When Past Failures Threaten Future Success

John Mark had failed. Big time.

As the understudy to the apostle Paul, he had begun well, but something went terribly wrong. The Bible doesn’t give us the details, so we can only speculate. Maybe the journey was too hard, the pay was too little, or the hours were too long.

Whatever the reasons, John Mark quit. Packed his bags and went home. Abandoned the work, the workers, and the cause of Jesus Christ. Paul was so hurt and disappointed by his defection that, years later, when John Mark asked for a second chance, he said No. No way. Forget it. You blew it, Buddy (Acts 15:38-39).

Thankfully, God never says No to our requests for second chances. When we come to him in humble repentance, he forgives and restores us.

In this biblical account, John Mark even earned back Paul’s trust. In the days before his execution, the apostle called for him, saying John Mark was “useful to me” (2 Tim. 4:11).

But what if John Mark hadn’t accepted God’s (and Barnabas’ and Paul’s) forgiveness? What if he allowed his failure to marginalize him for the rest of his life? What if he hadn’t picked himself up, made peace with God and his fellow men, and begun again?

The most obvious answer is, we wouldn’t have the gospel of Mark. 

Why is this significant? After all, there are three other gospels.

Most Bible scholars agree the gospel of Mark is the earliest written of the four. It’s the closest document to an original source—an account written by someone who walked and talked with Jesus. The time of its writing (prior to AD 70) adds indisputable credibility to the entire New Testament. Scholars also believe the book of Mark is the source document for the gospels of Luke and Matthew.

When we consider the additional fruit of John Mark’s ministry—his and Barnabas’ evangelization of Cyprus and his ministry to Paul shortly before his death, his value to the Lord’s work is indisputable.

He lived a fruitful, godly, productive life despite his youthful failures. 

Which brings us to ourselves. What happens when we can’t move past our failures? When we don't live in light of God’s forgiveness? When we continue to crucify ourselves because of our past sins? When we allow our past shortcomings to sear a scarlet letter onto our futures?

We miss the work God has planned for us to do. Significant work. Life-changing work. Eternal work.

So I ask you, what sins lay buried in your past? What regrets nibble at the edges of your confidence? What forsaken actions still hinder your wholehearted service to Christ? What failures whisper words of doubt and accusation every time you consider speaking out for the Lord?

“If we confess our sins,” John wrote, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

Do you believe it? Will you act on it? Kingdom work may be awaiting your answer.

*This piece is inspired by a Key Note address Bob Hostetler gave at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Advance Boot Camp) called “What If John Hadn’t Written?"

Tune in to Christian Communicators LIVE blogtalk radio program tomorrow as I talk with hostesses Vonda Skelton and Carolyn Knefely about life as a magazine editor. If you can't listen live, the program will be archived for your listening pleasure :)

 March 17th Insights from an Editor

Listen online at http://www.blogtalkradio.comchristiancommunicators at 1:00 p.m. EST to Lori Hatcher, editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine. You can also dial in to Christian Communicators Live at (347) 843-4920 to ask Lori a question.

Lori is an author, women’s ministry speaker, and a writer's conference faculty presenter. She will be sharing her perspective and experiences in a writer’s world.

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