By Melissa McLaughlin
I felt like I had blown it. For good.
The church needed a pianist for the children’s choir. I was a teen at the time, but had many years of piano lessons under my belt and was eager to use my music skills for something more important than gracing our living room with the sounds of Mozart, Beethoven, John Denver and Keith Green. I was excited to take on my first “grown up” role in the church.
The music was within my capabilities and the rehearsals went smoothly. Finally the day came for the children’s choir to sing their special selection during the church worship service. The church was fairly large and services were broadcast live on the radio each week. Consequently, church staff and volunteers worked hard to ensure that the service ran smoothly and on time. We helped the children line up outside the sanctuary doors for a timely entry. Their faces sparkled with delight as they anticipated the joy of singing for the church.
Just as we were about to enter the sanctuary I realized I had forgotten the piano sheet music for our song. A giant knot formed in my stomach. With flushed cheeks and sweaty palms, I reluctantly told the children’s choir director. The disappointment flashed across her face. There was no time for anyone to drive home and get the music. We both wondered aloud what to do.
After a long and awkward pause, I offered to attempt playing from memory. She agreed and gave a reassuring smile. With that the children filed into the church to take their places for the song.
Ceaseless prayers slipped from my heart to God, as I pleaded for His help and His grace. Mercifully, despite my lack of written music and faulty memory, I was able to play through the song and the children’s choir was a sweet blessing to the church that day.
The big question remained. How would the children’s choir director treat me going forward? I was just a teenager. Was I mature enough? Responsible enough? Dependable enough? Thankfully, she continued to encourage me to accompany the choir and as time passed my music skills and church experiences grew.
Though seemingly insignificant to others, this second chance meant a world of growth for me. Many times the smallest opportunities lead to bigger ones. Furthermore, when the touch of God is added, our words of encouragement have ripple effects that go farther than we could imagine.
Second Chances Revive Our Hearts
Second chances revive our hearts. Why? Because we all need them.
The story of Mark, also known as John Mark, gives us a glimpse of a Biblical second chance. A second chance in ministry. John Mark’s story always tugs at my heart, because in it, I see myself and so many others.
John Mark was the author of the New Testament book of Mark. Bible scholars believe Mark was a follower of Peter, disciple of Jesus, and wrote his gospel based on the eye witness account of Peter.
John Mark’s story opens with a bold step in Acts 12:25, when Paul and Barnabas set forth on their first missionary journey and John Mark is invited to join them in this sacred sojourn. Acts 13:5
Following a difficult experience in Cyprus Acts 13:4-14, Paul and Barnabas forge on toward Perga in Pamphylia and from there to Antioch. Sadly, in this short time, something changed for John Mark. Rather than remaining with his ministry partners to carry on Jesus’ great commission, John Mark decided to head back home to Jerusalem.
Think about it! Paul and Barnabas had just begun this great calling to take the news of Jesus to the world. It must have been very disheartening to witness John Mark bailing out so early on. The text does not explicitly state why John Mark abandoned the group. However, we can infer from Paul’s comments later, that John Mark was not strong enough in his faith or resolve at the time.
Paul and Barnabas moved forward, as planned, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Word was spreading and many turned to Christ. However, the Jews who opposed the message of Christ stirred up others and Paul and Barnabas withstood much persecution. Acts 13:48-52
After Paul and Barnabas returned home from this first missionary journey, Paul announced his desire to return to the cities where the gospel had been preached in order to check in and help new believers grow in their newfound faith. Acts 15:36
Barnabas agreed and requested to bring John Mark again. Paul adamantly refused, knowing the opposition and persecution they would face along the way. Paul desired someone who would not give up on the team and the mission. So sharp was their disagreement that Paul and Barnabas parted ways, not over doctrine, but over who would take part in the mission. Acts 15:37-41 As a result, two teams went forth on the second missionary journey. Paul and Silas. Barnabas and John Mark. The two teams headed in different directions, reaching different groups of people. This is one way that God redeemed this situation and used it to accomplish His purposes.
Second Chance at Ministry
My favorite part of John Mark’s story comes years later. After having been given a second chance working with Barnabas, clearly John Mark proved himself to be a strong ministry partner. Even Paul recognized his growth, for Paul then referred to him as a “fellow worker.” Philemon 1:24 Near the end of Paul’s life while imprisoned in Rome, Paul specifically asked Timothy to “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11
John Mark, the quitter, the one who couldn’t hack it, the weak link, the drop out, the loser, the one who abandoned his friends, the one who packed his bags and went home when the going got tough.
This same John Mark is called to Paul’s side when all is said and done.
Because John Mark was given a second chance. Not just any second chance. A second chance at ministry.
When given that second chance, John Mark demonstrated his maturity and strong faith over time.
Have you failed at an important task?
Have you dropped out of a high mission?
Have you abandoned ship when the seas got rough?
Have you been called a quitter, not qualified, weak, not capable?
Have you let friends or family down?
Have you let yourself down?
Have you let God down?
