Wise Words to the 72 and To Us Too!

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Senior demon: “How do you think we can best destroy this minister we’re gazing upon?”

Junior demon: “Make his ministry very difficult?”

Senior demon: “No, I think not. Perhaps we would defeat him by discouragement, but there is also the risk the minister might be humbled and in his new level of humility pose an even greater threat to the Dark Kingdom.”

Junior demon: “I give up. Please tell me a better way to destroy the pastor’s ministry.”

Senior demon: “Let the minister have great success, and pride will greatly increase and humility greatly decrease. In this way the Dark Kingdom will win over the Kingdom of God in the minister’s life.”

This imaginary demonic dialogue illustrates a spiritual principle of which most of us are familiar but undoubtedly could use a reminder. Success in ministry is wonderful, who doesn’t want it? Success, however, does pose a threat to us being the humble servant of God we’re called to be in our church.

Tullian Tchividjian, well known pastor, writer, and grandson of Billy Graham, experienced a moral failure that had a profoundly negative and painful effect on his life and ministry. With something like 20/20 hindsight he reflected on what led to his downfall in his blog at https://www.tullian.net/articles/being-kicked-into-freedom .

“There was a slow and subtle shift that came on like the slow creep of the tide rather than a sudden tidal wave. It was a shift from locating my identity in what God had done (the message of the Gospel) to locating my identity in what I had done (my success as a messenger of the Gospel). In other words, my worth, my value, my deepest sense of who I was and what made me matter – my identity – was anchored in things like my status, my reputation, my position, who my friends were, my skill with words, my ability to lead, the praise I received, the opportunities I had, always being in demand and the center of attention, financial security, and so on.”

Tchividjian’s comments make a good transition to reflecting on the time Jesus had sent out 72 of His followers to minister in His name. They returned very excited and exclaimed, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17) At least they were giving credit to Jesus, that the great results were accomplished in Jesus’ name. Still, Jesus was concerned about what was most exciting to them – the success of their efforts. He too was pleased with what had been accomplished, but told them, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (v. 20) Their names being on Heaven’s Roster was by the grace and mercy of God and not the result of any effort of their own (the Gospel Message, right?). This, Jesus reminded them, was what should most excite them.

Ministry is tough, so when we see some success it’s really easy to fixate on it, bask in it, revel in it. Yes, there’s a place for celebration and grateful thanksgiving to God for achievements we experience. Sooner than later, however, it’s good to remember Jesus’ sobering words, that what should really excite us as the pastor of His flock is that we, like everyone else, are in good standing with Him, having our names on Heaven’s Roster. And this all because of His astonishing grace and mercy toward us! It’s being humbly aware of this great truth, even in the midst of some measure of success, that makes us a great threat to the Dark Kingdom and a great asset to the Kingdom of God!

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