Persistence (Acts 15:36-40)

The melodic riffs from the alto saxophone filled the jazz club in Kansas City. The young man on stage was only sixteen years old and was attempting to improvise a jazz solo through the complicated chord changes of Gershwin’s tune, “I Got Rhythm.” Unfortunately, he lost his way through the music and was abruptly stopped when a cymbal was thrown at his feet by an exasperated drummer. Humiliated, he vowed he would return and show the world a new approach to jazz music that he was creating.

The young man was Charlie Parker. He fanatically practiced, never allowing his inauspicious debut to discourage him. He moved to New York City and played with a handful of other like-minded musicians including Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk.  Parker, now known as Bird, created the music we now call bebop or bop. In less than ten years, before his untimely passing at the age thirty four, he catapulted jazz and popular music to a new level of rhythmic and harmonic complexity. So pervasive and revolutionary was this music that jazz pianist Lenny Tristano later stated twenty years after his passing, “If Charlie Parker wanted to invoke plagiarism laws; he could sue almost everybody who’s made a record in the last ten years.”

Persistence. 

Many people would not be able to recover from such a humiliating debut. Parker’s persistence resulted in a new genre of music. This story is now a part of jazz lore. The Bible gives us many examples of persistence in faith, after initial failures. The world has never seen a missionary like the Apostle Paul. A brilliant mind who was trained by the leading Rabbi at that time, his zeal to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ was relentless. His expectations of his companions were equally demanding.

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.

Acts 15:36-40 (NASB)

Paul was upset because John Mark left him on his first missionary journey. The Bible does not reveal what John Mark did after leaving Paul but he did not give up on his faith in God. We know this because many years later, near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul, apparently forgave John Mark and even asked for him to visit him in prison. 

Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.

2 Timothy 4:11 (NASB)

John Mark initially failed the Apostle Paul and it led to a huge disagreement between Paul and his fellow missionary, Barnabas. Undoubtedly, John Mark learned about Paul’s disappointment. He could have given up but he persisted in his faith. Years later, John Mark had redeemed himself in Paul’s eyes so that Paul asked his protege, Timothy, to bring him to his prison cell because he was useful to him for service. 

We all experience disappointments in life, but what leaves it a disappointment is how we respond to the event. If we withdraw from life and do not reflect upon how we can improve, it will remain a roadblock. If we attempt to learn from the event and persist in improving ourselves, it will be a positive inflection point. Charlie Parker became the greatest jazz artist of his generation. John Mark later wrote the Gospel attributed to him. 

Amen!

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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