By Brian Carlisle
Text Version | Afrikaans
José sat under the tree and pulled his jacket collar a little higher so no one would notice who he was. He didn't want to be seen. He was a nobody, a failure. José felt like he didn't have a friend in the world. And all because of one mistake last week.
José was the starting forward for his neighborhood soccer team, the Eagles, and the best soccer player that his town had ever produced. Throughout this past season, José had led his team in scoring and blocking shots, and, by using his abilities, he had led his team to the final tournament. The winning team of this tournament would proceed on to the regional and state tournaments. This accomplishment had never before been achieved by a team from his hometown. All his team had to do was win 2 of 3 games against their opponents, the Warriors, and they would proceed on to the regional.
In the first game against the Warriors, José scored 4 goals himself and blocked 5 shots by his opponents. This extraordinary display of talent had earned him the nickname "The Dominator" and the affection of everyone in his town. Today though, José was in hiding. He was hiding from his teammates and everyone who knew him. The reason was because of his terrible play in the final moments of the second game of the tournament.
With the score tied and less than a minute to play, José had moved the ball down the field and was preparing to kick the ball, when the other team's goalie fell. With no one between him and the goal, José had an open and straight shot — the easiest shot that anyone could hope for. José had let out a whoop of joy, then kicked the ball sending it toward the goal. But instead of going in the goal and winning the game, the ball hit the railing and bounced right back at him.
"No!" José screamed. Then without thinking, José, in a moment of anger, turned and kicked the ball with all his might. A gasp went up from the crowd as the ball went sailing back down the field and straight to an opponent, who wasted no time in taking advantage of everyone's shock and scoring the winning point for the Warriors. As the buzzer rang, ending the game, José felt like his life had ended.
"Failure!" his teammate screamed at him.
"Why don't you just join the other team?" the fans yelled.
"How much did they pay you to betray your team?" someone else bellowed from the sidelines.
In shame, José had run from the game and had spent the last week locked up in his house. He didn't want to see anyone or talk to anyone. José had even refused a call from William, his team captain and best friend. His team would be better off without him ruining the game.
"Score!" As the announcer shouted, José was snapped back to his present surroundings, the Final Game of the Tournament. "Warriors 4, Eagles 1."
As José watched his team struggling against their opponents, he wanted so much to run out onto the field and assist them, but he couldn't. José was ashamed. He had let his team down, and because of him, they were having to play this final game. By all indications, they were going to lose this game, too. Again, José was blaming himself. It was his fault that his team had lost last week and was now losing again.
As José watched the game begin again, a story his mother had told him while he was hidden away in his home began to edge back into his mind. The story was about a young man in the Bible by the name of John Mark.
"Very little is written about John Mark," José's mother had began, "but what we do know, relates to us a very interesting story."
In Acts Chapter 15, verses 35-39, Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, and Barnabas had just finished up preaching in the city of Antioch where they had led many to the Lord. After they had surveyed their work, Paul had suggested to Barnabas that they make another round of travel and visit all the cities where they had started churches in order to see how all the brethren were doing. Paul was referring to what is called his first missionary journey where he and Barnabas had traveled and had taken the Gospel of Jesus to many lands.
"The Bible says that Barnabas agreed to the idea of another missionary journey. Both men loved to preach the gospel and Barnabas was eager to go. Barnabas, though, stated that he wanted to take along with them the young man John, whose surname was Mark, or as he was known, John Mark. Paul who was excited about the trip, didn't like the idea about John Mark and protested."
This last part of the story had puzzled José. "I thought Paul was a very kind man. Why didn't he want John Mark to go with them?"
"Because on their first missionary journey, John Mark had started out with them but for some reason John Mark had decided to go home and leave Paul and Barnabas," his mother explained.
"So?" José had shrugged his shoulders. "Everyone makes a mistake."
"Right, they do," his mother replied. "But remember, missionary work is not only hard, but also dangerous. Paul felt that John Mark would only cause them more grief on the trip, so Paul refused to allow John Mark to go."
"What did Barnabas say?" José asked.
"The Bible says that Barnabas determined to take John Mark with them," his mother replied. "The Bible goes on to say that the contention or argument was so great that Paul and Barnabas split company and went separate ways. Barnabas took John Mark with him, and Paul took Silas with him."
"What happened to John Mark?" José questioned.
"We don't really know. The Bible follows Paul and Silas, not Barnabas and John Mark," his mother explained. "But we do know that years later, Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor, and asked him to get John Mark and to bring him to Paul."
"Did Paul apologize?" José grinned with relief.
