Monday, May 2, 2022

Brace Yourself for a Bumpy Ride

“Paul and his companions sailed to Perga … where John left them to return to Jerusalem.”
– Acts 13:13

James Gilmour was born in Scotland in 1843, and at a young age felt God calling him to the mission field. As he read Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations,” he became convinced that if he stayed home, he would be disobeying God. He said, “to me the soul of an Indian seems as precious as the soul of an Englishman, and the Gospel as much for the Chinese as the European.” So, after graduating from college, Gilmour went to seminary and trained as a missionary.

When Gilmour was in his mid-20s, his dream came true. He was sent out to be a pioneer missionary in Mongolia. Gilmour learned the Mongolian language, built relationships and preached the gospel to all who would listen. But after four years of pouring his blood, sweat and tears into his great missionary effort, James Gilmour wrote in his diary: “In the shape of converts I have seen no result. I have not, as far as I am aware, seen anyone who even wanted to be a Christian.” And after 21 years of missionary work, Gilmour died of typhus fever a few weeks before his 48th birthday.

The world looks at James Gilmour’s life and says, “What a waste!” But God looks at James Gilmour’s life and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We’d like to think that good ministry is easy. That it always leads to thousands of lives being transformed by the power of the gospel. But the truth is, more times than not, Christians who pour their blood, sweat and tears into God’s ministries find it to be a very bumpy road. Even the great Apostle Paul discovered this to be true.

Called by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Paul set out on the adventure of a lifetime: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Northwest Asia. Their first stop was Cyprus, the island where Barnabas was born and raised. And Luke writes in Acts 13:5 that “John was with them as their helper.” This was John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin. About 10 years later, Mark would write the second of the Gospels in the New Testament. But at this point, John Mark was a young Christian, and he was pretty green.

In verses 4-8, Luke traces the journey of Paul and Barnabas through Cyprus. In the city of Paphos, they ran into resistance from a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus, an advisor to the local pro-consul. Since Bar-Jesus practiced Satanic sorcery, he knew that if his boss accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, he’d probably be out of a job. So, Bar-Jesus selfishly tried to convince his boss NOT to accept Christ. But God’s message prevailed, and the pro-consul became a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

Barnabas and Paul did some good ministry in Cyprus. But it didn’t come easy. They faced a fair amount of pushback, and that pushback seems to have made a big impact on both Saul and John Mark. After their endeavors in Cyprus, the three men boarded a ship and sailed 200 miles northwest to Perga, where John Mark threw in the towel and went back home to Jerusalem. Many have speculated about why John Mark jumped ship partway through their missionary journey. Some make the case that he was homesick for his hometown; others suggest that as Barnabas’ cousin, he felt offended that Paul was being promoted while his cousin was being demoted. Still others suggest that the journey was just too grueling for John Mark. It wasn’t as rosy as he had imagined. He couldn’t take the heat, so he got out of the kitchen. I think this is the most likely explanation.

At this point in his life, John Mark’s heart wasn’t in it. So, he didn’t stick it out when things got tough. But years later he became one of Paul’s most dedicated helpers in ministry. He had learned that good ministry is rarely a bed of roses. But if God is in it, it’s worth everything that we pour into it. Take these two life lessons to heart:

Life Lesson #1: Our culture desperately needs to hear you and me speak and live out God’s word with boldness and conviction. When Paul preached in Acts 13, he preached with power and conviction, whether he was preaching to Jews in a synagogue or confronting a self-centered sorcerer. Paul spoke God’s true word with boldness and conviction. Sadly, in our day, there are far too few Christians who do that. Truth be told, there are too few pastors who do that.

Life Lesson #2: Good, life-changing ministry is rarely easy. Most often, it’s really hard. It is a thrill helping sinners get saved. It is a blast seeing God’s Word transform Christians’ character. It is a joy to witness broken relationships being restored. But at the same time, it can be exhausting. And at times it will tear your heart out.  There will be times when you think you have nothing left to give. Like Mark, you’ll find yourself saying, “This is so much harder than I expected! I’m tired, and I just want to go home!” Good ministry is hard, but it’s the BEST kind of hard. It’s ALWAYS worth the effort.

Take it from Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Stay in the kitchen. Sure, it’s hot but that’s only because God is hard at work preparing a feast like no other.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit

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