A Reminder for God’s Servants

pages-open-to-heart-on-book-open-at-sunset.jpg_s=1024x1024&w=is&k=20&c=qGrxPgqnbKYmQgeGTtP2g80h8QAvgMrKnN7uPsR9dLU= (1)A Reminder For God’s Servants

 

Hello, reader. I don’t know if I’ve ever introduced myself, but my name is Matt, and I am the author of all these blogs you read each week. I am the Lead Pastor at South Bay Bible Church and, along with the many other things I do each week, I enjoy writing these blogs to encourage you. We rarely break the “fourth wall,” but I’m glad you now know who is actually writing these blogs for you.

I’m thankful for Kelli and Pastor Jon for guest-writing some blogs while I was away these last few weeks. After a long stretch of ministry in 2022, I needed to start 2023 from a place of rest. This caused me to take some time with the Lord back in my hometown.

During that time, I was able to sit with God and His Word and just read. Not for a sermon I was planning to preach. Not for anyone in our church. Not even for this blog.

Indeed, the Lord encouraged me and taught me in His word about many things while I was away. Although I was not reading scripture for ministry’s sake over the breaktime, I did have a specific revelation from God’s Word which I feel compelled to share with you, especially those of you who plan to serve the Lord in any kind of ministry capacity this year.

Examining Familiar Words…

I do believe in such a thing as coincidences; however, I do not think it was an accident that the Lord brought this to my attention at a time when I was resting from church work. I’ve read through the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) on many occasions and never really noticed the message behind this scripture until I was sitting in a random coffee shop just over a week ago.

This is a truth I needed after a long season of successful ministry (personal and churchwide). Although it did not come easily, ministry was both exciting and effective in 2022. God was really moving through us and changing lives.

But God knew I really needed this reminder from Jesus in Luke 10:17-20.


The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.     – Luke 10:17-20


You’ve probably read or heard portions of this passage before. My guess is you’ve become familiar with the part about the believers’ authority in verse 19, especially if you come from more charismatic theological circles. These words certainly aren’t new to me either, but for clarity’s sake, let’s take a step back and consider the context.

Jesus is in the middle of his earthly ministry and is sending out seventy-two of his disciples/Apostles to do ministry in the local villages and towns. These were towns that he was going to visit in the future (Luke 10:1), but he wanted them to go ahead and bless the people with the good news of the Kingdom of God, giving them specific instructions as laborers in the harvest.

Jesus gave them instructions to heal the sick and to preach the gospel, as well as what to do if the town does not want them there. Needless to say, those whom Jesus sent go out and, apparently, do some great ministry in the area.

When they return, the people are celebrating all the success they had while ministering to the local community. They not only healed the sick and preached the gospel, but they were able to even cast out demons!

Jesus recalls the fall of Satan and echoes the observation of the ministers by telling them just how great their ministry can be when done in his name. They can push back darkness confidently and they can supposedly step on scorpions while they do it (Luke 10:19).

And unfortunately, that’s where many preachers who teach this passage will stop…

A Gentle Caution from Jesus

In all this excitement and celebration regarding all that the ministers did in Jesus’ name, Jesus gives a word of caution: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Woah.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the text, but this seems a bit of an awkward interruption. Think about it…

These ministers are celebrating people being healed and freed and happy. More importantly, they’re attributing all the power to Jesus working through them. Still, Jesus feels like he has to interrupt this moment with a truth that everyone probably already knows and agrees with.

I mean, one would have to assume that these ministers already knew what was most important. Obviously, I, a full-time pastor, know this and abide by these words daily. If you’re doing any kind of ministry in the church, I’m sure you remember this all the time. For Jesus to say this to a crew of his workers seems a bit redundant… right?

If you’re as aware and honest as I hope you are, then I think you’ll know that this isn’t necessarily the case. If it were being questioned on a test, you and I might list eternal life with Jesus as your greatest reward. But in reality, many of us are endlessly chasing after doing more, being more, and accomplishing more for Jesus.

Could it be that Jesus felt pressed to say this because they needed to be reminded of the greatest miracle which was already accomplished in Jesus, himself? Could it be that Jesus is saying this now to you as a general reminder, word of encouragement, or dire warning?

In case you aren’t catching on, Jesus is enlightening his listeners of a very important principle which I hope you’ll receive with all humility, and that is this:

Him knowing your name is infinitely more valuable than ministering in His name.

In other words, your position in Christ is far greater than your performance for Christ. The reality that God knows you and delights to spend the rest of eternity with you is going to carry you a lot further in faith than whatever achievements you might gain in ministry. I think there’s even a message in Jesus’ words about the weight of redemption outweighing spiritual power/authority.

Why it matters…

Something tells me that most of you who are reading aren’t seeking to perform what most would call miracles, and you likely aren’t going around demon-hunting.

You preach. You counsel. You teach kids ministry or help with the livestream. You work in the church office. You hold the door open on Sunday mornings.

Those who are reading this and serving God vary between full-time, bi-vocational, or volunteer. All of us who serve in any capacity are ministers, nonetheless.

First, I think it’s worth noting that Jesus never diminishes the value of ministry, not to those casting out demons and not to you. Ministry is incredible for how it pushes back the darkness. In fact, he gives his stamp of affirmation in verse 18 and 19.

But here’s the thing: You still need Jesus’ exhortation in verse 20. I need it too. Thankfully, Jesus gave it to me while I was away, resting.

You need to remember that, no matter what you’re doing for Jesus and his Kingdom right now, what’s more important is that God knows you, God loves you, and God is with you for the rest of forever. Your name is written in heaven.

It doesn’t depend on how great your preaching is. It doesn’t matter how many songs you lead on Sunday morning. It doesn’t matter how many tasks you check off in the office at church this week, or – get this – it doesn’t matter how many people you lead to Jesus this week.

Those are all incredibly wonderful things that Jesus certainly cares about, but the greater miracle worth celebrating for Jesus and for us is that God knows our name in this life and will embrace us in the next.