Christ is on his last pilgrimage, Luke 10:1-20 recounts. He is on his way to the cross. He chooses 70 of his followers who were zealous, intense and enthusiastic about his purpose for coming into the world. He then sends them into Judea to places where he would come on his way to Jerusalem.
These are not the same as the 12 apostles. Their assignment is a temporary one. No names are given. They were anonymous disciples, but they covered a large territory where Jesus would come.
This assignment is different from that of the apostles, the 12 who were to be with Christ, hear his message, witness his miracles, his suffering, his death, resurrection and ascension. The 70 were sent out immediately to heal the sick and to tell the people that the Kingdom of God has come near (v. 9). They were to go as his ambassadors to those places where he would soon arrive.
The call of God is first a call to the Lord himself. his plan for us may include different responsibilities, but we are called to him and to do what he commands. When we are called to him, we will go wherever he goes.
Like these 70 who were sent out, many will serve faithfully without recognition. Most of the faithful servants of the Lord over the centuries have been unknown. There are well-known names scattered across the history of Christianity, but they are few compared to the millions whose names are not known. Yet, the Lord carefully observes every ministry that he calls us to do.
The 70 returned with joy and reported with excitement that even the demons were subject to them through the name of Christ. The word for "joy" is much stronger than our English word. It is the idea of "victorious joy." This kind of joy can only come from the Holy Spirit; it cannot be worked up by man.
"I watched Satan fall from heaven," Jesus said, "like a lightning flash" (v. 18). The Lord's reference to lightning speaks of the suddenness of Satan's fall and the obvious nature of his fall. When lightning flashes across the sky, it is both sudden and apparent. Jesus rejoiced with them in the victories he gave them over Satan. They had been willingly sent forth, received his power, and glorified his name. He confirmed their report and shared their joy.
There is never a ministry that Christ appoints us to do that he does not carefully see how we carry it out. Every victory is important to the Lord, no matter how insignificant it may seem in our eyes.
We do not know who these 70 were. When the persecution of the church came in Acts, the apostles remained in Jerusalem and the believers scattered. They captured the Roman Empire and, yet, we do not know who most of them were. You may serve in an obscure place but Jesus observes your ministry and uses you for his glory.
Rejoicing that centers in one's gifts, powers and recognition may soon degenerate into pride. Pride may be the greatest sin in ministry, for it ends up endeavoring to take credit for what God does. It is easy for our sinful natures to take credit for the ministry God gives us. It is always a danger. They did not claim responsibility for the victories won but gave credit to the name of Jesus. So far so good, but a warning is given here.
The real basis for joy is not power in ministry, but in the fact that the believer's name is written down in heaven (v. 20). The greatest victories in our ministries are worthless apart from grace. Don't just rejoice that God blesses your ministry, but rather rejoice that your name is written down in heaven. Effectiveness in ministry needs to be held lightly because it is not eternal joy. What happens when you are not successful? When you face condemnation and opposition?
All can share in this joy. There are no superstars in ministry. The gifted and effective minister, the one who serves in the obscure place out of sight of most, the young in their enthusiasm and the old in their limitations - all can rejoice that their names are written down in heaven!
Here is success in ministry. Live in an awareness of his call. Serve him knowing that he observes every moment of your ministry. Serve with his anointing and power. Serve with clear focus on your name being written down in heaven. The extent and eternal value of your ministry is not found in how prominent you are in your ministry. You may serve all your life in the shadows, but those who may shape the world may come out of your ministry, and we won't know all of that until we rest in his presence in heaven.
Look again at the supernatural work of God to lift you from the depths of sin from which you have been saved. Paul told the Ephesians, "You were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) and then reminds them "by grace you are saved" (v. 5). Your name was written down in heaven by grace alone - not through any work, value or merit on your part.
What a Savior and what a cause for rejoicing! It reminds us that our true citizenship is in heaven. "Written" is perfect tense declaring, "It stands written." It is what both Paul and John call the "Book of Life" (Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5). Real success is not found in what we do for him, but in confidence in what he has done and is doing for us.