon.com. Pastor Dave is available to preach and teach in churches and conferences. Contact him at DavidvHolland54@gmail.com.