Acts 13:13; 16; 36-41 and 2 Timothy 4:11
In any occupation or endeavor, there will be obstacles. I am remodeling a bathroom. The job is never as easy as envisioned. You always face an unseen problem. The positive thing is that you learn. Ministry, although glorious and blessed, is sometimes not without its obstacles. Those may come in various forms. Often, they come in the form of people. The church is made up of people. There are people who have wrecked and ruined great ministries (preachers included).
When those things arise, it is best to deal with them right away the right way. Glory to God, these obstacles can become blessings. The goal in it all is to see that person that was an obstacle, get right with the Lord, and be restored and used by God. I believe we see this in the Life of a man named John, whose surname was Mark. Our text picks up with Paul and Barnabas, who have loosed from Paphos and sailed up to Perga, which is in Pamphylia in Acts 13:13.
First, we see the obstacle of the departure. After their ministry in Cyprus, which for the most part was a positive one, John departs and returns to Jerusalem. Although this may not seem to be an obstacle at the moment (or at least it is not recorded in Scripture), soon we will see it becomes a great obstacle. We do not know why John left the journey. We can speculate all day. Maybe he was not cut out for ministry work. Maybe he hated traveling. Perhaps an emergency arose back home. We just do not know, and we can only speculate.
If you read on in chapter 13, it does not appear that John’s departure affected the work, but what we don’t get to see often from Scripture is the emotions, and the mundane parts, or unimportant parts of the lives of these men. That is, Acts is recording the Acts of the apostles, not what they ate, fun things they did, etc. It is a history of the work of the Gospel done through the Apostles. I am going to speculate that his departure in some way did affect the Apostle Paul and Barnabas. They kept on preaching and doing what God had called them to do, but John’s absence was no doubt noted.
In Acts 13:36-41, we again see the people involved. This dispute was between Paul and Barnabas, partners in the Gospel ministry, over John Mark. In these verses, Paul begins to make plans to go back and visit some of the churches from the first journey to see “how they do” That is a good thing. Paul was a hands-on type of minister. I am the same way. I want to know what is going on with every aspect of the ministry of my church.
But we also see Barnabas’ desire. He was determined to take John Mark. Words are important in the Bible. If it would have read “ Barnabas wanted to take him,” it would not sound as forceful. Barnabas was determined. He was resolved, to cause something to occur in a particular way. It almost appears as if Barnabas is saying “Paul, we are taking John whether you like it or not!”
In verse 39, we see the split. The contention was sharp between them. It was so bad, they split ways. This just reminds me that the heroes of the Bible were people too. As grand and spiritual as we think of these men, they too had disagreements. By the way, disagreements are going to happen. It is how we handle them that counts. One fuel to the fire is that John Mark and Barnabas are related. When family is involved, that takes it to a whole other level. How many disputes and splits have happened when family was involved?
Although the details about why John Mark departed are unknown, and even exactly why Paul did not want him to return with them, several years pass, and the Lord changes things. I say the Lord because it is the Lord that changes things. It is the Lord that mends relationships. It is the Lord that can take a split and put it back together as one. Notice the words of the aged Apostle Paul in 2 Tim. 4:11.
Concerning your church life, home life, etc. Are there any human obstacles that have caused departure or dispute? Often these things happen over such trivial things. A misunderstood comment, an attitude, a rumor. The devil will blow things up in your mind and make you think the worst about a person or situation. Have you considered allowing the Lord to work in your situation? Have you asked him to take this obstacle and turn it into a blessing?
It may take you simply telling someone that you are sorry. Maybe you are waiting for the other person to move. They are probably waiting for you to make a move. Why don’t you free yourself today of that burden, and with God’s help, go make things right so that obstacle can be turned into a blessing?
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