When I was a kid I would wait in line for the high dive at the public pool. I would climb up to the top, look down from the edge, and more than once I backtracked and climbed back down to afraid to jump.
Have you ever come right up to an important moment but were too afraid to move ahead?
Did you intend to ask someone on a date? Fail to drop off your resume for a job opening? Did you have every good intention of having that really hard conversation?
We all experience shaky moments when we just want to pack up our stuff and go home where everything seems safe. Life has a way of presenting us with thousands of moments when we have to choose courage to step out and live faith filled risks.
In the book of Acts 12:25, there was a young apprentice to Barnabas and Paul named John Mark that faced this type of moment.
Barnabas and Paul choose this young buck to accompany them on their missionary journey. John Mark had a front row seat to one of the most epic adventures in the history of missionary work. The team set out from Antioch to Cyprus (Barnabas’ home country), then sailed north to modern day Turkey.
When Barnabas, Paul and John Mark arrived at the port city of Perga, they faced rugged terrain in front of them, unknown people groups and an uncertain future. The Holy Spirit was leading them to go inward and upward through the mountains.
I wonder how daunting and maybe impossible John Mark may have felt about continuing on this journey.
Who knows how seasoned a traveler the youngest member of the team really was?
John Mark weighed his options to stay on with the team and face lots of danger, or turn back and go home. This was his “Perga moment” where you decide if you will adventure forward with God into the unknown or retreat to the familiar.
John Mark decides the risk is too great, so he leaves the team and goes back home to Jerusalem by himself.
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13)
In Acts 15 Paul and Barnabas are at the Jerusalem council, where John Mark is present. I can imagine he was kicking himself when he hears the incredible stories of how Paul and Barnabas risked life and limb sharing the gospel.
In Acts 15:36-39, Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance to join them on a missionary journey, however Paul isn’t ready to trust John Mark, so Barnabas takes John Mark on his next missionary adventure while Paul takes Silas with him.
We see later in the life of Paul, that John Mark was helpful to him.
“Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11
John Mark gets a second chance with both of these men to live out the adventure.
This is just like our God to arrange for him to be reconciled with them and still get to experience the powerful experience of being with Paul and Barnabas.
As I reflect on my own life, I have had many “Perga moments” where I was tempted to go back to a more comfortable, safe place instead of moving forward with God.
While second chances don’t always resemble what was first offered, God always finds a way to restore, and redeem a failed “Perga moment.”
Some of you are facing a “Perga moment” right now. You know what God has called you to do, but you are afraid that:
- You are going to fail.
- It’s going to be too difficult.
- It won’t matter to anyone else.
- The risk won’t pay off.
- You’ll end up ruining your reputation.
Whatever the bleak forecast you have for yourself, you must realize that the enemy of your soul is trying to keep you from going inward and upward toward the mission of God.
Your enemy will do everything he can to derail you, discourage you and cause you to second guess whether you are hearing God’s voice and whether you have the right stuff to make it. He’s going to tell you that others can be successful, but you can’t, so you need to stop trying.
To fight off all the enemy’s lies and your own fear you need a soul friend who will help you remember what’s true.
To have your best chance possible of moving inward and upward on your mission, you need safe traveling companions you can openly share with, have a healthy community that will tell you the truth and move ahead with you. Perga Moments happen more often when you are isolated and trying to get courage without community.
What other person are you sharing this burden with?
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” - Galatians 6:2
The letter to the Galatians was written to the people of the mountains who Paul met right after John Mark left Perga and the journey went upcountry. Paul probably wrote this letter on his way back to the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).
As I close ask yourselves these questions:
Who will you invite into your Perga?
Will you be vulnerable and let someone else know the thoughts you are wrestling with?
What will it take for you to stay on mission, on your team, traveling upward together?
I invite you to join us this Sunday for one service at 10:30am in the Dome.