Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 21:

"And the seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.' And He said to them, 'I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.'" 
                                                                                                                              Luke 10: 17-20 NASB

Jesus had sent the seventy out with quite a job. They were to go to every town and village where He was headed, telling the good news of Jesus and healing in His name. From the beginning, He told them that He was sending them out as lambs among wolves. That comment alone might have been enough to turn back the most adventuresome among us, but not the seventy.  They plowed ahead. 

They could take nothing at all with them. They had the clothes on their backs but no bag, money, change of garments, or bedroll.  They were to go to a town and look for a man of peace. They were to offer a blessing of peace to those in a house and, if it was received, they could stay there while they ministered in the town. If not, they would move on to the next town. They were to accept whatever hospitality was given without moving around, looking for better accommodations. Some entire towns would reject them. When that happened, and it would, they were to leave and go to the next town. 

This was not a fun vacation on which they embarked. This was a physically exhausting, emotionally trying, spiritually draining trip. It was nothing they had ever done before and likely nothing they had imagined. Still, they went. The sent ones did exactly what Jesus said, in exactly the way He said it, and they made it through.

When they returned, not one of them talked about how meager the accommodations or how insubstantial the food. Not one of them whined to Jesus about how difficult the task or the towns that had rejected them.  When they reported to Jesus, they returned with joy! Imagine that! They loved the trip. They considered it a fun journey. They would likely volunteer to do it again. 

They returned with joy!

Is that how we see obedience? Do we count it as joy, no matter the circumstances? Do we rejoice when we serve God in hard or unpleasant circumstances? 

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference that was nothing at all like I expected. The accommodations were less than optimal and I quickly found out about my own sense of entitlement. It took more time than it should have to find my way to acceptance of the circumstances in which God had thrust me, but, once accomplished, something amazing happened. Through Christ, I was able to rise to the occasion. With His help, none of the circumstances mattered one bit. What mattered was that He was at work all around me and I was allowed to see Him, experience Him in new ways. At the end of the week, I, too, reported back to Jesus with joy, and now find that the experience changed me in some difficult to define, but very important, way. 

The sent-ones served and sacrificed for the Lord they loved, and it was worth it. We, too, will find that sacrifice and service, linked hand-in-hand, are not only worth it, they bring great joy. Jesus took those seventy sent-ones completely out of their comfort zones and made them completely dependent upon Him. He wants to do the same with us. You and me. He wants to use us in ways we cannot imagine, giving us joy in the journey more profound than we can comprehend. He will do it, too, if we allow it. 

What is it to which Christ is calling you? What adventure does He offer? Like the seventy sent-ones, why not step out in faith, accept the challenge, and follow the One who has already made a way? The circumstances may not be to your liking, but by the end of your journey, you, too, will be reporting back with great joy over all you have seen God do.