Months ago, I started occasionally hearing the Lord say to me, “Don’t let your ambitions lead you astray.” James 3:16 states, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (NKJV) I have come to better understand this scripture much more fully and the Lord has illuminated it to me through a couple of specific examples.
I believe that ambition with the wrong motives is simply another form of idolatry. The flesh, the frailty of the human soul and demonic influences create the desire to be exalted or affirmed in a not-so-healthy way. This is defined as the pride of life. We are the creation and He is the creator. He made us for His good pleasure and the only way we will ever find peace is to allow the Lord to fill the void in our hearts. He is the only one that can fill the void because He created it just that way. Our affirmation should come solely from being called His child. The fact that He has a specific calling for each of us should be enough for us to dedicate our all to Him and not be so high-minded, especially with our ambitions. His purposes should always override ours, and when they don’t there is always the potential for catastrophic consequences.
In the movie “300,” there is a deformed, hunchbacked character named Ephialtes that is desperate to join King Leonidas and the rest of the Spartan warriors in their conquest to defend their nation against the Persian forces. Uninvited, he follows the army and eventually makes his desire known to King Leonidas. However, the outcast has a moment of truth when it’s pointed out to him that his severe handicap would be a hindrance to the rest of the soldiers because of the way that they shield each other from the slings and arrows of enemy fire. However, King Leonidas is gracious enough to offer him some alternative duties in lieu of combat that were in fact honorable. But of course, this wasn’t enough. Ephialtes gets highly offended and rejects the offer because fighting with the other soldiers was the only way that his desire would be satisfied. While his intentions might have been good, it wasn’t a part of the divine path that was laid out for him. God created him for a different purpose. He couldn’t handle what he believed was rejection. Ultimately, his desires and ambitions to be a soldier were so great that he betrayed his own nation! His lust for what he believed would affirm him caused him to be lured in by the leader of the enemy Persian forces who accepted him as a soldier in exchange for information that would aid them in defeating the Spartans. He traded in good for evil to satisfy his own ambitions.
Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV) I have had to ask myself whether or not that scripture is a cliché or a reality that I will choose to trust despite what circumstances try to tell me. I wonder how many of us are lusting after the callings of others or things that we think will affirm us because we don’t understand why God created us. Or could it be that circumstance, our flesh and demonic influences have perverted our vision and God’s plan for our life appears undesirable, especially when we perceive other’s callings to be greater or more important? I believe that this was certainly the case with the Ephialtes. He had no confidence in who he was authentically created to be and formed an ambition that was outside of the purpose for his life. Many of us in the body of Christ are in the same boat, and we need to abandon ship before it sinks…
Ambitions that are ungodly and selfish always result in some form of destruction. Think about the pastor who believes he should be overseeing a “mega-church” or that he has revelation that the world “desperately needs to hear.” His ministry must be something grandeur in order for him to feel affirmed in his calling and to tell him he has value. So he starts watering down the Word of God and comes up with catch phrases that sound more like an advertisement or a chant at a pep rally instead of the pure gospel truth. His junk sermons make people feel good about their sinful situations; thus they never grow spiritually, but the congregation keeps growing in number. Before long, he and his church are in great error, but his “success” blinds him to the truth. The offering plates are full due to large numbers and the focus is on prosperity and notoriety rather than character and integrity. II Timothy 4:3-4 prophesied this present reality by stating “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (NKJV) In addition to his thousand-dollar suits he dons when preaching in front of the congregation, his growing celebrity status becomes a stronghold. He is unable to preach the pure unadulterated gospel for fear of losing members, but his congregation is still sipping on milk and not able to digest the solid food of the Word of God. Most of his congregation is stuck in the pit of sin and can’t get out because they aren’t even accustomed to receiving any form of rebuke or correction. Thus, his ambition has led himself and several other souls astray. In order to regain right standing with God, he will have to be humbled greatly, repent of all that he has done and suffer the consequences that he will have reaped.
