It’s not all about impact

The seventy were, in a word, ecstatic. Days earlier, when Jesus had told them that they were going to be going out to preach and heal, they had been a bit leery. Okay, they had been terrified. None but Peter felt up to the task. But Peter felt up to anything. He seemed perpetually eager to discover new ways to insert his foot into his mouth.  Not so with the others. And so they had waffled and hesitated and… But Jesus had insisted, and so they had gone. Now, though, as they returned to their master to report what had happened, they were all gushing. Every one of them had had the chance to proclaim the gospel. Every one of them had been able to heal the sick. Every one of them had successfully driven away evil spirits from one person or another. And as they stumbled over each other to get to Jesus, and each tried desperately to get His attention so he could share his accomplishments, Jesus listened intently with a knowing smile. First to Peter – he was always first – then to Thomas, Andrew, Philip, and James. As the cacophony continued unabated, though, after several had given their reports, Jesus raised his hands and motioned for everyone to be still. And what he had to say next would redefine their definition of success forever.I imagine that, as he motioned for silence, Jesus smiled knowingly. Perhaps he even chuckled with glee at the sight of his disciples, so excited as someone finally blurted, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” And I love the way that he validates their enthusiasm in Luke 15:18: “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” The implication was that these men (and women?) had dislodged Satan, and it must have felt good. Indeed, it does feel good whenever we accomplish something great for the Lord! And it feels even better when Jesus reaffirms, once again, that He has granted us authority to preach and teach and heal and all the other things He may call us to do. But as the mob finally quieted – I imagine burly fisherman types chest bumping and grunting, back-slapping and the like – Jesus motioned for them to quiet and listen carefully.

They rejoiced because God had used them to do something spectacular. But while Jesus would never discount that good feeling, He did want them to hear what He was about to say in verses 19-20 of Luke 15: “Look, I have given you the authority to trample on sankes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However” – and here’s where it gets important to pay attention – “don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Did you catch that? These guys were ecstatic about the awesome stuff that God had done through them. But Jesus reminds them that it’s not about the accomplishments nearly so much as it is about the relationship. Namely, the relationship that they have with Him, which has resulted in their names being written down in heaven, of which the accomplishments of their little missions trip were only a small evidence.

Did you get that?

You see, all too often, I have a tendency to look at my life and think glumly, “Oh, boy.” I mean, I’ve never laid my hands on someone and had them healed before my eyes. I’ve never prayed that an evil spirit would be banished and had it be so. I’ve never stood in the center of the throng, pronounced the gospel, and seen 3,000 choose to believe in one day as Peter did.

And so often, it’s easy to look at my spiritual resume, which is undeniably anemic compared to this kind of stuff, and think my life, my faith, and myself inadequate. Ineffective. Insufficient.

Jesus’ words, here, though, are encouraging. Because not only was He reigning in his jubilant disciples so that they would not start focusing on the things they had done, but He reminding me that I am far more than the things I have not done.

The person who does the most powerful miracles is not saved by the miracles, but by his name being written down in heaven. And the person who does none is not condemned by her lack of miracles, but is indeed saved if her name is also written in heaven.

I don’t need to drive out demons, perform wonders, or even pastor the largest megachurch in town to have joy. In fact, doing any of those things, ultimately, has little impact on my lasting measure of the stuff. What I need to do, whether I’m an apparent success or utter failure in this world, is remember that my name is written down in heaven and I have a relationship with the King.

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