The word for the week is “Encouragement”!
A small group of us have been wending our way through Acts. When we came to the place where John Mark (the Gospel writer Mark) left the mission team and went home. We had a long chat about times each of us has failed and disappointed others. Some (most) of our folks have struggles with addiction and they clearly identified with Mark.
This week we studied the two reactions of the mission leaders. Paul was adamant that he required only people he could trust. The journey was fraught with danger and opposition and he did not want to worry about being deserted again. This is an understandable position.
Barnabas was first introduced to us as someone who stood up for the new convert Saul and encouraged the Apostles to give him a fair hearing. Now he sticks up for his nephew Mark. He is equally adamant that Mark get another chance. At the end of the day these two great missionaries disagreed but did not become disagreeable. We can learn a real lesson from this. The solution was to divide into two teams. The Gospel would go further and faster. Paul and his new partner Silas could embark on their difficult and dangerous trek. The young failed missionary, Mark, would get another chance. He would ultimately prove himself and become accepted by Paul as a valued fellow workman.
Each of us had so identified with Mark in his humiliating failure. I am reminded of my quip when I was trying to quit smoking, “Quitting smoking is easy! I’ve done it hundreds of times!” Dealing with addiction means we fail more than we succeed, but the beauty is that we only need to really succeed once. We all know the sting of failure, the pain of letting others and ourselves down. Mark is not a hero we aspire to in his failure, but he is our representative!
Barnabas is our hero! At risk to himself and his reputation he offers another chance.
We spent some time looking at our lives and identifying the people that gave us a chance. In gratitude we name folks who had been a Barnabas to us. In humility we thought about those we had ‘let down’, our Pauls in effect. We acknowledged our need to mend those relationships where we could and to, with God’s help, demonstrate a new heart and attitude and life and become exhibits of God’s grace.
On a personal note, I received a lot of encouragement this week. Linda and I visited St. James the Less. This is the church that sent us to the inner-city as missionaries about 15 years ago and we like to return on occasion. One gentleman was sharing a prophetic word he had received about our city and then to my astonishment said that they should pray for Linda and I and our ministry. He had no idea that we were considering a new and exciting new stage of ministry. Folks gathered around a prayed for us. It seemed like real confirmation that this is the path we should be on, right now. Afterward I shared our idea of developing a Recovery Centre and he shared that this had long been on his heart. He shared about a model that he had experience with. I look forward to sitting down with him and picking his brain about that. I have no desire to reinvent the wheel.
Please keep this vision for ministry in your prayers. I sense we will be stretched beyond what we can currently imagine but if God is in it, we want to say “Yes!”