The Glorious Providence of God

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), November 15

unknown-1Conflict occurs when Paul rejects Barnabas’ proposal that John Mark accompany them on their second missionary journey, to visit those who had responded to the Gospel on their previous journey. Paul counter-insists that John Mark not accompany them—“that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). Because of John Mark’s earlier desertion, Paul cannot envision his being a help on the second missionary journey. Barnabas therefore takes John Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul takes Silas with him to Syria and Cilicia; they go their separate ways. Conflict. The division of one mission team into two.

At the time of departure, little does either team know what lies ahead of them. Providence spares a spiritually unprepared John Mark from that experience!

A tense situation develops in the city of Philippi when a slave girl possessing a spirit of divination is liberated, “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities . . . the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison” (Acts 16:19, 22-23).

Paul and Silas respond by praying and singing! Their praying and singing cause an earthquake and create an opportunity to share the Gospel, and the keeper of the prison and his family come to faith in Christ.
Imagine John Mark’s response when he hears about the beating and imprisonment of Paul and Silas! Picture his gratitude that he has been spared that “adventure” before he is ready!

This scene reveals a number of truths about rejection, ministry conflict, and providence:

  • Being “devalued”, “overlooked” or “rejected” by the Apostle Paul must have hurt John Mark tremendously, but it is through that division and hurt that God spares John Mark from a situation for which he is not ready. Later, however, Paul recognizes John Mark’s worth—“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
  • Some ministry opportunities demand tough-skinned people who respond to difficulty with prayer and singing—with spiritual maturity. Rejection may be God’s delay, to develop further maturation and usefulness. Therefore, wounded feelings and bitterness at being overlooked must be put aside. Someone once said, “Woe is the one jumps into the ministry before he is ready!” God knows when a person is ready and protects him when he isn’t.
  • Sometimes men of God disagree! That disagreement, however, doesn’t necessarily prohibit either man from fruitful ministry. One team becomes two and expands the kingdom exponentially. Further, neither man demeans the other, which would have wrought great harm to all involved.
  • God calls men into various positions at different times; therefore, competition in ministry reveals immaturity and insecurity. Immature and insecure believers fail to understand the truth about ministry—“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Therefore, Christ-followers may trust God to providentially intersect their lives with others and to oversee their maturation process through both promotion and demotion.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Acts 15:22-17:15):
Describe the ministry relationship between Barnabas and Silas prior to their separation in ministry. What does this reveal about their relationship? Their spiritual maturity?
Describe the process that God uses to lead Paul to the places where He is at work.
What new ministry partnership is formed during Paul’s second missionary journey? What does this reveal about ministry?