"Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching." (2 Timothy 4:9-15)Paul begins to close his letter with some personal concerns. It is commonly believed that Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison as he mentions "his chains" (2 Timothy 1:16) in this letter to Timothy. Paul was lonely, but also in need of help. His imprisonment had not put an end to his ministry, it only made it harder. Some of the difficulty was though the loss of those close to him, either through apostasy, sickness, or as a result of being sent to support distant churches that Paul himself could not travel to. Paul yearns for his "true son" to come to him, not just to help him in his work, for Timothy was already doing that, but also for the joy their fellowship would being to Paul himself. However, what I find of greatest interest is Paul's command concerning John Mark, "Pick up Mark and bring him with you."
It was not too long ago that Mark was at the center of a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. It was at John Mark's house where everyone had prayed when Peter was taken prisoner and bound for Herod to be sentenced. After Peter's miraculous release from jail by angels, and Herod's later death, Paul, who was then visiting Jerusalem, returned to Antioch talking along with him John Mark. "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark." (Acts 12:25) While at Antioch, the Holy Spirit spoke to the church there, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2) They promptly set out on their missionary journey, taking with them the young man, John Mark. However, at some point during the journey, Mark, either longing for home or finding the journey too difficult, left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Antioch. After they themselves returned, and having rested, Paul and Barnabas decided to set out for another missionary journey. Once again, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them but Paul would not hear of it. "Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work." (Acts 15:37-38) So sharp became their disagreement that, "they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord." (Acts 15:39-40) These two great apostolic ministers set out on separate paths to bring the Gospel to any who would hear,
Years had passed since that fateful day, but now Paul is asking for the one whom he had previously rejected. We must not be too quick to judge Paul, he had a mission to accomplish then and he knew what it would take to do it and he didn't want to take a second chance of relying on someone who might later quit the task; to quit when they were needed the most. However, in the passing years, John Mark had changed, he had matured, he had grow up in the Lord. He had gone from being unreliable to being useful in ministry.
There are several tings we can learn from this story. First, not everyone is cut out for the life of a missionary. We need to see people bloom in their own callings and not forced to fulfill the callings of others. Secondly, action often follows preparation. Somethings people need the preparatory work of time in their lives to make them fit and ready for action and for the calling of God on their lives. And finally, failure is not a disqualification. Failure just means that work needs to be done is some area of our lives that we might, in the future, when faced with the same situation, not fail again but rather succeed. Failure is the end of one opportunity, but it can also be a door to another. While we live, we are never out of the fight, if we will only get back up. "For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity." (Proverbs 24:16)