Mark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark. That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle. Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible? I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!
Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.
But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.
Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.
We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).
A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.
Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.
A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!
Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”
As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.
Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.
You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.
What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?
1. Never give up on yourself.
There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.
One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”
For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills. When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.
Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.
Neither can you.
2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?
Some are with you only because it’s convenient.
3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.
Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.
Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.