“LET’S TALK ABOUT AMBITION” By Pastor YAU
Text: 1 Samuel 15:17-23 December 18, 2011
1) Ambition in today’s world: “Lacks of ambition!” This is not a phrase you want to see your supervisor writes on your job performance review. When it comes to your job, employees who lack ambition seldom put in their best or rise to the top of their job or company. Without a strong desire to achieve something, nothing is accomplished. On the other hand, ambition has its dark side. It often has more to do with elevating self than with accomplishing something noble for others. All presidential candidates claim that they are running for office for the good of the people or the nation, but once they sit in that office, all they do is to keep their job and protect their elite privilege.
2) Ambition in ancient time: That was the case with many of the kings of Israel, started with the first one, King Saul. Yes, he started out with humility, but gradually he came to consider his position as king as something that belonged to him. He forgot that he had an assignment from God to lead his people closer to God and through his people, other nations will know God. In order to keep his position and rally people to support him, he went too far to disobey God’s command to do things God forbade him from doing. When God relieved him from his duty, Saul’s only concern was his reputation. (1 Samuel 15:30) In a world where ambition often compels people to do whatever it takes to rise to the position of power over others, God calls us to a new way of living. We are to do nothing out of selfish ambition. (Phil. 2:3)
GETTING TO KNOW AMBITION:
1) The definition of ambition: According to Great Encyclopedic Dictionary published by Readers Digest: Ambition, n. Ardent desire for distinction; aspiration to be or do; object of such desire. Ambition is from Latin, ambitio, canvassing for votes, support or endorsement. So, basically, ambition is a good word or for good purpose.
2) The right kind of ambition: As mentioned in the introduction of this message, employers love to see their employees full of ambition to achieve higher, desire to be excellent or distinction in what they do. If you are a teacher, you love to see your students have strong desire to learn, to make good grades and to excel in their homework and tests. Being a pastor, I love to see my people have strong desire to be genuine followers of Christ, to learn and practice the Bible, to have strong desire to reach out to the world for Christ. Ambitions are like dreams of your life. We all want to dream good for our future.
3) The wrong kind of ambition: On the other hand, ambition can be bad if it is focused on person gain instead of for the good of everyone. Ambition can be a driving force to push oneself up at the costs of others. Ambition may be used to achieve personal and selfish gains, position, riches, power or status to build bases of pride. People with strong desire to achieve personal goals in politics, business or any other area of life use all means to achieve their goals regardless of moral principle or social norm. In such pursuit, they may get to where they want to but many will become victims or being used as their stepping stones.
THE BRIGHT SIDE OF AMBITION:
1) God desires our best: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4-5) God never settles with the second best. He desires the highest of our love and dedication. That is why God can’t tolerate idolatry, share loyalty and dedication with idols. This is also seen in the letter John wrote to the Ephesians church. Jesus rebuked the church for losing their primary love and loyalty to him. (Rev. 2:4) He told us we shouldn’t divide our love or loyalty between two masters. (Matt. 6:24) We need to meet God’s command.
2) Called to give our best: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11) Paul told all God’s people that we need to have the highest desire to serve the Lord with spiritual fervor, the highest intensity, so we won’t be lacking in zeal. This is a very important reminder for all God’s people, particularly His servants, to know and to keep. It is easy to slide backward in zeal after serving God for years in full faithfulness. All pastors, missionaries, lay people have this danger of losing the steam or zeal in serving or giving their best to God. We all need to have high ambition or desire to serve God with our best.
3) Learn from the best: “But whatever to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:7-8) There is no higher ambition than that of Paul in his pursuit of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. His ambition for Christ didn’t stop at his knowledge of him, but also in his service to him. He confessed in 3:12-13, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”
THE DARK SIDE OF AMBITION:
1) Ambition to be like God: “The serpent said to the woman: You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eye will be opened, and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4) In all human history, countless people wanted to be God or like God so they may have the power over all others and under no one else. There were emperors, military leaders, financial giants and many others in all walks of life, all they want is to be like God or be independent from God. Unfortunately this infectious spiritual disease has also spread among some Christians: All they want from God is forgiveness of sins and eternal life. They feel they can and want to handle all other aspects of their life. They don’t want God nor need God to interfere their life.
2) Ambition of name and power: “Saul replied: I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me so I may worship God.” (1 Samuel 15:30) After Prophet Samuel pointed out the sin of Saul and his loss of the kingdom, Saul still wanted to hold on to his ambition of honor and power of a king before the leaders and the people. Even though he twice confessed his sin, Saul did not really see the sin in his heart. All he cared was not the serious nature of his sin, but his fame, power and honor of his position as king. We see this kind of human ambition everywhere in politics, in society, in corporate world and sometimes even in the church of God: people use God and His church for personal ambitions.
3) Ambition of selfish conceit: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than your-self.” (Phil. 2:3) The key word in this verse is “selfish.” While not all ambitions are sinful, ambition for selfish purpose is. It is not what we desire to put our most efforts to achieve the highest results; it is the reason “why” we want to have that ambition for. Jesus laid out two golden commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as your self. (Luke 10:27) Any ambition for personal, selfish conceit, glory, or gain is against the principle of God in His word.
1) Where is your ambition? Ambition is like a double edged sword. Using it the right way may help us achieve the purpose of life God has set for each of us. Being lazy or slothful is not acceptable in being soldiers of the Lord. On the other hand, using the gifts of God for personal, selfish ambition is in abuse of God’s trust. We all need to ask ourselves: Where do we put our ambitions and for what purpose?
2) What is your ambition? Putting ambition to work for your life is not wrong or bad. But putting it on the wrong place is. Do not be ambitious in the world or for things of this world. Read the words of King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastics and you will see how empty and useless in pursuing things of the world. Come to Jesus, follow His call, confess your sins and receive forgiveness and eternal life from him. We only live in this world once. Make sure we don’t miss the opportunity of achieving the highest ambition-------be with God in eternity.