Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Best Reason to Rejoice


By Dennis Pollock

My first really adult job was teaching school. While in college I was told that there were few male teachers at the elementary level, and that jobs were plentiful for any male who would teach the younger children. I took that to heart and decided to study to become an elementary school teacher. It worked out and I ended up teaching fourth-graders and second-graders. Teaching at that level was fun, challenging, and sometimes very draining. While in college I went through that experience known as “student teaching” near the end of my studies. I felt significant pressure, because regardless of how well you do in your studies, if you do poorly in your student teaching, you will never have a chance to actually teach once you graduate.

Student teaching grants one the opportunity to put into practice all they have learned over the last three years or so. Most students learn about as much in their brief months of student teaching as they did in their previous years of study. I don’t know who first came up with the concept of student teaching, but clearly it is a good idea. No matter how wise and insightful your teachers have been, no matter how many great ideas you have filed away from all your classes, there is nothing like actually teaching – standing in front of a group of students day after day and communicating to them the knowledge and skills that they desperately need to succeed in life.

Our Lord Jesus apparently felt the same way. After instructing His disciples in the ways of the kingdom, after demonstrating the power of God and the efficacy of faith and prayer, after modeling the perfect picture of powerful, compassionate, effective ministry, He then began to send His followers out to do what He had done, in His name. The disciples may have been a little intimidated at first, but soon they grew in confidence and were amazed to find that just as it had been with their Master, so it was with them. The sick were healed, the crowds were moved by their Spirit-anointed preaching, and even the demon-possessed found deliverance and relief. It was an amazing, electric, awesome time of ministry. At an appointed time and place they all returned and met with Jesus to give their reports. The Bible doesn’t tell us all that was said, but we do learn of their thrill at the experience of ministry in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Even the Demons…”

They told Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” In their minds these miracles and deliverances seemed the epitome of spiritual power working through their lives and ministries. The insane, the irrational, the emotionally disturbed were finding deliverance and restoration through the power and the name of Jesus. Jesus did not reply the way we might expect. He did not say, “Well done,” or “I’m so happy for you,” or “You haven’t seen anything yet!” Instead He informed them that there was a far better reason to rejoice, declaring:

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:18-20).

He affirmed the authority that had been given them, an authority over all the powers of darkness, but then declared that their real ground of rejoicing was that their names were written in heaven. They were children of God, they were forgiven, they had heaven as their destiny.

Most of us today have not experienced anything close to the power and anointing that these first disciples of Jesus did, but I am convinced that Jesus’ response to them has a tremendous relevance to us all, and especially to those of us who either serve in some sort of anointed ministry or desire to. His answer brings us back to the foundations of our faith and centers us on the real reason we all have to rejoice. We rejoice not so much over what Christ enables us to accomplish, but over the simple but powerful truth that we know Him and He knows us. We are His.

Youthful Ambition

I can’t say exactly why it was, but for some reason or another, when I was a young man and getting started as a pastor and “full-time minister” I seemed to have a tremendous ambition to succeed and “touch the world for Christ.” Part of it was probably the books I read. I devoured biographies of the great ministers, men such as D. L. Moody, John Wesley, Billy Graham, Charles Finney, George Whitefield, and others. Reading of their amazing spiritual exploits made my little life and ministry seem mediocre by comparison. Combined with this was the fact that I could feel the Holy Spirit anointing me in my preaching at times (not every time, but sometimes). It seemed to me that if I could just figure out why some of my sermons seemed so anointed and find a way to make that happen every single sermon, the sky would be the limit. Perhaps I could be the next Billy Graham.

I didn’t just want to win souls; I wanted to win millions of souls. I didn’t just want to see an occasional person get healed when I prayed for them; I wanted to see healings wholesale, by the thousands and tens of thousands. I reasoned that since I wasn’t currently seeing those kinds of results, I must need to pray more or read the Bible more, or both. And so I increased my prayer time, added some fasting to it, and started reading the Bible more and more. I think I probably reached my peak in 1984 when I read the entire Bible through three times that year, and the New Testament through several additional times. I was also memorizing Scriptures like crazy, perhaps twenty or thirty new verses every week. My life was consumed with prayer, Bible reading, and Scripture memorization. With all this time given to spiritual activity I would surely break through one of these days to become the “great man of God” that I was destined to become.

