Read: Colossians 4:10; Ephesians 2:1-6
In part one of this devotion, we talked about surprises and how we enjoy the sweet ones that come into our lives to delight us. For example, how fun it was to hear a flock of birds singing happily in the front yard on a day when the temperature was barely above zero! A winter surprise that pointed to spring.
Using the word GRACE as an acrostic, we looked for one of God's surprises in Genesis, Ruth and Amos, the first three letters of this precious word. How good it is to think of God's surprising love and ponder merely a few of the ways He has put this love on display for us in His Word. With that in mind, let's continue.
C-Colossians. In Colossians 4:10, we read a short mention concerning a man we haven't encountered since the Book of Acts. His name is Mark, and before we discuss what is written about him in Colossians, it would be good to take a quick trip back into Mark's past. Mark's mother's name was Mary, and it was at her home that the church met for fervent prayer when Peter was imprisoned by Herod, Acts 12:12. When Paul and Barnabas were sent out on their missionary journey, Mark went along as a helper, Acts 13:5. The next reference to this man who was Barnabas' cousin comes in Acts 13:13 where we read that he left the others and returned to Jerusalem. We don't know why Mark left the others, but the next biblical reference to this young man shows us the conflict that arose between Paul and Barnabas because of his unexpected departure. The conflict began when Paul suggested that it would be good to visit those in the towns where they had previously proclaimed the Word of the Lord, Acts 15:36. They were in agreement about that; however, Barnabas wanted to bring his cousin Mark on their journey, and Paul said no to that idea, Acts 15:37. Here were two men who loved Jesus and wanted to encourage their brothers; however, their disagreement was so strong and sharp that they separated. They went in two different directions, and the departure doesn't appear to have been amicable. There are no more references to Barnabas or Mark in the Book of Acts, but thankfully, this is not the rest of the story. The surprise comes in Colossians 4:10. At the end of this epistle, as Paul is giving greetings and final remarks, there it is. Mark's name, and he is mentioned in a good light. Surprise. Paul let them know that Mark had sent his greetings to them. There's more. Paul said that if the Colossians did encounter Mark, they were to welcome him. Don't you love that word welcome? What has happened in the time between Acts 15 and Colossians 4? We are not told, and maybe that is for the best because we don't know who reached out first or whose heart was the first to soften. The important thing to note is that something good had occurred. Instead of brokenness, there was restoration. What we do know is that the man who formerly couldn't be trusted by the apostle was now to be welcomed. What a display of God's grace.
Healing of hurts is truly a sweet surprise. Were things perfect? We don't know, but there was to be welcome, and that step is sometimes the open door for something even sweeter, 2 Timothy 4:11. Who could have known when Paul and Barnabas were having their angry encounter that one day, there would be changes in hearts? Who could have guessed that God would bring fruitfulness after the disagreement? I'm thankful this same God is at work today. Where there is brokenness in relationships, Let's remember Mark's situation and how God worked in it. Let this command to welcome Mark be a reminder for us that God can restore and heal. With His enabling, let's do what He shows us to do and look to Him for the results. The good thing about belonging to Jesus is that regardless of the outcome of our efforts, when we look to God for our strength and leading, He is pleased.
E-Ephesians. Ever since I heard the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, I have thought how amazing it must have been when Jesus told his dead friend Lazarus to come forth. Of course, he did so, John 11:38-44. Formerly dead man walking! What an awesome scene of joy and surprise that surely was. Yet, in Ephesians 2:1-6, we read about an even more awesome surprise, one available to all who will receive it, John 3:16. It is in these verses in Ephesians that we learn that each of us comes into the world with the same horrible problem. We are all dead in our sins. I know that it seems odd to many, but we truly are as unresponsive to Almighty God as Lazarus was to his sisters' voices before Jesus called him back to life. Before Jesus enlivens us, we all have no ability to reach out to Him. We had no longing for the Lord until the Holy Spirit drew us and opened our hearts, Acts 16:14.
The only reason we can be made alive is because of Jesus' grace which He freely held out to us. What is it like to be dead in sin? Perhaps a bit of an example might paint a picture: After having recovered from the virus last spring, I was still unable to smell anything, except rubbing alcohol. When the lilacs bloomed, and the peonies blossomed, there was no scent. Even the air had no fragrance at all. There was a strange emptiness. I know the scents of both flowers and onions cooking, but there was no hint of those fragrances. Nothing at all. That is how we enter the world with an emptiness toward God. We can't understand Him, 1 Corinthians 2:14.
Then we read it in Ephesians 2:4. The surprise. God Who is rich in mercy and love extended grace and made us alive. We went from those who were living in a place of emptiness to those who were made new, John 3:3. When Jesus lived on earth, He raised only a few select people. How sweet that surely was for their loved ones when Jesus raised them to life again. Yet, it is even more wondrous to have received God's grace that ushered in abundant life that begins in the here-and-now, John 10:10.
This gift is truly the sweetest surprise that God has ever offered us, and today is the day to receive His gift of salvation. Don't delay, 2 Corinthians 6:2.