If we are in the Kingdom of God, then everything we do should be for His glory alone and should benefit the kingdom. We are to love one another and focus on others more than ourselves. Ambitions that were not born from the spirit of God will always lead to works of the flesh. I Peter 5:6 states “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (NKJV) But in order to do this, we have to have a proper reverence for Him. A healthy fear of Him. Understanding that we are only saved by His grace and recognizing that we owe Him everything will cause someone to realize that they really don’t have a leg to stand on. In other words, we don’t have the right to waste time pursuing things that don’t bring Him glory or that have hidden agendas bent towards self-exaltation. And I believe the Lord will test those He has chosen in this very thing. Doors will seemingly open to the things that we desire and have hoped for, but they will involve compromising what we know is pleasing to the Lord. Are our ambitions so strong that we are willing to jeopardize our relationship with the Lord in order to get what we want? Unfortunately, Judas’s answer to this question was a resounding “yes” when he betrayed Jesus Christ for some silver. Hopefully, you and I will make the right choice.
Nathan Allen Copyright© 2012
September 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm
God has checked me quite a few times in this area. There have been times, like the character from 300 you referenced, when I questioned why I haven’t been positioned to complete tasks related to my purpose. I’m in the midst of reading Jeremiah. Meh struggled with this too in a way…questioning why the ungodly prospered and the godly seemingly do not. Prosperity and position are worldly benefits and the seeking of them can get us off course and away from the purpose he’s set aside for us.
Thank you for your post. As always, it was a good read.
September 5, 2012 at 9:52 am
This is an excellent post. Ambition is actually in no way encouraged by our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord says the greatest among us are those who SERVE others. We don’t seek to achieve our own dreams. We seek to do the will of another – God our Father.
Ambition concerns attaining a given thing for ourselves. Serving concerns the doing of things for others.
The scripture is very clear that we should be content with just food and clothing. So, much for ambition in the Christian’s life.
Thank you for taking the time to write this message. The body of Christ needs to hear it!!!
Here are a few scriptures below that reveal what the disciples of Christ should have in their hearts instead of ambition.
1Ti 6:6-8 ESV
(6) But godliness with contentment is great gain,
(7) for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
(8) But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
1Jn 2:15-17 ESV
(15) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(16) For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
(17) And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Mat 23:11-12 ESV
(11) The greatest among you shall be your servant.
(12) Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Mar 9:33-35 ESV
(33) And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
(34) But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
(35) And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Luk 9:46-48 ESV
(46) An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.
(47) But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side
(48) and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
The P.O.E.T. aka The Anointed Pen
September 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm
Great post! True success comes from doing the will of God when we have full understanding of who we are in HIM and what our assigments or purpose is in this life. There’s always tradgedy when we seek to please ourselves outside of the will of God. Building our trust & confidence in Him is our protection & security from the lusts & enticements & false promises of this world. Matthew 6:33.
Heaven's Rose Gold Streets
September 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm
VERY effective message! EXCELLENT!!
September 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm
My brother, my friend….amen-amen-and amen again! If I had ten thousand tongues, I couldn’t say AMEN enough! (: Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve logged onto the internet , and even longer this site….but my my my what a spiritually literary treat I stumbled upon! This has got to be…if not the best…then certainly one of your more pristine pieces! And your spiritual growth…it absolutely commands attention! Truly, it pleases me to call you “brother”. As we’ve discussed on numerous occasions…these are TRULY fearful/dark days. There is apostasy in the church, anarchy in the pews and apathy in the world! At ALL times we must be aware, understand and agree with the TRUTH…and that is, that we cannot do anything apart from the Lord, and that only by an attitude of faith, submission, humility, honor and a willingness to die to self and serve others can we be most effective in God’s hands…..self MUST be put aside!
April 29, 2013 at 6:14 am
Yes, the context is Jesus spniakeg to his disciples, specifically preventing their human propensity for pride given that he now labels them as friends. He is reminding them that He called them as his disciples, they did not volunteer to join his ministry.Sorry, but this does not speak to personal salvation.You mention that this verse does a good job at providing Scriptural evidence against the idea that God looked into the future to see who would accept His offer of salvation, and then, based on that foreknowledge, He chose those people to be elect. Who proposes this idea of salvation? Can you cite some sources so I can follow up on this?