BY PASTOR T.O. BANSO
“Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.’ Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted 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. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:36-41 NKJV).
To write off someone means to dismiss somebody as worthless or unsuccessful and not worth continued attention. It means to regard someone as unpromising. It is to reject someone. It is to conclude on someone that he could not make it. This is based on your perception of that person, or the person’s performance.
In the scripture above, Paul wrote off John Mark, because he chickened out during their first missionary journey. He concluded that he might not be a dependable, reliable person in ministry; so, he was not willing to give him another chance. Acts 13:13 says, “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, [Mark] departing from them, returned to Jerusalem” (NKJV).
The Bible does not tell us why Mark had to abandon them and went back to Jerusalem. Could it be because of weariness? Or because of what happened in Paphos since that is the preceding major event recorded before they got to Perga in Pamphylia where he left them? That was the encounter with a sorcerer, a false prophet, recorded in Acts 13:6-12: “Afterward they preached from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, a man of considerable insight and understanding. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Saul and Barnabas said. He was trying to turn the governor away from the Christian faith. Then Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked the sorcerer in the eye and said, ‘You son of the Devil, full of every sort of trickery and villainy, enemy of all that is good, will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? And now the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be stricken awhile with blindness.’ Instantly mist and darkness fell upon him, and he began wandering around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. When the governor saw what had happened, he believed and was astonished at what he learned about the Lord” (NLT).
It is not clear whether or not this encounter with this sorcerer contributed to his decision to go back to Jerusalem – maybe he went back to his mother. His mother, Mary, was a prominent woman in the early church in Jerusalem. It was in her house that the early church gathered when Peter was imprisoned by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:12).
Because Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas during their first missionary journey, the two had a fierce disagreement over taking him for their second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41). Paul wrote him off and chose Silas for the journey to Asia Minor and Greece. Barnabas, who was Mark’s cousin, insisted on taking him along and they travelled to his home country, Cyprus (Acts 4:36). However, nothing is written in the Bible about Barnabas’ ministry after then.
Paul wrote off Mark; he did not give him a second chance to go with him on the second missionary journey. However, later in his ministry when he was in Roman detention, he needed Mark. Apparently, they both had reconciled. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come — and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:9-13 NKJV).
Do not be too quick to write off people – you may need them in future. They may not appear promising now but anything can happen. They may not meet your expectation in certain respects; they may not pass your judgment but you do not know God’s plan for them. You may write off someone because he is not an “A” student but God’s plan may not be that his field of future impact is academics. In fact, he may be an average student but may, in future, be the leading light among his mates.
Do not write off anyone because he may not be academically brilliant; he may become a global sports icon. In addition, nobody is above change. People sometimes discover their real self and pursue the right direction. Sometimes people sit down and make some life-changing decisions. So you need to be patient with people – give them allowance. “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14 NLT).
Please take note that there is a difference between what happened when Mark left Paul and Barnabas and when Demas left Paul. 2 Timothy 4:9 says Demas forsook him having loved this present world, and departed for Thessalonica. There is no mention of Demas having any relationship with Paul again or doing ministry anywhere. He probably not only became a former minister of the gospel but an ex-Christian. However, as I have said, unlike Demas, the Bible does not record the reason Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas and went to Jerusalem. Obviously, he did not leave ministry because he wanted to go with them on the second missionary journey and went with Barnabas after Paul had written him off. He did not love the world; he loved the LORD.
Do not write off yourself and do not let anyone write you off. Even if people write you off, resolve to live your life in such a way to frustrate their negative prophecy – do not fulfill the negative prophecy of those who write you off. Determine to disappoint their expectation of you. Be serious with your life to make a success of your life such that they will eat their words, they will apologize to you for writing you off. Go and become all God wants you to be, and those who have written you off will need you one day. If they write you off, know that it is not the gospel truth. It is just their opinion based on limited information they have. They only know today; they do not know tomorrow. So you can pardon their ignorance. They are not even your enemy. However, you become your own enemy when you do what will make their prophecy come to pass.
Mark, who was considered undependable by Paul, became useful to him and a close companion. Paul said in Philemon 23-24, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers” (NKJV). So Paul worked again with someone he had written off in the past. That people have written you off is no reason for you to fulfill their prophecy. Be serious with your life, your dedication to God, the pursuit of your destiny and prove them wrong.
They may say, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth [your life]?” (John 1:46), but prove them wrong. You determine largely the outcome of your life not other people’s opinion of you, not their verdict. When you make a success of your life, human beings will change their views about you. Let there be a profit in you; let there be a blessing people can enjoy in your life. That was what Mark did.
Later, Paul did not only ask that Mark should be brought to him because he was useful or profitable to him, he had earlier written to the church in Colosse a recommendation about Mark. He said, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)” (Colossians 4:9-10 NKJV).
Even if people do not believe in you, do not fail God and yourself. John Mark who had a Christian heritage – his mother was a Christian and the church was meeting in their house – put the past of his desertion of Paul and Barnabas behind him. He went ahead to become a dependable Christian leader, and wrote the Gospel of Mark believed to be the first Gospel written, which also records more miracles than other Gospels.
