The Goal of True Ambition

Chip Ingram
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You have probably heard the phrase “Well done, good and faithful servant!” as long as you have been a Christian. You may even know that Jesus used the phrase twice in one of His parables (Matt. 25:21, 23) to give us a picture of the way God will settle accounts at the end of the age. I’m sure you have heard at least one sermon that ended with an emotional appeal to think about how wonderful it would be in eternity to stand before God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The problem is such sermons rarely tell you what it will take to get there.

Most Christians I talk to want to finish well. Unfortunately, “finishing well” gets translated into some vague wish that God will say something nice to them in eternity, but they don’t dare make that phrase the purpose of their lives. But if that isn’t the purpose for living once we’ve met Christ, then what is? What is the target of our Christian life? If we aim at nothing, we’re sure to hit it. What are we aiming at as we follow Christ? What’s our holy ambition?

What do we really want God to say to us someday?

I know ambition is one of those almost forbidden words in Christian circles. It shares a place with words like discipline, suffering, passion, and perseverance on a list of terms that may offend comfortable Christians or skittish pagans. Based on our sensitivities, the Bible is full of such offensive language. It calls us sinners and questions our integrity. If we weren’t dealing with God’s Word, we might resent the insinuations. The New International Version uses the word ambition seven times. Five uses are negative (selfish ambition) and two are positive.

“Holy ambition is deep and long. It affects every part of life for all of life.”

Paul told the Romans, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20). He also told the Thessalonians, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thess. 4:11a). Other translations tend to substitute the word aspiration for ambition, but I like the edginess of holy ambition. That’s because I find the attitude of holy ambition taught everywhere in Scripture. It’s unavoidable. The phrase itself isn’t used that often, but many commands and directions from God’s Word can only be applied if we make them our holy ambition. Consider these examples:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB)

But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:26-30 NASB)

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. (Luke 9:23-24 NASB)

What you just read is only a sample. Each passage presupposes or demands that we respond with holy ambition. If we make it our ambition to save our lives, Jesus said, we will lose them. But if we make it our holy ambition to lose our lives for His sake, Jesus promises that we will discover and experience life to its fullest.

Holy ambition is deep and long. It affects every part of life for all of life. The depth and length of our holy ambition will be tested. One day the faithful will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

For Further Reading:

Holy Ambition

by Chip Ingram

God is a doer of great things. Isn’t it time you joined His big plans? Human ambition is often rooted in pride. But “holy...

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