The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” Luke 10:17
The 72 were sent as lambs among wolves. They may have been expecting a life of persecution, failures and even death. So, they returned with joy when demons submitted to them – maybe they deemed this as an endorsement and affirmation for them and of their ministry.
Affirmation and endorsement are usually welcome – maybe they somewhat validate our calling and ability. And maybe sometimes we yearn to prove something not only to others but also to ourselves. Once I was struggling over wanting to achieve my fullest potential in my life. I battled frustration and restlessness, often feeling that something might be holding me back from reaching the best I could be. I wrestled with myself and with God much over this. Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-70) described such a state as the hierarchy of needs. And at the top of this hierarchy is self-actualization. He defined self-actualization as achieving the fullest use of one’s talents and interests — the need “to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” (Wikipedia)
“Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” I wondered about the “to us” part, if their excitement and joy was just a little bit more about the point that the demons submitted to them. Did they feel this as an ultimate achievement as disciples of Christ? Am I restless and wanting to reach an “ultimate achievement”, whatever it is, in my life?
Jesus said to them: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven … However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:18-20)
When I read this, the scales fell off my eyes. I was reminded of the aspirations that were in Satan’s heart: … I will ascend … I will raise my throne … I will sit enthroned (Isaiah 14:12-15).
I convinced myself that I wanted to reach my fullest potential for the purpose of serving God. I sought God to set me free to achieve my fullest potential and to be what He intended me to be. But my aspiration was very subtle. I realised it was a little bit more about myself and my desire to reach the best of my abilities. It boils down to my desire to see my potential and achievement – how far and how good I can be in what I do. It was not so much for the Name of God that I was wrestling. It was about my name.
It is God who will bring all things to pass and to fruition. God has given me more than what I deserve and more than what success can give me. I am given the opportunity to see Him at work and not me at work, to be part of His Kingdom and not to build my own kingdom and to rejoice because my name is written in heaven and not because I have accomplished or achieved something.
God has indeed set me free – free from myself; my ambition and my desire to be an accomplished person. Now I don’t strive about reaching my fullest potential. He offers me much more than my fullest potential. He has written my name in heaven.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19a, NIV)
By Amy Ong, Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 8 December 2019)