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95 | The God of the second, third, and fourth chances (by Wayne Johnston)

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Hi, my name is Wayne Johnston and in this podcast today, I want to talk about redemption. The Bible is the Book of God revealing His redemptive plan to restore mankind to a place of rest in Himself.

And I just love all those ‘R’ words.

I want to share one of my favorite redemptive stories from the New Testament, because it reveals the heart of God, that He is the God of not only the first but the second, third and fourth chances.

In Acts 13:1-5, we read:

13 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

Preaching in Cyprus

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.
(Acts 13:1-5 NKJV)

The great apostolic team of the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas, take on a young assistant in verse 5, by the name of John Mark, a young believer from Jerusalem, to help them.

But almost immediately, in verse 13, we see a problem showing up:

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13 NKJV)

It got too hot for John. As a young believer, he bails on them and runs home to mom.

Paul was a person who you didn’t do that to.

When I taught at Bible school, I often taught New Testament history, and I would get to this part, and I would set them up by asking a question: ‘If you had a chance, as a young Bible school student, to go on a mission trip with one of two people, Paul or Barnabas, who would you pick?”

And I would ask, ‘How many would go with Paul?’

And most of them would say, ‘Paul, yeah Paul, yeah, yeah.’

And then I would ask how many would go with Barnabas, and hardly anybody would put their hands up, except for me. Maybe it was because I was a little devious, a little older, and maybe a little wiser.

But I would go with Barnabas any day of the week.

Because Paul was hard-driven. He drove himself hard, and Paul was a take no prisoners type of person.

In Paul’s world, if you weren’t getting stoned at least every other day, you weren’t up to the job.

But the problem doesn’t stop there, when we jump ahead to Acts 15:36-41, we read of a serious conflict that took place between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark, who Barnabas wanted to rejoin their team:

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas [a]was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41 NKJV)

God now has two teams out instead of one.

And this sharp disagreement happened and this type of thing still happens today, because we are human.

But Barnabas, the son of consolation, which is what his name means, takes his young broken cousin, who had bailed on them. He takes him underwing, and slowly puts him back together.

He works with Paul’s reject and gives him a second chance.

Have you ever had a mentor in your life, who picked you up and cleaned you off and got you back on the right road?

It’s a great calling.

In verse 39, the Greek word for dispute means to ‘dispute in anger, or sharp contention.’

It was no small thing. This team was now broken up.

Barnabas, it seems, forfeited his special place of ministry with Paul.

Barnabas was willing to take his reputation and his call as part of God’s ‘A Team’ and he forfeits that to bring hope to this Bible school dropout.

Barnabas ends up kind of in the backwater after this and doesn’t get mentioned much more in the New Testament.

Looking ahead many years, Paul is now an older man. He is in prison.

And he is writing to Timothy with this interesting request:

11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11 NKJV)

He wants Mark, because he is useful.

This is Paul saying that.

The Greek word translated useful or profitable, the root word means ‘well done.’

Don’t you want to hear that from your Savior in the end, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant?’ That is what the word useful means.

And towards the end of his life, as an older man, Paul is saying, ‘Hey, he was put back together by Barnabas. He is useful. He is well done for the Kingdom.’

John in the meantime had also become a companion and help to a guy by the name of Peter. You might have heard of him in the New Testament.

So at the end of this story, we read of the second chance given to a Bible school dropout. Barnabas puts his reputation and ministry on hold and on the line by putting his cousin back together.

As for John Mark, well he ends up becoming a help to both Peter and Paul. Talk about redemption, they were two of the big names of the New Testament.

But his greatest legacy is that John Mark ends up writing the second book of the New Testament, the one that bears his name, the Gospel of Mark.

It is the one and the same man.

We serve a God of second, third and fourth chances.

But we also need men and women in the kingdom, like Barnabas, who are willing to put their lives on hold and take the broken, put them back together and make them ‘well done’ and profitable for the kingdom.

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