February 23, 2013

“Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.  But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there arose a sharp disagreement,
so that they separated from each other.” Acts 15:37-39a

DSC_0004Last fall I was training for my first triathlon.  I was a little nervous about all the race uncertainty.  I thought that it would be a good idea to ride the actual cycling course.  My hope was that riding the race route would alleviate some race day jitters.  A couple of weeks before the race, a friend and I packed up all of our gear and traveled to the site where I planned to cross-off a goal that I have had for a couple of decades.

My goal for the race was to average 20 mph so I was trying to cycle the course at that pace. I was on a part of the course that had a several mile long straight section followed by 90 degree turn at a road intersection.  I stopped pedaling as I approached the intersection.  There was no traffic to be seen so my intention was to make a long sweeping turn and immediately start pedaling in an effort to regain the speed I lost in the turn as fast as possible.

I came out of my handlebar drops and leaned into my turn.  I quickly crossed the opposite lane of traffic and traveled through the intersection.  That was when I realized that I was in trouble.  The trajectory of my chosen line was not going to keep me on the road.  My route now included the gravel of the road shoulder, a concrete irrigation ditch and a field.  There was not time to hit the brakes and stop. My only option was to try to alter my course with a little more lean and hope my tires held.

There is a point at which the force of a turn overcomes the ability of your tires to hold the road.  I discovered that point.  When I pressed for a little more on my turn, my tires slipped out from under me.   There was a moment of clarity as the tension throughout my bike was suddenly released.

I thought, “This is going to hurt.”

In the next instance, my chest hit the asphalt, followed by my chin as I unconsciously twisted to take the blow.  Apparently, my bike had gone airborne, along with my clipped in feet, so that the last part of my body to hit was my hip and legs.

I lay ingloriously stunned along the roadside after I had slid to a stop.  I was bleeding from various cuts and scrapes but there was not excessive pain coming from any particular joint and bone.  I gathered my senses as my friend checked out my bike.  Surprisingly, it was intact except for some scrapes and gashes. Since I only had some flesh wounds, we decided that we might as well complete our ride at a much reduced pace.

I had made a pretty big mistake and had paid the price.  I had crashed and left some DNA behind.  My choice was whether I was going to let my mistake take me out of the race.  I pretty quickly decided that I would learn from my mistake and take that experience and allow it to make me a better cyclist.  I now know how to turn better.  That crash has not dictated my future.

I wonder how many people have crashed in their spiritual lives and allowed that painful, miserable, and embarrassing experience dictate their lives from that point forward.

I am encouraged by the life of John Mark.  John Mark made a huge mistake.  He bailed on Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  They were just getting started and John Mark leaves them and heads back to Jerusalem where his mother lived.

It was a big deal.  I don’t know what his reason for leaving was but based on Paul’s response, I don’t think it was a very good excuse.  John Mark’s decision had some significant consequences.  Paul had lost his confidence in John Mark.  John Mark had shown that went times got tough he would run home.  Paul did not want to take that chance again.  The split up of the missionary team of Paul and Barnabas was centered on John Mark’s mistake.

How would you like to have one of your mistakes be the reason for an argument and split between two pillars of the early Church?

John Mark had some choices.  He could have let his mistake dictate who he was.  He could have refused to take any future responsibilities because he lacked confidence.  He could have been bitter and resentful of Paul.  He could have allowed his mistake to take him out of the race.

John Mark did not allow that to happen.  He stayed in the race and he learned from his mistake.

John Mark learned to be one of the most faithful of the early Church leaders.  It is John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark.  He is that Mark.  He was a faithful confidant of Peter and dictated Peter’s experience into one of the four gospels.  He proved himself and restored Paul’s confidence in him.  It was John Mark that Paul asked for when he was in prison in Rome.

“…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me in ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11

How wonderful is that?  John Mark went from a person that Paul did not want to do ministry with to a person that Paul found “very useful.”

That was only possible because Mark stayed in the race.

