Since we are beginning a new year, it’s a good idea in our own mind to possess motivation and ambition for God.
Chuck Colson was a self-made man. As a student, he arrogantly turned down a scholarship to Harvard. He joined the Marines, set up his own law firm and entered politics. By the age of forty he had become one of President Nixon’s closest advisers. Later he described himself as ‘a young ambitious political kingmaker’. He was known as Nixon’s ‘hatchet-man’.
He plead guilty to his part in the Watergate cover-up scandal and was sent to prison. By then he had encountered Jesus. When he left the court after hearing the sentence he said, ‘What happened in court today... was the court’s will and the Lord’s will – I have committed my life to Jesus Christ and I can work for Him in prison as well as out.’
Sometimes we need to reach an all low or get hit on the head by a brick so to speak, for each one of us to use our energy and ambition for Christ. Colson did just that. After his release he set up Prison Fellowship and had since been directly or indirectly responsible for leading thousands to Christ before he was called home with his Lord and Savior. I once heard him say, ