It is easy for all of us to find our self-worth or value in the accomplishments in our lives. It could be in our accomplishments, it could be in the organizations that we are invested in, it can be in the stuff we own or even ourselves. It is also easy for to determine our importance through ministry. I know that this is a trap for pastors especially, like how well our teaching is received, the size of our ministry and even the effectiveness of our outreach. I am not communicating that a Godly sense of accomplishment or satisfaction over a job well done is bad. The Bible reminds us that we need to find our value in God’s grace in our lives.
We just completed a successful community outreach this month. I believe that it was successful according to Biblical standards and also by those using other metrics. It is great when the hours invested result in touching the lives of others, especially when it results in helping others go forward to knowing or walking with Jesus. The challenge is that, those of us who are followers of Jesus, are valuable and significant for more important reasons, we are loved by the Creator!
This morning I was reminded of the importance of finding our self-worth in our relationship with Jesus Christ in a gospel account where Jesus says just that. The context of Luke’s Gospel chapter 10 reminds us of the importance of doing outreach ministry in our communities. We see Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples into the local communities to share the message of Jesus. It is upon their return that we get this report, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”” (Luke 10:17) It was truly a productive outreach. They experienced the power of Jesus released by doing ministry for Jesus. Jesus even added, “And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) This does not seem to be a reference to Satan being cast from heaven at that precise moment, but “that his power had been broken and that he was subject to Jesus’ authority.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Seeing the Lord’s power released through ministry can be one of the greatest joys. And yet, Jesus redirects, those having experienced effective ministry to something more important.
Jesus rejoices with His disciples and then reminds them to focus on something more significant. “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) Jesus does not stop to explain the significance of focusing on grace, but it is probably related to the reality that not all effective ministry produces these kinds of results. The call of the follower of Jesus is not to be successful but to be faithful. The danger of basing our investment in ministry of some measurable metric we determine could result in pride on the upside and disappointment on the downside. It we focus on ministry as our service for Jesus in responding to God’s grace it is easy to leave the results in the Lord’s hands.
I am thankful for those times that we see God working through us, but I also know that there are also those times when God is working and we cannot see it. It is when we find our self-worth in Jesus that we insolate ourselves from the roller coaster of emotions that contribute to many falling away from serving Jesus.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson