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Monday we celebrated Memorial Day (seems like a long time ago) = remembering the ultimate sacrifice of those soldiers who gave their lives to fight for the freedoms that we enjoy today; those men and women are remembered for their loyalty and their faithfulness and their courage and their noble deeds. Today we come to one verse in our study through Acts – 13:13 — that addresses the topic of the opposite type of behavior = that of Desertion. The only thing worse than a deserter would be a traitor who actively leaves to fight on the opposite side. But we want to consider today the subject of Desertion – of Abandonment – somebody who takes off from their commitments and leaves others in the lurch.

There are a number of different Contexts or Arenas for Desertion:

– Family Context

o Having a spouse desert the other partner – God hates divorce—

 At times a spouse may feel they have been deserted emotionally; partner is there in body but there is no companionship and intimacy

 I can’t say that I can identify with the depth of your pain, but God can.

o Having a parent desert a child or a child desert a parent – very destructive since the basic family unit is the foundation for society –

(What if I were to decide this afternoon that I am tired of my present responsibilities and want to start a new life … I go and cash out my bank account and take off for parts unknown – leaving my family to fend for themselves) – sounds incredible, but family members turn their back on their own flesh and blood every day – look at how Absalom went after his father David

o What about apostasy in the context of our spiritual family relationship?

– Friendship Context – not having your back but abandoning you when times get tough (cf. Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” Fortunately in Jesus Christ we have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” – Prov. 18:24); or rejecting you to run in different circles with a different set of friends; look at the tough time that Job had when his friends did not understand what God was doing in his life and gave him hurtful counsel; On the positive side – look at the enduring relationship between David and Jonathan – nothing in this world could separate them

– Sports/Business Context – Look at all the flack directed against Labron James for his Decision to jump ship from the Cleveland Cavaliers and try to form his own championship alliance with the Miami Heat – even though this is largely a business decision – he is still largely viewed as a deserter. Happens all the time in the business world as well.

– Military context – How serious is it when troops go AWOL; when they desert their comrades on the battlefield? Court martial treats this as a serious offense

– Ministry context – this is what we have with John Mark leaving the missionary team of Paul and Barnabas; remember Jonah bailing on his call to preach the Word to the Gentiles in Nineveh; He had to learn the lesson that you cannot run and hide from God; you remain accountable to the One who is Omnipresent and Omniscient; but Mark was part of a team – partners in gospel ministry

Those left behind in these various contexts or arenas can easily become discouraged and even depressed


I. DESERTION IS PAINFUL – look at 2 Examples

A. Example of the Apostle Paul

1. Acts 13:13 – John Mark – not told why he abandoned ship and went home to Jerusalem; a crucial time in the infancy of the missionary movement; his assistance was urgently needed; he even had a family relationship to Barnabas as a cousin

“Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:13)

To leave, abandon with emphasis on possible lack of concern over what has been left behind

How do we know that this leaving on the part of John Mark was viewed as negative by the missionary team? Look at the descriptive words used a couple of chapters later:

“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.” (Acts 15:38)

Not told the reason or motivation in the heart of John Mark

– Maybe he did not like the Gentile focus of the ministry – returns to his Jewish roots in Jerusalem

– Maybe he was more loyal to his cousin Barnabas than to Paul who was becoming more prominent in the leadership team

– Maybe he had not counted the cost before entering into this missionary commitment and found that he was homesick; didn’t like the travel

– Maybe the life of faith was too challenging – the possibility of persecution; the uncertainty over finances; the denial of various creature comforts

– Maybe he just didn’t have the work ethic to keep up with Paul and Barnabas and all of their expectations for the junior member of their team

It doesn’t matter – the bottom line is that he deserted them – didn’t fulfill his commitment to partner with them in the important work of proclaiming the gospel to those who had never heard the good news

Remember what Jesus said about those who make excuses for not following through on their commitment to discipleship – to following Him wholeheartedly: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

The Apostle Paul experienced a lot of rejection and desertion in his ministry – familiar with the pain and the potential for discouragement:

2. Philippians 2:19-22 – only Timothy is kindred spirit with Apostle Paul

3. 2 Tim. 4:9-15 – Demas chose the pleasures of this present world — “Only Luke is with me” – Apostle Paul abandoned by so many Christian workers