If Mark had become frustrated because Paul wrote him off, and if Barnabas had not taken him along, thereby giving him another chance and encouraging him, the church probably would have missed the Gospel of Mark. Do not write off people, and do not let anyone write you off. You have a destiny you must fulfill.
John Mark was also close to Peter. Peter referred to him as his son. 1 Peter 5:13 says, “She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son” (NKJV). According to church history, Mark served as Peter’s interpreter in Rome and Peter’s preaching was the source of most of the information he used to write the Gospel of Mark. So Mark worked with two great apostles, Peter and Paul.
According to Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Eusebius, church historian, Mark was the first evangelist to Egypt, founded the churches of Alexandria, was the first bishop of that city and had converts great in “number and sincerity of commitment”, which amazed the great Jewish philosopher, Philo.
Do not write off anyone, and do not let anyone write you off. Hannah says in 1 Samuel 2:4-8, “The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble. ‘The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory’” (NKJV). Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus said, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Luke 1:53 NKJV). God does change people’s stories; people do make life changing decisions and follow through.
Onesimus: The unprofitable becoming profitable
It would be premature to write off Onesimus because he might be a thief today; he would become a saint tomorrow! The runaway slave, a thief, became a Christian while Paul was in Roman detention. Paul wrote to Philemon, Onesimus’ master, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me” (Philemon 9-11 NKJV). Onesimus means profitable or useful, but he was unprofitable to his master. The unprofitable became profitable! Onesimus made a necessary change in his life embracing Christ and Paul told Philemon, “You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart” (Philemon 12 NKJV). This Onesimus is believed to be the Onesimus that Paul recommended to the church at Colosse, the city he ran away from, as “a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you” (Colossians 4:9 NKJV). Paul wanted to disabuse the minds of those who might have written him off. He was a new creature, old things had passed away; everything had become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It is possible to make Paul out of Saul!
Saul of Tarsus was someone anyone could have written off. However, God encountered him on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-7). Even when the LORD told Ananias, a certain disciple, to minister to Saul and restore his sight, Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name” (Acts 9:13-14 NKJV). He seemed to be telling God that Saul’s case was a bad case – he wrote him off as far as salvation was concerned. Nevertheless, the LORD said, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (verses 15-16 NKJV).
Even when he started preaching the gospel immediately after his conversion, people were amazed, but not comfortable with him. Acts 9:20-21says, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” (NKJV)
They tried to kill him in Damascus and he escaped to Jerusalem. Even in Jerusalem, nobody welcomed him; they did not believe him. How could he be born again? Anybody could but not Paul! He had been written off. Acts 9:26 says, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (NKJV). It was Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who took him and brought him to the apostles and made a case for him before he was accepted.
Paul later said he persecuted the church out of ignorance (1 Timothy 1:13). The truth does make people free when they receive it. Let us not write off sinners – even the most chronic sinner. The truth shall make them free (John 8:32). Let us keep praying that they will come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4 says God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (NKJV). The Bible also says in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (NKJV).
The thief on the cross
Remember one of the thieves nailed to the cross with Jesus. The court had condemned him to death and everybody might have written him off, but on the cross, he surrendered to the knowledge of the truth he, probably, had been resisting all the time he was engaged in crime. He might have wasted his life – not living the quality life God had wanted him to live. Nevertheless, he made it to paradise by making the right decision at the eleventh hour. “One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, ‘So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself — and us, too, while you’re at it!’ But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43 NLT).
There is no sinner too lost that God cannot save! Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37, NKJV). Isaiah 1:18-20 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword’; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (NKJV). Do not write off anyone; do not write off yourself; and do not let anyone write you off.
David was written off
What do you call a situation where your brothers were invited to a meeting to select one of them as king and you were excluded! That means they never considered you as a likely candidate. David might have been written off by his father and his brothers, he was God’s choice for the throne. After God had rejected the seven sons Jesse had invited to the meeting, Samuel asked, “Are all the young men here?” (1 Samuel 16:11NKJV).
Jesse replied, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep” (verse 11NKJV). He might have added silently “but he cannot be the king.” “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.’ So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:11-13 NKJV).
It does not matter where the person chosen by God is standing – he may be at the back, in obscurity – God will locate him, and bring him to the centre stage, bring him to limelight, bring him to the front. God will locate you; He will cause the lines to fall to you in pleasant places; you will have a good inheritance (Psalm 16:6).
Conclusion: Do not write off anyone because of his lowly position now or because of his current adversity or challenge. Micah 7:8 says, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (NKJV). The downfall of a man is not the end of his life – he may still rise again. There is resurrection after crucifixion. From the one who eats can still come something to eat, and out of the strong can still come something sweet (Judges 14:14). Do not write off anyone, and don’t let anyone write you off. You can still fulfill your destiny; you can still become all God wants you to be. You shall in Jesus’ name.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing and Bible teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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