"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
- 2 Peter 3:9
If you’ve ever attended a leadership conference or heard a motivational speaker, you’ve probably heard what some affectionately call “The Bamboo Story.” It goes something like this:
Bamboo doesn’t grow right away. During the first four years of its development, it's small and weak. It doesn’t even break the surface of the ground. However, in the fifth year, it not only breaks through the ground; it does so powerfully, growing upwards of 80 feet tall!
The moral of the story for leadership and motivation is obvious: don’t give up. Persevere. Keep watering the seeds of greatness you’ve planted. You might not see immediate results, but they'll eventually grow into something great - if you don’t quit.
Honestly, I don’t know the first thing about bamboo. What I do know is that there’s a lot of wisdom in that story.
True greatness usually develops over time, sometimes a lot more time than we’d like. Our world, addicted to instant gratification, often demands immediate success. Anything less seems like failure. When our efforts aren’t immediately successful, we're pressured to cut our losses and move on. Thankfully, God takes a longer, more patient view of things.
One person in the Bible who gives me a lot of hope in this regard is Mark (also known as John Mark). Do you remember him? We know only a little bit about the guy.
We know that he wrote the Gospel of Mark. We also know that he was probably the young man who abandoned Jesus and fled half naked from the Garden of Gethsemane during our Lord’s arrest, which was - let’s be honest - not exactly a quality move (Mark 14:51-52). We know that he was definitely the one who abandoned the Apostle Paul and Barnabas during a missionary journey, prompting such a sharp dispute between them that the two split up and went in separate directions to minister the gospel (Acts 15:39). Paul and Silas went one way; Barnabas and Mark another. Nice one, Mark.
Here’s another interesting tidbit about this dingbat disciple: Mark and Barnabas were cousins. Maybe that’s one reason why Barnabas didn’t cut his losses and move on, but instead decided to give Mark another chance. For whatever reason, it paid off. Mark, like a little bamboo shoot, eventually matured and grew into a faithful and fruitful minister of the gospel.
Even the Apostle Paul eventually testified to Mark’s remarkable growth. He learned to trust Mark again, and restored him as a ministry companion (Philemon 1:24). Later, as Paul approached death, he sent for another young ministry partner, Timothy, and told him, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Child of God: It’s tempting to give up on people, especially when their immaturity hinders or even hurts us. Sometimes, people don’t mature when we want, the way we want. It can be so frustrating, even infuriating!
Even so, that doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. Just as he does with you, he might be doing more beneath the surface than you might realize. Don't be afraid to take a longer, more patient view of things. Barnabas did, and it made all the difference.
You're loved. Don't forget it.
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