Loyalty and faithfulness proven in the hard times

B. Example of the Lord Jesus

1. John 6:66-69– During His ministry, pretend disciples would constantly fall away

They “withdrew” = they deserted Jesus; unwilling to take up the cross of discipleship; the demands of allegiance to Jesus were viewed as too severe; His truth and teaching were too difficult to receive and apply – people preferred to live life on their own terms

2. At the cross, His disciples had scattered and abandoned Him – look at the threefold denial by Peter who was afraid to testify to his identity as a follower of Jesus

3. Psalm 22:1 — On the cross, the Father abandoned Jesus in the ultimate sense

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the agony of His grief over this desertion by the Father because of being made sin for us far exceeded the agony of His physical suffering

Beyond our comprehension – due to the precious unity the Divine Trinity enjoyed from all of eternity past

Believers will never experience something this devastating

But those who choose to live without God’s rule over their lives will one day experience that terrible wrath of God against sin for themselves and will suffer for all eternity the ultimate desertion of God – right now you enjoy many benefits from God’s common grace = the rain falls on the just and the unjust in today’s world; but in Hell that will not be the case

Why is Desertion so Painful?

– Emotional Hole in your gut – not easily filled; you get used to the role that person plays in your life in terms of companionship

– Mental Insecurities — What’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong that they abandoned me? Why don’t they like me?

– Unfulfilled Expectations – I was counting on that person for X

– Loss of Productivity – you cannot accomplish as much or perform the work as easily as when your team was complete

II. DESERTION IS PROVIDENTIAL — Due to the Wisdom and Sovereign Plan of God

Wrong Ways to Respond:

– Vengeance, retaliation – wishing that bad things would happen to them for the pain they have caused you

– Bitterness, hatred – turning it over and over in your mind and allowing it to eat away at you

– Writing them off; Dismissing them

– Self Pity, ministry paralysis

Godly way to respond: Should drive us closer to God in dependency – clinging to the character of God as our great anchor and comfort and source of strength

A. Apply the great exhortations of Scripture – Rest in Divine Providence

1. Rom. 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”

Do you really believe this? Hold on to the Goodness of God

Look at the example of Joseph – abandoned by all 11 of his brothers – Gen. 50:19-20 “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place [to execute vengeance]? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant if for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

2. James 1:2 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials”

Do you really practice this? Hold on to the Faithfulness of God

B. Appropriate the All Sufficient Resources of our Savior God – Focus on Divine Priorities = Ministry = Kingdom Goals

1. Resource of the Love of God – He is able to be to us all that we need in terms of intimacy and companionship and security

Psalm 27:10 “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.”

Is. 49:14-16 “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsake me, and the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls [of Jerusalem] are continually before Me.’”

Psalm 68:5-6 “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely”

Confidence in the love of God gives me the boldness and freedom to love others aggressively

2. Resource of the Power of God —

Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – in terms of an abundance of support or in terms of being left on my own to just depend on Christ

Paul’s missionary journeys were going to be successful either with or without the help of John Mark – the key is always the power of God; when someone abandons you there is no decrease in your access to the power of God

Confidence in the power of God gives me the boldness and freedom to use my spiritual gift aggressively for the advancement of His kingdom

[Just briefly mention a couple of other points]


A. Example of John Mark

2 Tim. 4:11 “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”

Ended up writing the Gospel record — mainly from the perspective of Peter

Difficulty: we don’t know if the desertion will be permanent or not

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

B. Example of the Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11-32

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” – Wonderful reception for those who repent and return and seek forgiveness and restoration

God of Second Chances


God won’t let it happen!

A. God’s Grace Keeps Us Faithful and Abiding in Him

Perseverance of the Saints actually = Preservation of the saints

B. God Promises Never to Leave or Forsake Us


(Hos. 2:19-20) New Permanent Covenant Relationship – God will never abandon His people

“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.”


Look at the precious story of Ruth and her loyalty to Naomi for the opposite to desertion:

Ruth 1:16-18 “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Lam. 2:22-23 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

Dealing with the pain by drawing close to God

Moving on and focusing on the work at hand

Having to make do with diminished resources but still having the same divine resources

Still opportunity for forgiveness and second chances