your names are written in heaven
It is enough. That our names are written in heaven is reason enough for rejoicing and for giving us purpose in glorifying the Father. (Luke 10:20)
As we seek to follow the Spirit of the Lord, perhaps especially after a failed mission or a confusing turn of events, we start to crave affirmation in our walk. As we begin to better understand our weaknesses and compare them to the strengths of others, we begin to wonder - are we worthy? are we valued? are we needed? are we fit to sit at His right or left hand? are we even following at all, actually? We know that He beckons us to find strength and confidence in Him, but we lose sight of what that looks like as we cast about horizontally instead, wondering about our rank, position, or status.
In Luke 10, Jesus has sent out seventy (or seventy-two, depending on the Bible translation) to go two-by-two into towns where He was about to go. Their purpose seems to me a little bit like that of John the Baptist - to prepare the way, to go into the harvest and seek out those who were looking for the Lord and receptive to Him. When these people that He had sent out returned, they expressed their amazement at the power with which He had sent them... they had been given authority in the name of Jesus and they had seen it draw the world into submission to the King.
This power, this revelation, was a gift from above and as they had been sent and chosen and given authority, these 70-72 had the specific blessing of seeing it in action. I believe we all long for the power of Jesus to be seen and used in us. Because we are His, and we are so aware of how much we owe Him and how much we need Him and how much others need Him, we long to be counted among the blessed, the useful, the needed, the wanted, the desired.
I was at a missions conference on Saturday and one of the speakers spoke to this - He acknowledged this feeling in all of us. When we were baptized, those hearing our testimony stood to affirm this: that they had seen the work of the Lord in our lives. But it happens sometimes, that after years go by and our naivety wears off and circumstances have taken their toll, we begin to wonder if we've lost our savor as His salt. It's almost as if we need someone to confirm in us again - that they see the work of the Lord in our lives.
This is exactly why we have been placed into the body of Christ. We are called to encourage one another, to provoke to good works, and to speak into each others lives: Jesus loves you, I love you. He has chosen you, and He desires you. You are His, and I see the fruits of His work in your life. We need to echo the words of Jesus to each other... "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven". Even though the spirits are subject to us by His power and glory alone, He is still telling us not to rejoice in that! He is saying that we are to rejoice only in the truth that His blood has paid the price for our sin and we have accepted that gift with gratitude and commitment to a changed life. The blood is enough. There is no more that can save us and we can do nothing for Him. Our joy and purpose is derived from living in the fulness of His salvation... alone.
Luke 10 was not the first time that 70-72 people had been set apart for God's work. It happened earlier too - in Numbers 11. God asked Moses to gather them, so that He could put some of His Spirit on them and use them to bear part of Moses' burden in leading the people. Eldad and Medad were of those men, and they prophesied in spite of not going out to the Tent of Meeting. The Bible isn't clear why they didn't go out, but it didn't hinder the work of God through them. The Spirit of God is not limited to certain people, and God's hand is not shortened. That is clear in the conversation we read between Moses and Joshua: "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!"
Your name is written in heaven, and the Spirit of the Lord has been poured out upon you. Father, be glorified.