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Devotionals : Ambition
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By Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries
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Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do us a favor." "What is your request?" he asked. They replied, "When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left." But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?" "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!" Then Jesus told them, "You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen." When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Mark 10:35-45

God created the world out of nothing, and so long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us. - Martin Luther

Ambition is a hot commodity. Watch a few day-time talk shows and you'll hear mothers complaining about their teenager's lack of ambition. Check out a few dating shows and you'll hear the same complaint from women who can't find men with any ambition.

There's no question; ambition is a quality that's in high demand.

We tend to think of personality characteristics as being either entirely positive or negative. It seems obvious that justice is a good quality while impatience is a bad one. However, C.S Lewis warns us that even the most positive traits must be tempered; otherwise they all have the potential for harm. He writes,

"There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law may not sometimes tell us to suppress, and none which it may not sometimes tell us to encourage. It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses - say mother love or patriotism - are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct are bad. The most dangerous thing you can do is take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is none of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide."

Ambition is an excellent example of what Lewis is talking about. While ambition is a much sought-after quality in our employees, spouses and children, it's easy to imagine ruthless business tyrants whose unrestrained ambition drives them to the top of the ladder, leaving a mess of devastated adversaries and shattered relationships in their wake. Scores of movies and books have been written about men and woman such as these. Without a doubt, ambition has to be restrained by love, justice, mercy and tenderness. This is true whether you're a Christian or not.

However, for Christians, the need to be wary of our ambition is far greater. Ambition will be one of those qualities that the Moral Law will more often tell us to suppress, especially when we are not careful to fully understand our goals and motivations. If the final goal is personal success and glory, then when we examine our motivation, it is pride which we find there.

Unfortunately, pride is completely incompatible with living within God's will. By its very nature, it drives us to strive for our own glory and achievement. When that is motivating us, how can we also strive to be that which God is intending us to be? We cannot serve two masters. While we harbor greater desires for personal glory, we will turn our back on God's will for our lives. We will be, in essence, attempting to deny Him the glory which is rightfully His alone.

If we are to empty ourselves and live in service to God as Jesus taught, then we must abandon whatever status or success we desire for ourselves.

Should Christians abandon all ambition? Not at all! We just need to be clear about whose glory we're seeking. If the reward of our struggle is for ourselves, then we must walk away from that struggle and allow God to give us whatever money, status or position He desires for us.

However, we should always be ambitious in meeting goals and setting high standards for what we can achieve for God's glory. There is nothing wrong with having ambitious goals for your ministry or your God-centered service to others. If you serve as a youth pastor in your local church, it's great to have ambitious plans for your youth programs. God deserves the best you have to offer, and He wants you to use your gifts to their fullest. Just be wary of crossing that line into personal ambition where the goal becomes recognition and accolades for the work you've done. If you're a musician, then set ambitious goals for the quality of the music you write and your dedication to putting on an inspiring show, but let God decide how successful you will be and how many albums you will sell.

Pause for a moment today and take an inventory of the ambitions in your life. If you achieved all of your goals, who would get the glory? Are you striving for you or for God? Take a moment to determine if there are any adjustments you need to make to the goals you've set, and ask God in prayer to help you realign your personal ambitions so that you desire nothing but His will in your life.

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After reading this, i dont think i'd ever remain the same! God Bless!
7/22/2008 4:05:55 AM - anonymous

Thank you for this. I believe God led me here today as I was seeking an answer on a music ministry opportunity. I want to serve God, but was leary of the title/position that would come with it. Seeking HIS will for my life is of utmost importance and reading this gave me more insight into what I felt the Lord was laying on my heart.
7/24/2008 11:31:02 AM - anonymous

I have been greatly refreshed by this devotional. I have known that God is calling me to music ministry for quite some time. The last line of the second to last paragraph makes a world of difference in how I will proceed. Thank you!
7/24/2008 3:54:53 PM - anonymous

Ambition has never been in my blood but after this I truly will work in having an ambition in my life that is in Christ Jesus! God is amazing and understands our strengths and weakness. I have strive my best to put on ambition in my life. Thanks!
7/28/2008 1:17:37 AM - anonymous

