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. 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.
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.
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! 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