When Paul was in prison and close to the end of his life, he remembered a few of his disciples that had abandoned and even betrayed him. Though the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in Paul, and there was plenty of miraculous evidence of God’s presence guiding him, he was unable to keep these men on the path to salvation. He had to accept the fact that they had made their choice to serve the world, and he had to keep on going.
But there was one young man who Paul did ask for in that passage of 2 Timothy, John Mark (or just Mark). John Mark’s story begins in the book of Acts when Paul reacts in anger because young Mark had given up and gone home on their first missionary journey. Later, when Mark decided he wanted to join Paul and Barnabas again, Paul had some sharp words for him and refused. Paul felt that he was a failed disciple, but God had other plans. Even though angry words caused Barnabas, Paul’s faithful friend during terrible persecution, to side with Mark and split off from Paul, Mark was not a lost cause. Over the years, Mark matured and turned into one of the founders of the early church. This is the same Mark who wrote our second Gospel in the New Testament. And at the end of his life, Paul writes to Timothy asking, “Get Mark, and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
We never know the future of the people we’re reaching out to. There are too many unknown factors. Will they persevere? Will they listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit? Will they allow God to work freely in them? And yet, none of that is our responsibility. We can only help to lead them to God to the best of our ability, and then trust that whoever responds to His call will be kept on the right path. Paul may have thought that Mark was a lost cause, but he wasn’t. Paul may have thought that other companions, who eventually turned against the gospel, would stick by him for life – but he was wrong. (At least as far as we know, maybe they repented in the end too!)
Our zeal for evangelism and disciple-making should never fade, especially with disappointments or detours. Perhaps you’ve given all you had to save a soul who seemed so promising, but they gave up on God. Don’t be discouraged, because it isn’t you who saves anyone – it’s God. Just as each of us have had to go through our own struggles and bumps in the road to get to where we are now, God sees the big picture. It may take a few years of “kicking against the goads” before they start to trust in Him again, depending on their state of humility. But as long as we pray for them in faith, He’ll make sure that every pain and every dark moment will be divinely used to call them back to Him. Whether or not they respond, will be their choice. But one thing we know, the more people we reach out to, the more we’ll be able to bring into the Kingdom of God with us, so don’t give up!
At my first defense no one stood with me, but everyone forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me for His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:16-18, MEV