Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holy Ambition

Took my heart away from money
Ain't interested in fame--
And I pray that'll never change
Ambition is priceless
It's something in your vein...
by Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, aka "Wale"

What do you think of when you hear the word ambition?  What does it look like and what picture/scenario comes to mind?  Is it someone in a suit at work early and staying late hours?  Is it a medical or law student scheming to sabotage other students grades so that they can be ranked #1?  Is it an athlete staying in the gym after others have left or a coach with glazed over eyes still reviewing film from last week's game?  Is it a young, impoverished child idolizing and imitating gangsters and gang-bangers (there's actually a difference) for their ill-gotten gain?

One online dictionary defined ambition this way, "an earnest desire for some kind of achievement or distinction, as honor, power, fame, or wealth and the willingness to strive for its attainment."  This definition caught my attention because it makes clear that ambition, while closely associated with the idea of desire, is not in itself the thing being chased after.  But ambition is the thing that determines how fierce and faithful we are in the chase itself.  Ambition is not what we race for, it's what determines whether we will run the race well or not.  It was an important insight for me because most of the images associated with ambition have been negative and self-glorifying to the harm of others.  But clearly, ambition need not be a detriment nor must it be strictly secular.

The Apostle Paul writes,
"and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand."
Romans 15:20-21

In verse 24, he makes known his desire to pass through Rome on his way to Spain, which to anyone alive at that time would represent the western-most part of the world!  Paul's burning passion, the thing that ran through and in him was preaching the gospel, specifically where Jesus was not yet known.  And this was not for some kind of "Me First-ism" or a self-righteous means of glorifying himself above other evangelists.  His stated reason for this entrepreneurial focus on gospel proclamation is to honor the prophecy that he quotes from Isaiah 52:15.  So Paul is propelled into preaching either because he sees his ministry as a fulfillment of that scripture or because he is entirely confident in God's providential power to bring the verse to it's manifestation.  Either way, the Apostle to the Gentiles is a fantastic example of a man with ambition but for the sake of God's glory and "Advancing the Kingdom Agenda".   

What about you, friend?  What's in your vein?  What is your ambition and how does your passion reflect your love of and loyalty to God?  Many say that they have made themselves available to God to be used by Him.  That may sound spiritual, but it also may indicate a rather passive approach towards Christian service to me.  Where is there any evidence of your own willingness to take hold of a Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered, God-honoring task?  If it's not there, or if you're not sure, it's certainly worth the time to seek God in prayer and in His word to discover the glorious purpose for which you were created and a holy ambition to carry it out.


  1. How do you distinguish between God-glorifying ambition and ambition fueled by just zeal? Aren't there far too many ambitions labeled holy yet have been the cause of mass genocides throughout history?

  2. I appreciate that question. Simply put, we recognize the difference between the two by examining the ambition in the divine light of the Scriptures. The fact that the Bible has been abused and taken out of context to support anti-Christian, ungodly undertakings does not at all mean that we cannot understand or discern honest interpretations of God's word as revealed in its pages. We know, for instance, that Jesus' main concern post-resurrection was the spread of the gospel and the discipleship of people from all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). An ambition in line with this clear call of Christ's is clearly God-glorifying and not merely "fueled by zeal" (Romans 10:1-4 has some interesting insights regarding "zeal").