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Written in heaven
by Rev. Howard Ray Carey

'Lord,'' said the disciples in jubilation, ''even the demons are subject to us in your name!'' What was the cause of their high spirits, their unbounded elation? According to Luke, the third gospel writer, these men had just returned from a highly successful teaching and healing mission. They had been sent out for this work by the Christ. It was in His name and spirit that they had presented themselves to the villagers to whom they went. And to their great surprise they had not only seen the lame get up and walk, and the sick become well, but they also had seen the obsessed become liberated from their oppression, to embrace each other with joy. What success, what victory, what rejoicing! I would have been jubilant too.

Remember, these disciples had not been recruited from the ranks of the priests and rabbis, the religious leaders of the day ---- the ones who were supposed to have a monopoly on such healing power. No, they came from the ranks of the common people, the laity as we might put it today. They were accustomed to earn their living ''by the sweat of their brow'' as the writer of Genesis describes it ---- for instance, through catching and selling fish. So what had happened on this mission was indeed a new and exciting experience for them.

But crashing into their excited jubilation comes this surprising and sobering word from their teacher: ''Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'' (Luke 10:20) Can't you just hear them, bewildered, saying to one another: ''What in the world is He talking about anyway? After all, this is the work He sent us out to do, isn't it?''

What He was talking about constituted not so much a rebuke as a correction or warning. Note how often we are reminded that we are to serve joyously and freely, without being attached or wedded to the desired 'fruits' of our action.

So let us take a deep look, let us ponder on that surprising word uttered by Jesus: ''Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'' Can we not see at least one of the reasons for this admonition? For in this realm of duality in which we live and serve, we meet with both seeming success and seeming failure. And there is a tendency, is there not, to get unduly elated and somewhat 'puffed up' if we meet with such outstanding success as those disciples had on that occasion. But then, our sense of self-worth tends to become identified with and dependent upon our successes. So what happens at the other end of the scale, where we meet with what seems like such abject failure? We can plummet from the heights of elation to the depths of depression 'in nothing flat' as some put it.

On the other hand, if we develop the assurance that we are not only members of the fourth or human kingdom, but in our real nature are members of the fifth kingdom, the Kingdom of Souls (which Jesus called alternately the Kingdom of God or of Heaven) then we have a basic security which no one can take from us, 'come hell or high water' to use a colorful phrase. This is the kind of anchorage the Christ wanted those disciples to have. And when we are responsive to Him, He guides us in the same direction.

In Message No. 127 He gives us this assurance: ''My Task is to enlighten all men; to change ignorance into true knowledge and faith; to teach men that behind all that they see stands the One Reality.''

When we are fully anchored in the One Reality we may not feel so high when everything 'turns up roses'; but neither will we feel so depressed when our dreams turn to ashes.

It has been said that we must learn to ''treat those two impostors, success and failure, just alike.'' We can only do that, it seems to me, when we know that, as Jesus put it, our names are written in heaven. That is, when we come to know that we are not creatures of a day, but that we are indeed eternal beings, sparks of the one flame, citizens of that deathless Kingdom of God. Then we need not be depressed if the great Day of Declaration seems unduly delayed; nor discouraged if we fail to get others to see the shining truth which seems so clear to us.

Let us ponder on His closing word from Message No. 101: ''May the Divine Light and Love and Power of the One Most Holy God be now manifest within your hearts and minds. May this manifestation take you with Me back to your Source.''

This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation.  Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated. 

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005