“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”Luke 10:16-20
Jesus sent out the seventy-two to do the stuff of ministry. Their privilege, and ours, is that not only did they get to operate in the authority of Christ but they got to be His ambassadors. Anyone who listened to them teach about the Kingdom was listening to Jesus. Anyone who rejected them was rejecting Jesus. As Jesus was sent by the Father to represent the Father, Jesus was sending them to represent Jesus. He does the same with us.
And notice where gratitude is supposed to start. When we operate in the authority of Christ as the ambassadors of Christ our gratitude can’t be dependent on ministry results. No doubt, I have experienced the thrill of seeing the power of God move and people get set free from demonic darkness. I see this almost weekly. It is a wonder and a miracle, and it is an absolute privilege to be Jesus’s hands and feet in those moments. But Jesus teaches us here in this scripture passage that our gratitude can’t start there.
Jesus wants our gratitude to start much further back. The greatest miracle is our own salvation. The greatest miracle is that Jesus took our punishment upon himself and, in exchange, gave us His peace. Our gratitude begins with the ridiculous notion that I am forgiven for all of my sin, not because of something I have done, but because of what God has done for me. My name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. And not only am I washed clean of my sin because of the blood of Jesus, but I am given new life because of His resurrection from the grave. Gratitude begins here.
When life and ministry get hard, we have to return to this point of gratitude. We have to return to the basics of being grateful that we have been given eternal life, though we didn’t deserve it. Everything else is icing on the cake. This life is a blip on the radar screen of eternity. James says it this way, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
If we can go back and be grateful for our salvation, then we can begin to be grateful for the rest of life. Rather than complaining about the hardships of life, we can begin to be grateful that we even have a life. Rather than grumbling about work, we can be grateful that we have a job and an income. Rather than complaining about friends and family, we can be grateful for their love and presence in our life. Rather than wishing we were used by God in different ways or better ways, we can be grateful that we are being used by God at all. What an incredible privilege that God would use someone like me! This is how John said it:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.1 John 3:1-2
And I love how Paul says something similar in his letter to his protege Timothy:
I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.1 Timothy 1:13-17
May we echo the words of John and Paul in our own hearts. May our gratitude start at the ground level of the cross. May it begin at the point of our salvation and grow from there.