Ambition in the Spiritual Life; Written by: MIKE JOHNSON; 11/11/2010 4:40 PM (this is taken from a blog on the Renovare website).
Here is another question from a young seminarian, whose questions I am answering on this blog.
YS: What place does ambition have in the redemptive life?
Mike: You don't ask the easy ones do you ;-). This is one of those that can be so tricky. Certainly there is a place for ambition. God gives us passions and visions for a reason. We are to seek first His Kingdom. There is something very ambitious about that.
Yet, ambition can very subtly become about personal desires, disguised by something else. Let me illustrate. It is good to be ambitious for God's Kingdom. Many people are ambitiously focusing in on certain parts of God's Kingdom. Often pastors are focused on building a certain church. When I church planted I was ambitious about building that church. Yet, while I truly wanted to build Christ's church, I know other motives of proving myself and being noticed mixed in to greater or lesser degrees. We need to check ourselves when we say we are ambitious about God's kingdom and ask ourselves what part of that has slipped over into building our own little kingdom around our circle of influence and clothing it with "God's Kingdom" language.
God presently has me focused on building a ministry that brings substantive Christ-like change to many people. If I am so busy telling people about that and ambitiously looking for leads and openings, that I do not ask questions about or take time to listen to what others are focused on in the Kingdom I probably have let that ambition go too far. Whenever I feel myself exceedingly zealous about something, I need to ask myself if that strength of ambition is warranted or if it is about something else like my own neurosis.
We do need to be ambitious about a life with God. I want to be ambitious about living closer to God, better mirroring my Lord and Savior. We do need to be ambitious about living like Christ. Yet over-ambition in that regard can lead to legalism. We do need to be ambitious for the presence and expression of grace. Some have been overambitious and in the name of grace become licentious.
Some people become so ambitious and competitive in sports or politics that when the game is done or the political race is done their opponent has become a lifelong enemy. Yet periodically you see a fierce competitor who loses and after losing speaks graciously about the victor, genuinely thanking the victor for a vigorous challenge and wishing the victor well. John McCain's concession speech to President Obama was an example of this. This is a good way to hold ambition.
Be ambitious but be careful not to hold it too tightly. Hold ambition loosely. After all, we are fallen creatures and what we think God wants us to be ambitious about may have a flaw that we are blind to. The Crusaders are an example of people ambitious for God who, out of a strong grasp of that ambition did things that were not of God, like murdering people because of their skin color and the living location.
So much more could be said on this topic.
Copyright ©2010 MIKE JOHNSON