Sunday Live Stream We are live! Watch Here!

Marty's Muses- Making Progress

by Marty Rind

A few weeks ago, the youth group went to Findlay to ice skate at The Cube there. Hannah and Bella had never ice skated before, and if you haven’t done so either, it takes some practice to get it down. You have to conquer the fear of falling. That’s a big fear for people because ice hurts, especially at an ice rink. It’s a pretty solid surface. When we first got there, they both wanted to stay along the wall, where it was safe. They could lean on the wall and not worry about falling as much. It was easy. Us adults tried to encourage them to get off the wall and try it on their own. It took a lot of time, but eventually they did, and they skated on their own, or at least holding each other's hands so they were together. And you know what happened? They still fell. They still failed at keeping their balance. But you also know what happened? They got better. Those girls who were so afraid of getting out onto the ice started making progress and improving as ice skaters. By the time we left, it was evident that their confidence was higher than when they got there, and I couldn’t have been prouder of them. They even told me they would be interested in going back again sometime.

Their experience in ice skating is a great example of life, and in particular, the Christian life. Progress is hard. It hurts sometimes because we fail. There are expectations of us that we fall short of. Expectations held by either ourselves or others in our lives. There is a not-so-well-known story in the New Testament about a young man who failed at the expectations people had of him. You are probably familiar with the gospel of Mark, the second book of the New Testament, and, according to most scholars, the first gospel written out of the four we have in the Bible. The story of Mark’s life is somewhat unknown, or at least not discussed much in church, but it is an interesting one. Mark wasn’t one of the disciples. He may have been around the same age as the disciples, maybe a little younger, but we can’t be totally sure on that. We get to really know Mark in the book of Acts, where he is introduced as John, also called Mark, in Acts 12:12 after Peter is miraculously freed from prison. He is with a group of Christians praying for Peter because they knew what he was going through that night. He then joins Saul, or Paul, and Barnabas in Acts 13 on their first missionary journey, and that is Mark’s life for most of the book of Acts. He accompanies Paul on his journeys and helps spread the gospel throughout Asia and Europe. Sounds like he’s doing the right thing, doesn’t it? Let’s fast forward to Acts 13:13, just a few verses into their journey. The group is in Paphos, and then leaves to go to Perga, and then John Mark leaves them to return to Jerusalem. We aren’t told why. It’s not something that Luke, the author, goes into. But it couldn’t have been good because after that, Mark’s relationship with Paul splintered. When Paul is preparing for his next missionary trip, in Acts 16, he doesn’t want to bring Mark with them, “because he deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.” (Acts 16:38 NIV) Mark has failed in his role as Paul’s partner and coworker. Barnabas decides to go with Mark instead of Paul because he still believes in Mark. While the rest of the book of Acts focuses on Paul’s journey, the story of Paul and Mark isn’t over. In 2 Timothy, Paul’s last recorded letter before his death, Paul instructs Timothy to bring Mark with him to see Paul, because, “he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11 NIV). There is about 15 years between Acts 13 and 2 Timothy. We aren’t told what happens between Mark and Paul, but they have restored their relationship. Mark had grown as a person and as a Christian and Paul not only accepted him back, but Mark has become helpful to Paul.

Mark isn’t a major character in the New Testament. But we can see in his life that he grew as a person. It took time, hardship, broken relationships, and growth in maturity. All these things we can relate to. They’re things we all deal with in life. But how we react and respond to them really shows who we are. We can allow those things to define us, or, like Mark, we can grow and progress as Christians, just as Hannah and Bella made progress on the ice a few weeks ago. It really comes down to a choice. Are you going to hold on to the wall in your life, playing it safe, staying comfortable, and never seeing what you are capable of, or are you going to let go, trust God, and let Him make you into who you were meant to be? This is a scary thing. We don’t always see progress in our walk with God. Sometimes the progress is slow, but when we invest in our relationship with God, growth and progress will come. And then, at the end of our lives, we will be able to say what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7-8. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (NIV)