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Perspectives for Balancing Ministry Life

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 10:10–24

If our joy is determined by responses to our ministry efforts, we have a flawed perspective on God’s work. Jesus reminds us that our joy is not dependent on our work in the world but on God’s work in us and for us.


In our last Wisdom Journey, we had a stiff wind in our sail as we breezed through seven principles Jesus taught to seventy-two disciples. He was preparing them for a short-term gospel outreach.

We now arrive at verse 10 of Luke chapter 10, and the first word we read is “but.” This, of course, marks a contrast to what these seventy-two disciples have already learned.

The ministry before them is exciting but it’s going to be challenging. They will encounter blessings but also problems. So, as the Lord continues to prepare them for their ministry assignment, He offers them some perspectives to shape their thinking. These perspectives are just as valuable for us as we take the gospel to our world and are especially needed by those serving in vocational ministry today.

Here is the first perspective: There will be times when your ministry will not be appreciated or desired. The Lord says in verse 10, “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you.” These disciples are probably wondering, How is that possible? Jesus gave us His power to perform miracles—the lame will walk, and the blind will see. Who would not want us? Is that possible? Jesus is telling them, “It’s not just possible; it’s predictable. Expect it; anticipate it.”

There will be times in your ministry when a friendly face never shows up, when your needs are ignored, when you are rejected or ridiculed. This is a reminder that no matter what you say or do, you might not be well received.

And that is because the message is so convicting. The gospel is a message of salvation and grace, but also of sin and guilt. That is why this second perspective is something disciples of every generation need to have—and here it is: The message of the gospel not only provides an invitation; it delivers an ultimatum.

Should a village or town reject these disciples, here is what Jesus tells them to do:

“Go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’” (verses 10-11)

This is a public warning delivered in the streets. The Greek word for a street here (platus) refers to a well-traveled street. It is where the greatest number of people will hear the verdict.[1]

Jesus goes on to say in verse 12, “It will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” When Jesus refers to “that day” it is a reference to the final judgment of the unbelieving world, described in Revelation 20. This is shocking to hear—Sodom will be judged less harshly than villages that reject these disciples.

This shocking statement is followed by another one in verses 13 and 14:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.”

These Jewish villages will suffer greater judgment than pagan Gentile cities like Tyre and Sidon!

And then to the city that served as the Lord’s ministry base, He delivers yet another shocking indictment—verse 15: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.”

In addressing these various Jewish cities, Jesus uses the word “woe” in verse 13. “Woe to you” is an expression that conveys a serious warning, but if you had heard Jesus, you would have heard sorrow in His voice. The word “woe” is a lamenting, sorrowful warning.[2] Jesus is presenting this rather tragic revelation: the greater your exposure to the truth, the greater your future judgment if you reject the gospel of Christ.

Now here is a third perspective to keep in mind: Rejection is not necessarily about you; it is ultimately about Jesus. Jesus says in verse 16:

“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

These cities and villages—and individuals—who reject the King’s representatives are rejecting the King. We should not take rejection personally if we are faithfully declaring the Lord’s message.

By the way, this is a subtle warning to these seventy-two disciples. The rejection of their message does not mean they are to change their message to make it less offensive or more appealing. Jesus never trained His disciples to be appreciated; He prepared them to be rejected.

Now following verse 16, these men take off in pairs and then sometime later—a few weeks more than likely—they return. Verse 17 says, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’”

Verse 18 records the Lord’s immediate reply: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I believe Jesus is reminding them that Satan fell because of his pride. Jesus is effectively warning them not to swell up with pride over their ministry success.

The Lord then provides some much-needed balance with another perspective for us to consider: Your joy must not depend on ministry perfection but on your final destination. These disciples are all excited about their miraculous power and the ability to cast out demons. They all had some measure of what we would call an exciting short-term mission trip. But the Lord says to them here in verse 20, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The word “written” means inscribed formally. It was used in reference to wills, marriage documents, peace treaties, and the city registry of its citizens. Jesus is essentially saying, “If you are a believer, your name has been written in the registry of heaven.”

And with that, verse 21 tells us: “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father.’” Let me stop there and point out that we see all three persons of the Trinity in this praise and prayer meeting. Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you Father.’” How wonderful to consider that the triune God is involved in rejoicing over the fruit of gospel ministry.

That leads me to another perspective to remember: Encouragement in the harvest field depends on the mystery of God at work in the world.

Look at verse 21 again:

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

What a mystery—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are involved in our lives, out there in the harvest field where we have been assigned. And that means, we are not alone in His work. God is involved behind the scenes.

Here is one more encouraging perspective to keep in mind: Where we are in redemptive history invites us to give praise to God.

Listen to Jesus here in verses 23-24:

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

You are blessed! why? Because you know so much more in this New Testament dispensation than the prophet Isaiah or King David knew. You have a completed Bible; you can introduce the Messiah by His name. You are on the other side of His empty tomb; you even have a description of heaven that the prophets and kings did not have.

Let’s take advantage of all we have today. Let’s keep these perspectives before us, as we invite our world to follow Him—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

[1] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Augsburg Publishing, 1946), 573.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 264.

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