Restoring and rebuilding confidence after it has been forfeited is one of the greatest challenges in life. Trust is a sacred and securing attribute that every one of us ought to covet, and we ought to work diligently to build and maintain it. Often we forfeit confidence by bad choices we make. Even the business world realizes the value of trust, and when that is broken businesses are hindered. Jim Burke, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson said, “You cannot have success without trust. The very word trust embodies everything you could strive for that will help you to succeed. Tell me any relationship that works without trust. A marriage? A friendship? A social interaction? In the long run the same thing is true about business. They can only succeed when there is trust.”
Acts chapter 12 introduces us to a man whose life has become a story of hope and encouragement for everyone who has gained and then lost the trust or confidence of someone. Unfortunately, this is something that happens often through bad behavior or foolish decisions. This is the first time we are introduced to John Mark, who lived in the city of Jerusalem, but was a native of Cyprus. This young lad had the opportunity to be part of the miracle of seeing Peter released from prison. Earlier, Peter had led John Mark to Christ; and in verse 25 of Acts 12, we see him again. John Mark had been given great responsibility as a ministry assistant to Paul and Barnabas, and he was greatly used of the Lord. Out of the thousands of young men, John Mark was chosen to serve the Lord alongside these great and renowned men of God.
But, in spite of his unique opportunities and usefulness, he blew it. He decides to quit and go home and walks away from the work. John Mark in essence said, “I’m going home,” and he forfeited the confidence and trust of Paul. Acts 13:13, “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” He wasn’t the first person who has walked out on God, or on the preacher, or on the will of God. Many faithful Christian servants, employees, parents, and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ have lost trust because of a similar departure from their Lord, their church, or their family. That trust is in need of restoration, but it seems so difficult to repair.
In Acts chapter 15, we see John Mark four years after this event as Barnabas and Paul are preparing for their second missionary journey. Acts 15:36-37, “And some days after, Paul said Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city, and see how they do. And Barnabas was determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.” Barnabas invited his nephew John Mark to go along; however, Paul did not think this was a good idea. Unfair? Maybe a little bit, but John Mark had broken the trust and confidence they had in him. When you break the trust and confidence someone has in you, you cannot expect it to return instantaneously.
Paul was not some carnal man that held a grudge for no reason; he was a man of God. Barnabas had taken in Paul when the church didn’t want to accept him, and now Paul was rejecting John Mark. This must have been hard for Barnabas to accept.
Verse 39 says, “… the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed one from the other.” You can imagine the pressure of Barnabas; Mark was only 3 years old in the Lord when he quit, and so Barnabas refused to go with Paul as a result. Verse 40 says, “Paul chose Silas, and departed.”
Let’s look at a later event in AD 66-67. Fifteen years have passed, and Paul is in prison, ready to lose his head as a martyr for the cause of Christ. John Mark is now serving the Lord at Ephesus with Timothy. Timothy receives this request in the form of Paul’s last written letter: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (II Timothy 4:11) John Mark is regaining lost trust. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. And let me say to you that it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen for you, too!
How did John Mark regain the trust and confidence of the apostle Paul?
You can imagine the insult and the hurt of John Mark from all this. He could have walked away and quit because Paul thought lowly of him. But instead he attached himself to a man that was an encourager. He went off to Cyprus with Barnabas. Guys like Barnabas can help you when you are trying to regain trust in your life. If Job had a Barnabas, his would have been a different story. When you are down, you need a godly mentor that will love you, support you, and tell you the truth. They won’t just shove you to the side, but they will encourage you to continue to serve the Lord in the capacity that is available to you. Sure, you may not be able to travel with Paul and be in the limelight, but there is something for the Lord you can do, and so get busy doing it!! People will still remember your failures, and you may carry that reputation with you, but determine to accompany an encourager.
I used to think that Christian leaders lived in an unattainable plain no one else could live up to. John Mark didn’t allow this disillusionment to detour him from following after God’s calling on his life. People watch the failures of others in leadership and use it as an excuse for not doing the right thing. No matter who the leader is, no matter the abilities, every leader puts his pants on the same way you do. Don’t be blown away by the humanities, frailties, and weaknesses of those in leadership. When you get right with God, people may not accept you back into ministry, and they are not always setting the best example. It is vital to remember that the ministry is not about how other people behave; it is about you and God and your relationship with Him. You can only trust God; you cannot trust yourself; you cannot trust others. John Mark had this same conviction. Later in Galatians 2, Peter went off into doctrinal error, and Barnabas was also carried away with it. Often this leads to discouragement and derailment from the work of God. It is imperative that we keep our focus on God.
He realized that his testimony needed to be rebuilt. He couldn’t write this for himself nor recommend himself, but Paul said, “I’m going to help you out. I’m going to write a letter for you and recommend you back into fellowship and service.” Colossians 4:10-11, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye receive commandments: if he come unto you receive him.” Why did Paul say that? Colossae was about 10 miles away from where John Mark had said, “I’m quitting!” Paul is sending John Mark back to the church. In essence he said, “John Mark is the real deal, and you can receive him.” People tend to remember our mistakes a lot more than they remember our successes. John Mark accepted that. An arrogant man wouldn’t accept that and would refuse to reconcile or accept a letter from the apostle Paul. Many people who break trust never rebuild it again, because they never accept the fact that they need to rebuild it. Building anything takes time and patience, especially when it is your trust and testimony. But, oh, how worth the effort it is!!
God did something with John Mark that he has only done with 38 or 39 people in world history. God said to him, “I have an assignment for you; I want you to write a Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, along with Matthew the Tax Collector, Luke the Doctor, and John the Beloved.” Sixteen inspired chapters God gave to John Mark, a fellow that blew his testimony but regained trust. God let him write part of the Bible. In Colossians 4:11, Paul referred to him as “…these only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which are a comfort unto me.” John Mark became a fellow-worker, servant, and a comfort to the very man that had rejected him. That’s God’s grace, and that’s how you regain trust and confidence.
So never let the devil whisper in your ear and tell you that there is no way to regain trust. He is the father of lies! It may not happen right away, or the next day or month, or even sometime very soon. But it can happen!
If you aren’t doing something trustworthy, then you are wasting your time. It is vitally important that you learn to be trustworthy. No one should wonder where you are, or if you are going to show up. The work of your ministry, the work of your home, the work of your business – it all depends on trustworthiness. And when we are not trustworthy, we cannot expect honest, hardworking, trustworthy people to sit by and accept us or trust us. Be trustworthy, and be encouraged that if you have lost confidence or trust, it can be regained by following the example of John Mark.