Is your best yet to come?

Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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By R.A. Tea Mathews

Her name is Boston Buttercup Ezell Mathews—my cat. I call her “Buttercup.” My neighbor, Melanie Ezell, calls her “Boston.”

It’s an unusual situation.

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Technically, the cat belongs to Mel, who is the kindest person, giving shelter to whatever animal shows up. Buttercup lived at Mel’s for years and then migrated to me.

I am innocent in all of this. I had lost my cat and dog the year I moved across from Mel and had grieved enough. 

“No more pets!” I said.

Then this buttery-yellow creature appeared at my backdoor bringing along a gray male kitten. Okay, I fed them.Matt

Later, I realized they had come from Mel’s. And the kitten returned to her.

Oh, that was mournful.

I can still hear Buttercup outside, looking at Mel’s house and meowing all day. These were long, searing, sorrowful pleas. 

The little gray snip didn’t care at all. Buttercup wasn’t the kitten’s mother, but she wanted to be. As I said, it was pitiful. 

Months later, the kitten returned to her, but Buttercup would have nothing to do with him. She had been deserted and wasn’t willing to go through it again.

There’s a similar story of abandonment in the Bible. It seems when Paul and Barnabas went on their first missionary journey, John Mark, a worker for Christ, deserted them. (Acts 13:13, 12:25)

Paul and Barnabas then decided on a second missionary journey, and Barnabas wanted to take John Mark. But, like Buttercup, Paul couldn’t forgive the defection. What happened?

  1. Paul gave in 
  2. Barnabas and Paul separated
  3. John Mark cried
  4. Peter decided the matter

Lock in your answer and I’ll show you the passage:

Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul was of the opinion that they should not take (Mark) who had deserted them … Now it turned into such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another…” (Acts 13:37-39)

The correct answer is No. 2, Barnabas and Paul separated.

But who was Barnabas?

As Acts begins, he’s an obscure figure who sold land and gave the money to the church. (Acts 4:36-37)

However, God had chosen Barnabas for a much larger role. It’s Barnabas who helped a badly handicapped Paul into Christian ministry. 

Why was Paul handicapped?

Remember, Paul was the Pharisee Saul who had dragged Christians to jail and was traveling to Damascus to do the same. That’s when Jesus met him. Paul then preached so boldly for Jesus in Damascus that he had to flee; the Jews wanted him dead. 

In Jerusalem, Christians feared Paul and kept their distance. But Barnabas brought him to the apostles, standing up for Paul, describing how Paul had preached in Damascus. 

Paul then witnessed Jesus in Jerusalem, and the Jews there also wanted him dead. As a result, the brethren sent Paul to safety in Tarsus. (Acts 9:26-30)

But the church was thriving; many Greeks had converted at Antioch. The brethren sent Barnabas there and he went and got Paul. Together, they spent a year in Antioch teaching. (Acts 11:19-26)

That’s when Barnabas and Paul were called to their first missionary journey. Who made that decision?

  1. The Holy Spirit
  2. Jesus
  3. James, the head of the church
  4. They were guided by a dream

Lock in your answer and here’s the passage:

“Now there were prophets and teachers at Antioch … While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:1-2)

The correct answer is No. 1, the Holy Spirit.

But even though the Spirit had joined Paul and Barnabas together as missionaries, Paul apparently thought Mark would disappear again. So Paul and Barnabas separated, going in different directions for their second missionary trips.

The truth is, like Mark, you will also fail. Whether you disappoint yourself, others, or God, it will happen. But know this: There’s forgiveness with the Lord.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

Did Paul ever change his mind about Mark? Lock in your choice. Circle: Yes or No. 

Here’s the answer: During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy for help. Paul specifically asked for John Mark, saying, “(Mark) is useful to me for service.” (2 Timothy 4:9-11)

The correct answer is Yes. John Mark became a comfort to Paul. But that’s not all; we believe he wrote the second Gospel!

Get up. Start again. Like Mark, perhaps your best is yet to come.

The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at to join her 1-Minute Bible Study.

Copyright © 2023 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.