Saturday, May 24, 2014

“I Just Gave Up Heart!”

By Dr. Wilfred A. Bellamy

They told me in the village that a man who lived just a short distance away had once been an elder in the church. I was puzzled by this and went to see him. We talked at length until I asked him why he no longer attended church. He replied: “I just gave up heart.” While this is not a perfect translation of his language it captures the gist of what he said.

Then, years later, a former elder no longer attended the church I was serving so I went to see him. After much discussion he finally said; “I just gave up heart.”

In both these cases their quitting was related to an incident that had caused them to no longer want to be associated with the congregation. Both were excuses, but both were real to the individuals.

Then I remembered 2 Kings 6. A young man, no doubt zealous for the Lord, worked hard with his brothers to cut down timber for the extension of his Bible School. Then his axe-head worked loose and fell into the water. He cries in his distress to Elisha who asks him the key-question, not “why” or “how” but “where did it fall?” It was only when the young man was able to say where he lost his “cutting edge” that the man of God was able to lead him to his solution.

So to John Mark. In Acts 15 he quits the first missionary journey of Paul. Somewhere, perhaps in Cyprus, he “just gave up heart.” When they reached Pamphylia he took off, ran away, quit the ministry.

Now to Barnabas. The “son of encouragement” is not content to let Mark go. He perseveres with him. But, most important, he takes him back to where he lost heart, to where he gave up on the challenge of the ministry. Could it be that Barnabas asked him; “where did it fall?” That may be fanciful but it is no mistake that Barnabas said, in effect, “let’s try again.”

The rest of the story is one of the great usefulness of this man John Mark, writer of the Gospel of Mark, missionary and assistant to missionaries, a man of stellar proportion in the history of the church. He might have been dubbed a “quitter” and lost to the cause of Christ. But someone saw that he was worth more than that, and held on to the Lord for him, and rejoiced to see him restored.

May God give us the grace to persevere, to stay with the “quitter” even when there is little joy in it, to pray and seek the Lord for him or her, and to hold fast in faith (Galatians 6:1-2). The quitter’s cords may have weakened and his ties to the Body of Christ become strained, but ours have not, so for those of us to whom much grace has been given, much is yet required.

-Dr. Wilfred A. Bellamy is an ordained minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP). 

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