"I'm sure he did," José's mother smiled. "Paul said that John Mark was profitable to his ministry, or in other words, Paul was saying, 'Bring John Mark. He has proven to be a good worker and I need his assistance and help.'"
José sat silently for a moment before speaking. "So what does that have to do with me?"
"José." His mother wrapped her arms around her son and looked lovingly into his eyes. "We all make mistakes. Sometimes we fail ourselves or our teammates, and even sometimes we fail God... but God always forgives and so should we.
"José, you failed your team last week, but you are not a failure. You are human. There is no need for you to hide from yourself, from your friends, or from God. Get back out there and use the abilities that God gave you to bring glory to His name. Had John Mark quit when Paul, the great apostle, felt he was a failure, who knows what would have happened to him. But he didn't quit, even when the one he admired most had no faith in him. And eventually, John Mark proved himself to be valuable to the ministry and even Paul requested his help."
José looked down at the ground and plucked a few blades of grass from the soil. "What Mom told me is right. I just wish that I could forgive myself. But I guess it's too late for me now."
"Score!" the announcer yelled as the crowd cheered for the Warriors.
"Oh, no!" José groaned. "There's no way my team could win now, not with the game already half over and the score 5 to 1."
"Time!" the Referee called.
"Time has been called by William, team captain of the Eagles!" the announcer called over the speakers.
José looked up and his heart quit beating. Heading right toward him was his team captain and best friend, William. José wanted to run, but he was frozen with fear.
"What are you doing?" William screamed. "We need you out there!"
"I was..." José stammered.
"You deserted us when we needed you the most!" William raged. "You're our best player! We can't win without you out there on the field with us!"
"Right!" José felt his anger begin to boil. "Like you needed me last week when I lost the game for our team by missing that easy shot at the last second! Then because of my temper, I helped the Warriors beat us!"
"So you missed a shot! So you let us down!" William looked down and instantly the truth began to dawn on him. José was not playing because of the way he had been treated.
As everyone on both teams and all the fans looked on, William extended his hand down to his friend. "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
"What?" José was shocked by William's words. "What do you mean?"
"José, you are my friend and my teammate. You made a mistake last week, but that doesn't make you a rotten player or my enemy." William felt the heat of the tears on his cheeks. "I know that the game is too far gone for our team to win, but would you play with us... as my friend?"
For a few short moments, the world stood still as José looked at William and his tears. José was stunned.
"Well?" William stretched out his hand a little further.
"Let's do it!" José grinned.
As the two boys ran side by side onto the field, José's teammates ran to greet him amidst the boos from the opponents and the mixed emotions of the Eagles' fans.
The second half of the soccer game was breathtaking as the Eagles mounted a team effort and narrowed the score to Warriors 6, Eagles 5, with less than two minutes to go. Then on a fast press down the field, William, to the delight of everyone, scored the tying goal. This sent the game into an overtime period as both teams, tied at 6 goals, fought for the title of division champs and a chance to advance to the regional and state tournaments.
The overtime period was exhausting to players and fans alike as both teams battled desperately to score and to prevent their opponents from scoring. With very little time left in the overtime period, the score remained Warriors 6, Eagles 6. Then it happened....
A deflected ball bounced near José. The crowd began counting down the seconds on the clock. "Ten... Nine...."
José saw the ball coming and glanced toward the goal.
Two Warriors plus the goalie were between José and the goal.
José faked a kick and skidded the ball to his right, but the ball rolled a little too far!
"Ugh!" José grunted as he slid and stretched to his fullest.
"Not for me! Not for my team! But for Your Glory!" José shouted as he awkwardly stretched and kicked the ball with his last remaining ounce of strength.
José couldn't see if the ball went in the goal because he had over stretched and had fallen to the ground. But José didn't need to see the ball. As he lay on his back and looked heavenward, he heard the fans of both teams go wild with shouts of delight.
"Score!" the announcer screamed above the roar of the fans. "Eagles win in extended play over the Warriors, 7 goals to 6!"
So remember, like both José and John Mark learned, even though you make some very serious mistakes, God is willing to take you back into His arms and love you once again.
Why did Paul and Barnabas have an argument?
Who did Paul take with him on his next trip?
Who did Barnabas take on his next trip?
How do we know Paul apologized?
Why did Paul contact Timothy?
Even though you make some very serious mistakes, God is willing to take you back into His arms and love you once again.
A VERSE TO LEARN
"...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7b).
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us
so much and caring about every part of our lives.
Thank You for forgiving us when we make mistakes.
Help us to be kind and remember to forgive
others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
Acts 15:35-41; 2 Timothy 4:11
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Last updated June 17, 2016.
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