God does not keep us there. Please don’t allow yourself to stay there. Only Satan keeps us trapped in past failures, mistakes, wrongdoings and sinful choices. Reach for God! Certainly we should use our moments of failure to rest in the Lord as we pause, reflect, repent and learn. But then we need to move forward with God! Allow God to bring restoration, growth and maturity. In God’s hands, our brokenness can become His tool for reaching others who struggle in the same way.
God is a God of Second Chances
God is a God of second chances! He is a Redeemer! Let Him redeem your failures. All throughout the Bible, from Adam to Abraham to Ruth to David to the Woman at the Well to Paul to John Mark – again and again, God shows Himself mighty on behalf of those who will humble themselves, reach out and take His healing hand to walk with Him once more.
Let Jesus pull you back up.
Let His Word, the Bible, renew your mind.
Let His Spirit, infuse you with hope and strength.
Let the God who created the heavens and the earth, create in you a new heart.
He is able!
Let God give you a second chance!
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
How to Repent – 7 Elements of Repentance By Melissa McLaughlin
Amen Melissa! Praise God He never leaves us nor forsakes us! I am so thankful for all the second chances He has given me! God bless!
So true, Ryan! What a promise we can rest in, He is always with us. No one gives second chances like Jesus! So grateful for His kindness and mercy to me. Blessings to you and your family!
Love this, Melissa! And yes, God is the true author of second chances! We all need that grace!!
Do we ever! Praise God, He writes our stories with second chances woven into every page. May we love Him more and more, for every grace He has given. Bless you, Jeff!
I am thankful God gives second chances and more. I have let myself and others down at times. What a comfort to know He still loves me and calls me back to Him with open arms.
I am thankful, too Melissa! So thankful. And to think, Jesus already knew the sinful choices we would make and He laid down His life for us anyway. The love and grace we are extended over and over again is truly amazing.
I am so thankful he is the God of second, third, fourth etc chances and that he never gives up on us 🙂
How can we ever stop thanking Him? What a good, good Father! And you are right, brother, He gives second, third, fourth….chances. May our hearts overflow with gratitude and love for God, as we remember His kindness toward us!
Such an encouraging post! We all need second chances and the encouragement to try again! ❤
Yes, we do! May we have humble hearts filled with gratitude toward our Savior. For He sees all and knows all and still He forgives and loves us back to life, if we will turn to Him. Oh what a Savior!
Oh yes, what a Savior!
Such an inspirational post! Yes! Our God is a God of second chances! It is hard for us to fathom the depth of His love for us. We only know that in that deep sea of love, we are forever blessed! No matter our stride, He is at our side…we never swim alone. And so, we can set out each day, confident that the waves will not overcome us…
How beautiful, Linda! I love this image of swimming in the ocean of God’s love, in keeping with Him, as He meets us stride for stride, helping us reach the shores of His love and grace. May we never give up, no matter the storms that rage, for He never gave up on us.
I’m so glad your leader kept encouraging you. We let ourselves down at least a few times a week, if not every day. And sometimes we are harder on ourselves than others are on us.
We all need the grace of a second chance and our God is so good to be the Giver of second chances. Thanks and God bless!
I’m so glad the choir director continued to encourage me, as well! Though a small grace, it allowed opportunities for me to be used by God in ways I could not have imagined. You are right, it can be difficult to forgive ourselves when we have fallen short. May we keep our eyes on Jesus, to receive His forgiveness and grow in humility, gratitude and grace. In His hands our worst moments can be redeemed for His kingdom work. What a mighty God we serve!
Great post! I am so thankful for 2nd chances. Our God is all about that! It’s nice to know that if we get knocked down, with prayer and perseverance, we can get back up again.
I agree, Lisa! How we need those 2nd chances, day by day. Sometimes we like to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. How easily we falter, let our sinful pride get the best of us and drift from God’s best for our lives. You are right, we do need prayer and perseverance to get back up and walk by His Word and His Spirit again. Thank you, God, for the opportunity to do just that!
What a beautiful post and thank God for those second chances and third and fourth. I make so many mistakes as I try to follow God. I fail often but His grace gives me the strength to go on.
I’m with you, Yvonne. I fail frequently as I try to follow God. Those natural selfish tendencies creep back in and take charge at a moment’s notice. Daily, I have to surrender to God, His Word and His Spirit, that He can pick me up and lead me according to His plans. So grateful for His patience toward me!
Thank you again for such a wonderful blog which, as usual, is a great help to me personally.
I have failed many times in life and such failures often lead to deep depression. Reading your blog, and knowing that I’ll always have another chance to start again, makes me look at things in a brighter light.
Thank you and God bless you.
Jimmy, thank you for reading and sharing your experiences here! It’s always an encouragement to read your insights. I have failed deeply and often. And you are right, this can easily lead to a deep depression. We can feel like we are not fit to carry the name Christian, as we don’t feel anything like Christ. May we rest in His grace, His forgiveness, His love and His power to see us through. As we grow in humbleness of heart, I actually believe we are more usable for His kingdom. So in His hands our failures are always redeemable! Bless you, Jimmy!
