God’s will, not your work, is the place to find joy in ministry.  When the 72 returned from their mission, they were very excited about the divine power that they had been privileged to wield. They acknowledged that all they had done had been done in the name of, and therefore the power of, Christ. And Jesus encouraged them in two ways.

Measuring Effectiveness

First, He told them that, while they were ministering in His name, He was watching Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Sometimes we see fruit from our ministry. God is gracious like that. But other times, we just work and minister in hope and faith. We must be sure that we never measure a ministry’s effectiveness by the fruit that we see. When we serve the Lord, we engage in spiritual warfare, and the effects are, by definition, generally unseen. We walk by faith, not by sight. Jesus encouraged these followers by telling them that they were playing a real and important part in tearing down the gates of hell and glorifying God. And we need to hear that message, too. Don’t give up, just because you don’t see results. All our striving must be by faith.

Finding Joy in God’s Will

Jesus also encouraged them by grounding their joy in God’s will, His sovereign, elective will. Their names have been written in heaven. That occurred before the foundations of the world were laid. God set his love on them long before anything existed. What a wonderful statement of God’s sovereign control. In fact, the emphases of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 3, paragraph 1 can be seen well in this passage:

  1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

We see God’s sovereign control in having written our names from eternity past in the Lamb’s book of life.  And, since God doesn’t make mistakes, we have confidence that there will be no erasures or corrections in the book.  God will not send out an errata page.  We also see the free will of men and the liberty and contingency of second causes established here, as these 72 men made an impact in the spiritual realm.

What a glorious and wonderful and comforting truth.  Your hope is grounded in God’s sovereign choice, because whomever God chooses, he loves.  And whomever he loves, he saves and cares for.  No wonder he told them to take nothing with them on their journey.  They had the provision of the Shepherd to rely upon.  And now that you know you are cared for, and that you don’t have to worry, you can work.  And as you work, you trust that you are bringing glory to the God who saved you.