I was a young, energetic high school freshman football player. All enthusiasm, no experience. We were punting and I was running downfield to cover the punt, foolishly looking up to see where the ball was. Wham! I was knocked flat by an opposing player rudely taking advantage of my vulnerable state.
Know what I did next? Well, first I rolled around on the ground trying to get my bearings and calling out for my mother. But, eventually, I did what every football player must do at times. I got back up.
Football players aren’t the only ones who get knocked down and need to get back up. By the forces of life or our own foolishness, every Christian finds himself rolling around on the ground at times. We all need to learn to get back up.
John Mark (sometimes called John, sometimes Mark and sometimes by his full name) is a story of a young Christian who learned to get back up. He started his ministry career as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas as they went on a missionary journey. But early on that trip he “left them”. The bible says he “deserted them”. (See Acts 12-15 for the full story.)
I don’t know why he deserted. Was he homesick or afraid? Was it harder than he thought? Did the lack of immediate success cause him to doubt the value? What was it that caused him to renege on his commitment? We don’t know. We just know that he fell down and he needed to get back up.
We are told in Acts 15 that Paul and Barnabas planned another trip to “visit the brothers and sisters in every town where we have preach the word of the Lord and see how they’re doing”. Barnabas, cousin to John Mark, wanted to take him along. Paul thought it unwise. They disagreed so sharply that they ended up splitting into two teams. Paul and Silas went one way and Barnabas and John Mark another. Who was right? Perhaps it is possible that both were and that the Holy Spirit used this to double the ground covered.
There is a looming question. Did John Mark take advantage of the second chance? Was Barnabas’ faith in him rewarded? Is there any evidence that the fallen John Mark got back up?
The text gives us some clues. Text one is 1 Peter 5:13 where Peter calls John Mark “my son”. The second clue is Philemon 1:23 where Paul calls him “my coworker”. A third piece of evidence is in Colossians 4:10 where Paul instructs the church about John Mark, “if he comes to you, welcome him”. Paul, perhaps worried about the reputation of this young man who stumbled, wants the church to show love and hospitality.
But the greatest evidence that John Mark got back up is found in two texts. The first is penned by Paul near the end of his life. He says in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” The one who had deserted Paul was now seen as useful to him in the work of ministry.
There is a final scripture passage that suggests that John Mark got back up after falling down early in his ministry. It is too long to quote. You may know it. It is called “The Gospel According to Mark”!
Yes, this same deserter was used by the Holy Spirit as the human instrumentation by which this portion of God’s word is given to us. I’m glad John Mark got back up.
You will get knocked down on occasion in life and ministry. It is the nature of living in a fallen world. And, when life and circumstances knock you down you need to get back up and continue to serve the Lord.
But sometime, you might fall down of your own accord. Do note that you can never get back lost days and lost opportunities that you have wasted by your own choices. Some positions and opportunities are lost forever by foolish actions. Better never to fall. Better never to desert. Better never to quit. But, if you do, there is a wiser choice than groveling in the mud or staying on the sidelines or remaining in the desert. Repent and confess and make right. Seek the Lord and revival and forgiveness. Make amends where necessary. Be forthright and find healing.
Then, one thing still remains.
Get back up.