I love how you said second changes revive our hearts. It’s so true! And what a beautiful reminder that we need second chances and can receive second chances from God. And more than that, we must give others second chances, too!
Thank you, Emily, for reading and sharing your feedback, Emily! Honestly, there’s nothing like a good “second chance” story. We love to hear it, watch it, read of it, because we need it so. Again and again. May we not grow weary giving those second chances to one another as God so generously gives to us.
Oh I am so thankful that God has given me so many second chances! And as I was reading your post today, it dawned on me that God gave Paul a second chance in this story too! Not only was John Mark given a second chance to keep following the Lord’s guidance, but Paul was given a second chance to love and depend on Mark’s care. God is just so good to each one of us! Thank you for these beautiful words today.
I could not agree more, Bettie! So very thankful to God! Truly, for me it has been a lifetime of second chances extended to me by God. You have such a good point, Paul also received a second chance in this story, to restore a Christian friendship and receive much needed care in his time of need. It’s an extraordinary story of God weaving His love through our weakness, conflicts and disappointments. May we take heart! He’s not finished with us yet! Thank you for reading and adding your Godly wisdom here. Much love to you!
John Mark’s story is one of my favorite in the Bible. Here, not only do we have a glorious account of one young man’s personal journey, but we have a model of ministry for leaders. Give second chances! Don’t be a leader who only allows perfection. I’ve always been a little ticked at Paul for his treatment of the young man. I mean, consider Paul’s own mistakes out of the gate—persecuting Christians. Barnabas —the son of encouragement—made the better choice, and his choice made all the difference. I do love that the Lord let us see what happened down the road though, and that Paul recorded that request in his last letter. John Mark was summoned. And, obviously he had grown, because Paul was under guard by a mad Caesar, one insane, who burned Rome, blamed the Christians for it, and killed multitudes of believers. He killed Paul. Yet, Mark went. The persecution didn’t scare him off this time. He had also grown. I’ve always been thrilled that he authored Scripture. His Gospel was the first one written. Under the tutelage of Barnabas and Peter he had learned a lot. Church leaders have much to learn here about how to treat the young in ministry.
So much truth here in your feedback, Melinda! Thank you for sharing your insights and heart. We do have much to learn about how to encourage those who are younger in the faith. The truth is we need each other and every one of us needs second chances at ministry. The Lord can do great things in the lives of those who have been humbled before Him. Thank you for pointing out the adversity Mark was facing when he visited Paul in Rome. He became a writer of one of the gospels and a pillar of faith. Not because of his greatness but because of God’s great power to transform!
Love your intro story, Melissa. Thankful the choir director gave you a second chance. And you know what? Even if you would have had trouble playing the music from memory, another chance still would have been warranted. Or else the director (and you) would have never known your ability to help, minister and serve in this way. So the story of John Mark’s second chance for ministry also proves the same point. I’m very grateful we serve a God of second chances. And not only that. But He’s the God of third and forth and fifth and multiple chances. When we think about how many times we mess up, sin, fail to go in the direction God asks of us, or serve in the way He calls us, there’s no telling how many chances most of us have had.
Thank you, Karen! I am thankful for all those who encouraged and challenged me as I grew in my faith in Christ. You are right, God has given us so many chances to begin again. We need to offer “re-do’s” to one another. Not as an excuse, but as an opportunity to grow. May we learn and grow stronger in the Lord as we get back up each time, so that our life for Christ shines brighter than before!
BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!! I’m so thankful for second chances! For the ones in my horizontal relationships and my vertical relationship. God is so good! How He uses our failures or shortcomings to offer opportunities of growth–it blows my mind. I doubt any of us can look back at who we were and who we are now and not attribute it to His second chances!
I agree, Cheyenne! We need those “do-overs” in our relationship with the Lord and with each other! It’s something I really love about a life in Christ – forgiveness and reconciliation. Our life in Christ begins there and prayerfully as we live out our love for Him, this ripples out to others over and over again. Yes, as we all look back over our histories, where we stand now is the result of countless second chances. What a beautiful God of mercy and grace!
Dear Melissa, what a wonderfully encouraging post. I was so relieved to read how gracious your choir leader was. This is how Jesus would have been too. I love happy endings.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
Dear Wendy, thank you for the kind words! I agree, hearing about anyone’s second chance stories is always an inspiration. The best part is that when we get to heaven, it will be the most amazing second chance there ever was!
Blessings to you!
What a blessing reading this. Touched by John Mark’s second chance story. I can still make it. I have been so deeply in love with Jesus in the past till of racent I discovered it was becoming so religious in my relationship. I now know God has the second chance for me.
Praise God! John Mark’s second chance is truly an inspiration for all of us. Oh how we need second chances, even as we serve the Lord. May the Holy Spirit set you free to worship the Lord Jesus fully and completely without any legalistic bonds that hold you back from the fullness of His love, glory and grace. I am thanking God this was a blessing to you. God bless you!