The life God calls us to live doesn’t make sense from a human perspective. His ways aren’t our ways; His thoughts aren’t our thoughts (see Isa. 55:8-9). And seeing the example of Jesus in the Gospels, the countercultural ways of God become even more clear. This is a God who challenges our perceptions and wrecks our plans.
That’s what we see in Luke 10 as Jesus sends messengers ahead of Him to spread the gospel. He calls them to lay everything else aside. To sacrifice their comfort. To let go of the things they think they need. To die to themselves. To count the cost of what it means to go wherever He might lead.
This week, I want to focus on Luke 10:17-20. These four verses tell of those messengers returning to Christ. And rather than returning with their heads down. Their faces depressed. Their shoulders slumped. Complaining about how horrible it is to follow Jesus through thick and thin. They return with joy.
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’” (Luke 10:17-20 ESV).
Have you ever been on a spiritual high? Moments when you’ve been unusually excited about what God has done through you? I have. And it’s a blessing to be used by God. But in times of success, we also need to beware. Because Jesus has an interesting response to the messengers who joyfully return to Him.
You see, just because you’re successful doesn’t mean you’re saved. We can’t assume that just because God is using us in a great way we’re right with Him. We can’t assume that just because our mission is successful our lives are pleasing to God (see Matt. 7:21-23). As humans, we have a tendency to celebrate the gift and neglect the Giver. Jesus challenges the messengers not to bank too heavily on what God has done through them; rather, He wants them to cherish what He has done for them.
In verses 18-19, Jesus acknowledges their victory over Satan. Now, these can be some difficult verses to understand. What about Satan falling? What about those snakes? This is not a plea for snake handling. Rather, Jesus is acknowledging Satan’s defeat.
The reference to Satan falling from heaven is often attributed to Isaiah 14:12. In His eternal, preincarnate person, Jesus would have seen the fall of Satan. And now, with that in mind, Jesus reminds the messengers of Satan’s lack of authority. Then, in verse 19, Jesus further emphasizes Satan’s defeat. In Genesis 3:15, God makes a promise. He says, “‘I will put enmity between you [serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (ESV).
As we know, this comes after the fall of humanity into sin. And in Luke 10:19, Jesus emphasizes that the serpent representing evil—the power of Satan—has been defeated by the seed of the woman. And that seed is Jesus Christ. Therefore, in Christ, we tread on serpents unharmed. We have victory over death. And now, we have the power to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth (see Mt. 28:18-20).
God doesn’t call us without giving us the power to go.
In verse 20, Jesus points us towards an even greater joy. Despite any success we have in following Christ. No matter what He does through us as we seek to serve Him, may we never forget what He has done for us. That, by His grace, our names are registered in heaven.
At the end of our lives, true success can be found in the following words: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant’” (see Mt. 25:14-30).
So, the life God calls us to live doesn’t make sense to this world. It’s one of counting the cost. Sacrifice. Letting go of the things we think will make us happy. It’s not the “American Dream.” But it’s a life worth living.
Have you given your life fully to God, willing to go wherever He might lead? I don’t know about you, but when my mission is complete, I want to stand joyfully before Christ.
The longer we settle, the harder it is to go where God calls us to go. So, let’s go and live a life worth living.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.