Acts 15:36–41 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Paul and Barnabas were soul brothers. Together they healed the lame, preached the Gospel, planted churches, and endured much tribulation. They spent hundreds of days together and travelled thousands of miles across troubled seas and down desert roads. As the “Dynamic Duo” of first century Christianity, they had served well the King of Kings.
However, despite their years of faithful labor, Paul was not yet ready to purchase the house on the lake and begin his retirement years. He longed to serve Jesus, retrace his steps, and encourage his disciples. There was no one he would rather take along than Barnabas. Barnabas agreed, for he too was willing to travel on and labor more for his beloved Christ.
However, Barnabas threw before Paul the unthinkable; he proposed they bring John Mark along with them on their next missionary journey. Paul vehemently disagreed; he was somewhat flabbergasted by this suggestion. He remembered how John Mark had deserted them on their first campaign. Yes, John Mark had started well, but he had ended horribly. He had put his hand to the plow, and then dishonored Christ by turning away. John Mark was a double-minded man, undependable, and unstable in all his ways. He was a failure, a ministerial loser; he was a quitter. Paul was convinced John Mark would prove himself soft and fickle again. To Paul, this was a horrible idea.
You see, Paul was consumed with mission. But Barnabas with consumed with men.
Paul was consumed with the Christian work, but Barnabas with the Christian worker.
Paul focused most on excellence and efficiency, while Barnabas was big on encouragement.
And it was at this point, sadly, that “soul brothers” became “separated brothers.” Both Paul and Barnabas were convinced they were correct. Neither would relent. Ultimately, Paul went north with Silas while Barnabas sailed south with John Mark.
However, now for the rest of the story. It is my conclusion that Paul was possibly wrong, but Barnabas was absolutely right. John Mark was worthy of a second chance, and ultimately, he finished the long missionary campaign under the gracious discipleship of Barnabas — the Son of Encouragement. As John Mark continued to mature and serve, he was later utilized and appreciated by Peter (1 Peter 5:12-14), and even greatly valued by a later and more mature and gracious Paul (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11). In the end, this former failure became the man chosen by the Holy Spirit to pen the second Gospel of Jesus Christ bearing his name. John Mark was a quitter. However he quit quitting, and Barnabas quit quitting on the quitter.
Perhaps four questions will guide you in your prayer time.
1. Do you value the church as did Christ, Paul, Barnabas and John Mark? Are you ready to fervently labor for Christ’s bride until he removes you from your mission field?
2. Have you made vows before God and man, and have you quit? Perhaps you have vowed to stay married till the day of death, but you are walking away from your commitment? Perhaps you have joined a church and made vows to submit, worship, grow, serve and give, but you have been apathetic or AWOL for quite some time? Have you started a time of daily devotions only to fall away … again? Or maybe you have said “No!” to a certain sin, only to find yourself playing with that forbidden fire? In what ways have you disappointed the Lover of your soul?
3. What will you do now? Will you quit being a quitter? God gave a second chance to Moses. The father gave a second chance to his prodigal son. Jesus gave a second chance to Peter and all the disciples. arnabas gave a second chance to Mark, and you can repent, recommit, and rock on for Christ today. Yes you have quit. And yes, Jesus died for your sin of quitting. And yes, Jesus would have you get up now and carry on.
4. Are you ready to be a leader or member in your church who quits quitting on quitters? The Good Shepherd is not satisfied with a 99% success rate. He arrives back at the sheepfold, finds one missing, and takes off to reclaim his precious lamb. As we look about us, there are many who have proven unreliable. There are many who have talked the talk and abandoned the walk. May we be like Barnabas – Sons of Encouragement – ready to disciple those who hate their former sin and are ready to quit quitting. Grace is sweet and needed, let’s be like the early Barnabas and the later Paul — let’s quit quitting on quitters.