Thank you.
7/30/2008 12:42:41 AM - anonymous

I thank God this message, I really needed this. I have always been a driven person from childhood, always striving to be the best at everything especially academics. I have struggled over completing an exam for eight years, that it is only sheer determination and "ambition" that has kept me on this path. This exam is purely secular and is neither life nor death. I realise it more and more that it is about my ambition, pride and affirmation. My results are coming out in two weeks and I don't know what the final outcome will be, but I am giving thanks that whatever God's will is, that it will be. This exam has consumed my life for far too long and I don't think God intended that. I really thank God for this message!
8/3/2008 9:21:58 AM - anonymous

I really thank God for your section about ambition,upon reading this and the last paragraph i realized how selfish i am because i too have an ambition but never get one,but upon reading your column im so refresh and move forward in what God wanted me to be. i am 52 yrs. old and almost 25 yrs. as a christian, i am a sunday school teacher in our local church here in the Philippines, and in my 8 yrs of teaching children i didnt know if i am doing what God intended me to be.but thank God and you. God Bless you.

9/2/2008 11:23:06 PM - anonymous

Thank you. This has been a blessing to me
9/8/2008 6:01:22 PM - anonymous

I thank you very much for these words of wisdom and thank God for revealing to me through you. My prayers now would be for God to reveal to me what my ambitions are by his will.
9/12/2008 6:26:24 AM - anonymous

This column has been inspiring for me today cause i realized that i have been too ambitious in my career.
9/12/2008 1:21:51 PM - anonymous

I want to radically follow the will of God!!!!!
9/29/2008 4:53:48 PM - anonymous

Its all about motivation. A lot of people equate personal ambition with personal success, and that, personal success equals personal glory, status, and recognition. I think this is not necessarily so. Can anyone deny that Paul was not ambitious with his plan to start churches all over the Roman empire? (some will argue that it wasn't his plan, it was God's, and that's exactly the point) Ambition is not bad. It does not always equate to personal glory. BUT, your personal ambition and personal success MUST be equated with the full application of the Will of God in your life. If everything you strive for, everything that you want to be is only that which is in God's Will, what is wrong with being ambitious about that? I think that the author was trying to say this, but lets not make a demon out of the action, just the motivation:) The last person to post says it clearly, "I want to radically follow (be ambitious about) the will of God!!"
10/5/2008 6:09:45 AM - anonymous

This truly lovely. It seems, God had taught us something, not to be ambitious, but accept everything, and try not to be selfish. Thank you for this, it has rennovated my inner self, and learnt what life is really about. Not sex, drugs, being gay, or a lesbian, its do whatever you like, but control it. Or bad things will happen.
10/11/2008 8:33:54 AM - anonymous

Thank you for this word. I'll would like to teach God word,but I'am scared to make a mistake teaching his word. I know God put it in my heart , to be a teacher. Thank you again GOD BLESS
1/1/2009 4:32:57 PM - anonymous

I did enjoy this devotional it reminded me to put God 1st in all that i do, and to seek his will for my life above all
2/16/2009 9:22:07 AM - anonymous

I'm currently struggling with lack of ambition now. no matter how much I read the bible, or try to go to bible studies etc. I just have no ambition to do anything except read and then half-heartedly complain about it. People ask me what I do, or what it is I want to do, and I find myself completely dumbstruck. I have absolutely NO answer for them. I seriously consider lying about it just so that I can avoid the awkwardness. I've graduated college about 15 years ago and have pretty much worked various unfulfilling jobs, lost a lot of money and am single and depressed because at the age of 35 who's going to want to marry me? and it's probably too late for kids.
10/7/2011 5:58:48 PM - thompscl, Member of Delve into Jesus since 10/7/2011

I am still confused. I do have an ambition in life, it is to open a shop. I know that if it were to be that it would not be by my strength but by God's blessing. Yet I don't fully understand if I have the right motivation for doing it. How would my shop glorify God? I would be able to give thanks to God if it happened, but is that enough? Would the money I'd get from the shop(which is one reason I wish to open a shop) mean that my motives aren't pure?
11/16/2011 6:27:08 AM - EHJeremiah29.11, Member of Delve into Jesus since 11/16/2011

I have always been an ambitious person and I am so glad I am. In my opinion, God has granted me all my strengths for a reason. Additionally, ambition and advancing in your career is seen as a positive accomplishment. Reading this article makes me want to be even more ambitious in my career, especially in the career I believe is right for me.
I hope to become a medical doctor and to assist others through this. My ambition as always been to aid others and I believe advancing in my career would be smiled upon by God. Thankyou for putting my mind at ease. Mia.
6/19/2013 5:43:34 AM - Mia15295, Member of Delve into Jesus since 4/26/2013

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