In Chapter 10 of his Gospel, Luke records the story of Jesus sending out seventy-two missionaries out to the towns in advance of Jesus visiting them. They were to heal the sick and proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.
The missionaries experienced success and expressed their excitement about it. Luke tells us,
The seventy-two, returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”Luke 10:17 (CSB)
The response of Jesus encourages me.
Jesus basically says to the missionaries, “Yes, you have been given some power and by it have seen some success, but don’t be so focused on that. What is really worth celebrating is that your names are written in heaven.” (my paraphrase of Luke 10:18-20).
This encourages me because we won’t always experience success. At times we will experience loss and frustration.
The American church is so focused on measurable results. We track baptisms, attendance and giving so that we can have a sense of whether we are making progress. There is nothing wrong with quantifying these things, but we can end up confusing them with our ultimate goal.
Some are called to minister in churches that don’t experience rapid growth in any of these metrics. If measurable success is the reason for our joy, some of us will struggle to be joyful.
Some times we pray for healing that doesn’t come. We invest in people who walk away from the faith. We walk in obedience and things don’t work out the way we think they should.
Jesus tells the missionaries to look beyond success or failure to that which can never be taken away from us. Our salvation is the only fail-proof source of joy.
I write this because I have recently gone trough a period of great frustration. I was frustrated because I was focused on measuring my success in ministry. God, in his wisdom, placed me in an environment where my gifts and abilities were not appreciated and my opinion was not valued. My response was to try harder which only led to increased frustration for myself and the people around me.
I am learning that success in any endeavor cannot be the gauge by which I assess myself. My value does not come from what I do or how successfully I do it. My value comes from the one who gave his life so that I might be in relationship with him.
The author of Hebrews tells us:
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1b-2 (CSB)
You and I make up the “joy that lay before him.” Jesus had you and I in mind when he went to the cross.
What else do we need to feel valued?