I’m currently reading through the Gospel of Luke. The other day, I ran across a passage that God has used countless times in my life. In fact, over the past 25 years of ministry this may be one of the greatest lessons/principles that has ever been instilled into me. I’m referring to Luke 10:17-20. In this easily overlooked passage, Jesus says something that is absolutely vital! The context is Jesus has sent out 70 of His followers into the surrounding villages and towns. This is the famous passage where Jesus tells them, “harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”, and that they are like “lambs” being sent out “among wolves”! We are all pretty familiar with that part of the story.
But, I want to focus for a moment on what happens when they returned. We read in verses 17 that the disciples returned with “joy”! They had seen some amazing things! In particular, they experienced that demonic spirits were even subject to them in Jesus’ name. It’s Jesus’ response to their excitement that is of all importance. He states that He Himself saw Satan fall like lighting from heaven. Then, He goes on to give them authority over the powers of the enemy, etc. BUT… then He says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” At first read, it almost sounds like He’s one-upping them, and then sucking the joy out of their experience. But, in reality, He is equipping them with one of the greatest truths in ministry! That truth is this: “Our joy must be in Jesus, not in ministry.” It’s not that He is downplaying their experiences or belittling the importance of the work. But, I believe He is warning them of a huge pitfall! It is a noble and fulfilling thing to be used by the Lord. If you are like me, you find yourself praying all time, “Lord, use me.”. That is a good thing! But, if we aren’t careful, we can elevate being “used by God” or our “ministry for God” to an unhealthy place. If ministry becomes our ultimate joy, it will ultimately let us down. What happens if we are in a season when we don’t feel used by God? or what if we aren’t in the kind of ministry we want to be in? Or, what if people don’t respond to our preaching, teaching, music, writings, etc. the way we want them to? What if we don’t see any “fruit”? If we have made what we do for God our joy, we easily loose sight of Jesus Himself, who alone is our joy.
I don’t know where you find yourself today. You may be in a season where God is obviously and radically using you. Or you may find yourself in a desert season where it doesn’t seem like God is using you at all. Either way, I want to encourage you in this, “Rejoice that your names are written in Heaven!” You are saved! You are going to heaven! Jesus loves you! Rejoice in Him today! Ministry comes and goes, but your relationship with Him goes on forever!!!!