READ: Acts 13
THINK: I was greatly blessed this June by the opportunity to spend some time in Haiti. It was an incredible experience, a beautiful country full of welcoming and wonderful people. But the level of the poverty there was striking. It was so deep and so disturbing that even knowing about it beforehand didn’t remotely prepare me for all that I witnessed. And one thing that jumped out to me, in particular, was the incredible percentage of people – even three years after the devastating earthquake – who were still living in temporary Samaritan’s Purse shelters.
The Samaritan’s Purse shelters dot the landscape of this country that would otherwise be a tropical paradise. Once known as “The Pearl of the Antilles” the landscape of Haiti is now dotted all over the place with thin blue tarps that read “Samaritan’s Purse” on the side. This organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has provided shelter for millions in Haiti and across the globe. And it’s an incredible thing to see in person.
But what does Samaritan’s Purse have to do with Acts 13? Well, it is an organization run by Franklin Graham, the son of the great Billy Graham. In his early 20’s, Franklin walked away from God and walked down a path of alcohol and drug use, finding himself expelled from the Christian college he was attending. Eventually his father had a very honest conversation with him saying, “I want you to know that your mother and I sense there is a struggle for the soul of your life, and you’re going to have to make a choice.” Franklin considered this, re-read the gospel of John, and realized the foolishness of his path. He recommitted his life to Christ and today he is the head of Samaritan’s Purse.
Franklin had a slow and stuttering start to his spiritual journey and ministry. But that wasn’t the end of his story. The same is true for John Mark in Acts 13. Acts 12 tells us that he grew up in a home where a great example was set for him, and he had enough giftedness and ability that Paul and Barnabas took him along on their first missionary journey. But then he quit. He walked away and failed to continue on the ministry.
But here’s the encouraging thing: even though he made some serious mistakes and stumbled along the way, that wasn’t the end for John Mark. Barnabas – whose was known as the great encourager – wants to give him another shot, but Paul doesn’t. So they split up and Paul takes Silas to Syria while Barnabas takes John Mark to visit the places they’d been on the first journey. And the willingness of Barnabas to give him another chance changed the legacy of John Mark in the Bible. Paul eventually comes to appreciate him, love him, and consider him a co-worker in the mission of the gospel. John Mark had a huge impact on the early church when he decided to dedicate his life entirely to Jesus.
What does this mean for us? A couple things. First, if you’ve had a slow start to your spiritual journey and been tempted to follow the world’s path instead of God’s then you need to know that hope is not lost. You are not worthless to God’s Kingdom. You are not unable to make a difference. You are not to broken to be used. John Mark abandoned Paul in the middle of a missionary journey when he was needed. Franklin Graham had a problem with substance abuse. God used both to radically change the world. No matter what you’ve done, you have the potential by God’s grace to be a world-changer! And second, we all have the opportunity to be like Barnabas. We have the chance to be an encourager to those who have struggled and failed and invite them into opportunities to change their lives around and make a Kingdom difference.
ASK: Have I ever believed that I’m too far gone or too messed up to make a difference? Have I ever written someone off because they’ve failed in the past.
PRAY: Thank God for redeeming you and giving you purpose and meaning in life. Confess the times when you’ve felt too broken to make a difference and ask God to show you how he wants to use you to make a difference in your world. Ask God for the eyes to see those who need to be encouraged and invited in to significant Kingdom roles.