Mark crashed in a very painful and public display.  He caved when the pressure was applied.  He ran when his fellow servants needed him.  His mistake caused division.  He disappointed many of the people that he respected.  He did all of that.  I am sure that his crash stunned him; it probably dazed him for a while. I am sure that his poor decision caused him much pain but he did not get out of the race.

It is obvious that Mark took his mistake and learned from it.

He proved that he was “very useful.”  He proved that he could be relied upon.  He demonstrated that his mistake did not define his life.  He stayed in the race and God used him in some incredible ways.  Mark and the early Church were all beneficiaries of giving his mistake to the Lord and allowing our Lord to repair, restore, and teach from it.

God could have used another person if Mark had decided that his mistake was too big and painful.  Mark’s decision to live for God in whatever the Lord had for him resulted in him participating in the ministry of the Apostles.  That is an incredible privilege that was granted to Mark.  It would have been very sad for Mark to have missed out on being used by God just because he had crashed.

Maybe, you have crashed in your faith. 

Maybe, you have proven yourself unfaithful. 

Remember Mark. 

Don’t let your mistakes dictate your future.  Our God can restore and rebuild.  We just have to give it to God, trust Him, and give it some time.  That does not mean that our mistakes will not have consequences that hurt.  The question is what will you do with that pain?

Will you allow the pain of your mistake to sideline you or;

Will you allow your experience to make you “very useful?

Every person who has followed Christ for any length of time has made a mistake in their faith.  They are painful and embarrassing.  No one likes them.  However, we all face some decisions after a mistake happens.  We can take our ball, run home and abandon the race or we can stay in the race, learn from our mistakes and become better servants of our Lord and Savior.  It is up to us.

Let’s take our mistakes and become that person who others will seek out because the Lord has made us “very useful” for His work.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for not allowing our mistakes to dictate our future.  Thank you for rebuilding and restoring those things that in our flesh we have destroyed.  Father, use all of my mistakes.  Take those unpleasant and painful experiences and make me useful through the work of your Spirit.  Lord, please don’t leave me like I am.  Change me more and more into your image in spite of the mistakes that I have made..     Amen


  1. […] “CRASHING IN OUR FAITH” – Feb. 23 (boyslumber.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Though I love the story about your bike crash and see your point. I also see another “perspective”

    I think it would be a mistake to think that John Mark made a mistake. God has ways that more often than not disturbs our peace. Perhaps the love between Paul and John Mark was such that an argument was needed in order to get them both to go where GOD needed them…separately? Like with your bike crash, the emphasis lays not in our “mistake making” by how we think. My guess is one day you will see that crash and completely different.. the context will have nothing to do with “getting back up and keep going” or bikes, turns, indeed NOTHING you see now will apply, but still He will show you how HE has a much larger picture. And indeed HE causes our lapse in judgement at times to serve a purpose that stretches far beyond human imagination. See hardening Pharaoh’s heart….still today what blessing we gather for if He had not hardened the one, the softening of billions would not be possible.
    Arguments, error in judgement, lack of perception, even decision’s to ignore what He says (hardening of heart) ALL are part of His will and purpose!
    John Mark went where he was supposed to go.
    Paul did too. And we can bank on that they loved each other no matter…because they love Yeshua, Jesus…all things work together 🙂

    • I agree completely with the perspective that you pointed out. I would call that God’s perspective. There are no surprises from God’s perspective. He is not surprised by anything that we do, either good or bad. He is not changing his plans due to our being faithful/obedient or unfaithful/disobedient. I am so glad that you have pointed this out because it is one of the greatest comforts an omniscient God. We as creations of God cannot ruin God’s plan; He does have a much larger picture in everything that we do and don’t do. It is the foundation to how God can work all things for the good of those who love him. It is a precious truth.
      I find it helpful to consider this issue as two sides of the same coin. There is God’s perspective on one side and man’s perspective on the other. God’s perspective of a particular situation may be reviled to us or we may never really know all of the reasons. The vast majority of the time we live by faith in all that is on God’s side of the coin. We are constrained to our limited perspective of this world. There have been some who have reasoned that since God is in complete control and knows all that we will and will not do then they are relieved of all responsibility for their actions. I realize that you are not advocating that in the least. However, you are probably aware that some have distorted this wonderful truth of God to justify lifestyles that are contrary to scripture. Christ has called all of his followers to be like him. The reality is that I often make mistakes in my following of Christ and I don’t look like him. That is a mistake and/or error as viewed from my perspective. We have a God who is a wonderful Father who has already accounted for our mistakes and his unchanged plan as already made them into good.

