‘But rejoice that your names are written in heaven!’

THE PASSAGE IN Luke 10:1-20 recounts Jesus Christ pointing out to His disciples the great harvest and the lack of workers, and His sending of 72 disciples to spread the good news about the heavenly kingdom.

When they returned they joyfully reported to Him, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name!” Jesus responded: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

It is certainly a most joyful and satisfying experience when we accomplish the work that the Lord assigns to us. We will also be very eager in presenting our report, to share and give thanks.

But Jesus reminded His disciples not to rejoice only because of the work or results; the tasks may not always be needed, and we may not be able to sustain our performance indefinitely. When there is no longer any ministry for us to serve in, have we then no reason to rejoice? Jesus wanted His disciples to remember that they were to rejoice because their names were written in heaven.

None of the names of the 72 disciples were mentioned in Luke’s gospel. Although we do not know who they were, we are certain, as Jesus said, that their names were already registered in heaven.

There are many in church who serve diligently in the Lord’s ministry. They have remained steadfast and faithful in their service despite many obstacles.

What they undertake may be behind-the-scenes tasks or work of undefined nature; their names may not be registered in the news bulletins or official records of the church, and they may not be remembered thereafter.

There are also those who served in various official capacities of different ministries in church during their younger days but are no longer serving now because of health or age reasons, or because they have relocated. As time passes, these may also be forgotten.

The words of Jesus are very precious to us. We are not to be joyful only for our participation in His work and accomplishing it. God’s approval of our service does not depend on its quantity or length, but on how faithful we are in serving.

A retired lay leader once lamented to me with a sigh, “I’m old and can no longer serve in church the way I used to. No one remembers people like us anymore.” No. It is not so.

Remember what Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!”

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The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung is the President of the Chinese Annual Conference.