All that prayer and time in the word of God no doubt did me a lot of good, but in reality I probably wasn’t as spiritual as I thought I was. Looking back on those days now, I suspect that there was a significant dose of spiritual pride and human ambition mingled with and mixed into my quest for a fruitful life and ministry. We humans tend to err on either side of this issue: many men and women are spiritually lazy and don’t read the Bible or pray nearly enough. But some, like me in those days, probably read and prayed, if not too much, at least with too much human ambition as the driving force. My prayer was not so much, “Lord, make me whatever You want me to be, but rather, “Lord make me a combination of George Whitefield, Billy Graham, and Charles Finney.”

No Time for Roses

Part of the problem was that I had a wife and eventually five children during those years. It is not as though I ignored them. I think I was a fairly attentive husband and father. But I did make an error in simply not appreciating them and the beautiful family life I had as much as I should have. I didn’t exactly take much time to smell the roses. I didn’t truly appreciate the wonderful people who made up my life as much as I should have, especially in those few years when my ambition was white-hot in intensity. I was in a quest to become a spiritual prodigy, one of the great preachers in the history of the church, and to win souls by the hundreds of thousands. And of course, if my name grew to worldwide fame as a result, well, I wouldn’t have minded that too much.

I marveled that I was at least sometimes pretty anointed and longed for the day when that anointing would grow so strong that it would carry me to the epitome of ministerial success. Like Jesus’ disciples I forgot to rejoice that my name was written in heaven. No time to think about heaven when there were souls to be won and a world to be “conquered for Christ.”

There are some wounds that only time can heal, and there are some driving ambitions which only age can dissipate. Eventually, the pain of unfulfilled aspirations began to take its toll and I began to slow down in my quest for the world’s greatest ministry. I realized I would never be another Billy Graham; I would never preach in huge stadiums, and my preaching, despite all the compliments from my parishioners, was not quite as electrifying as I thought it was, or as I hoped it would be.

Sometimes Less is More

And I began finding a fresh delight in my relationship with God. As bizarre as it sounds, when I slowed down a bit on my Bible reading, my delight in God actually increased. I rejoiced in the Lord, not because He was going to make me great or make me the most dynamic preacher since the apostles, but because He was my Father, Jesus was my Good Shepherd, and the Holy Spirit was my Friend and enabler. And best of all, my name is written in heaven. Today, as I reach the final season of my life, I can rejoice that there is a home for me in the presence of the Lord, provided for by the cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, where I will live in that place where there is quietness, peace, and joy forever and ever.

The Bible tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). The context of this verse has to do with material possessions, but I am convinced that it can also apply in spiritual matters. This is by no means encouraging believers to be lazy or apathetic. A little holy ambition can be a very good thing. But ambition run amok can be a cruel master. It can suck the life and the joy out of a perfectly blessed life and make you feel perpetually unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Strangely and ironically, once I slowed down and essentially gave up on my great spiritual ambitions and decided just to do the best I could to abide in Jesus and bear whatever fruit He wanted me to bear, that is precisely when He began to use me far more than He ever did in those days when I devoured the Scriptures and longed desperately for usefulness in the kingdom.


But the greater usefulness that I am seeing does not hinder me from appreciating God and even the smallest of His blessings in my daily life. Some of the things I thank Him for are what one might expect: my wife, my children, His provision for me, and so forth. But some of my prayers of thankfulness would surprise you. I thank Him for chairs I found at garage sales, for lamps that light the room just right when I sip coffee, play praise and worship music, and talk quietly with God. I thank Him for cameras and microphones, and computers, and the skills and knowledge to use them to produce videos which will touch thousands whom I will never preach to in person, but who watch me weekly through the miracle of the Internet.

But mostly I thank God that I am a Christian. I am a child of God. My name is written in heaven, and I will go there when I die. Sometimes I think of some of the stupid things I have said and done throughout my life and I embarrass myself and wonder how God could ever put up with me. But somehow, He has, and I am forever grateful. In my old age, with all the wrinkles and difficulties associated with the passing of time I have become far more content than at any other time in my life.

Jesus Christ is my Prize. He is my Fountain of living waters; He is the Spring from which life and fruitfulness flows in and through me. I still read the Bible and pray, of course, but it is a kinder, gentler type of fellowship. That nagging, pushing, driving, relentless ambition has to a large degree been burned out, and any fruitfulness I can experience in these latter years is sort of a bonus. But why, oh why, did it take me so long to figure this out?



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