  3. The angry men throwing stones at Stephen wanted a witness’s approval to kill him. So they took off their coats and dropped them at the feet of a young man named Saul, who was in agreement with the execution of the Jesus-follower.
    Saul went on to lead the charge against the Jewish apostates… until he met the one he was fighting against.
    “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus asked. Saul’s life was changed. Instead of fighting against the name of Jesus, he began preaching and praying and healing in it.
    God chose Saul, a persecutor of Christians, and transformed him into a passionate preacher of the gospel who later became known as Paul. Today, God still calls out to persecutors of his children and changes them into preachers of his truth.

  4. Have you ever wondered why you were born? Augustine, one of the early church fathers, said “Our hearts are restless until we find God.” You cannot truly experience peace and joy in your life without an open relationship with God. Romans 5:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”
    “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.” Exodus 9:16
    “I cry out to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.” Psalm 57:2
    Your Purpose: Relationship with God
    The purpose of your life is to bring God glory in everything you do: in your worship, your relationships, and your work. “The chief purpose of man in to bring glory and honor to God and to enjoy Him forever,” says the Westminster Confession of Faith. Remember, by accepting Christ as your Savior you now have God who “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But this does not happen overnight. It is the result of a growing relationship with God. Faithfulness to read God’s Word and to pray according to His will help grow your relationship with God. That is the ultimate purpose of your life—to have a meaningful relationship with God. And beyond that, God has specific things for you to accomplish in your life. “And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them.” Jeremiah 32:39

  5. About four years ago I experinced such a spiritual crash. Afterward I was thankful to just still be intact and wanted to just hide away and forget the dreams the Lord had put in my heart as a young person to serve Him through writing. But God would not leave me alone. I felt unworthy to talk to anyone else about anything spiritual because I had dropped the ball in such a big way. I am so thankful that I did not let my mistakes “dictate” my spiritual life, though. I am now writing devotions for two Christian magazines, and was invited to speak at at a ladies bible study at a church in our community next weekend! I wouldhave never believed that was possible several years ago. Thank God for his complete fogiveness and restoration!!!!

    • Praise God. Thank you for sharing how God forgives and restores.

  6. That is a powerful prayer that I will repeat!

  7. Every thorn along the pathway of life can either enable or disable us. It can either weaken our faith or strengthen our faith. We can either let it hurt us or we can use it as a step to becoming closer to the precious full bloom that God intended us to be.

    • Amen

  8. I read Thomas the Train stories to my little boy. Sir Top M. Hat is always singing the praises of “very useful engines”. I pray we might all be so. A very inspirational message. Thanks for pausing to read my blog.

  9. Gross photo, but good analogy. And thank you for taking the time to explain the John Mark person of the gospel of Mark. I also appreciate you relating his connection to Paul.

    Bottom line, thank you.

  10. This is so insightful! I’ve heard and read that story many of times, but I have never heard it brought it out like that.

  11. Thanks for another insightful piece, and a real encouragement. Even if we’ve not crashed, we’re all less than perfect and can feel that we’re no use. It’s not how far you’ve come that matters, but which direction you’re travelling.

  12. Wonderful encouragement…thank you. How’s the knee? Looks gnarly in the photo. :/

    • The knee healed up nicely. It left a pretty good scar but it could have been much worse.

  13. Very well said. Thanks

  14. May The Lord help you to continue to encourage His people to love and serve Him. I appreciate you brother.

  15. This is the first time I’ve seen this blog and bro I love it! John Mark is one of my favorite early Church leaders and it’s always good to be reminded to stay in the fight of faith even after failing! God bless ya!

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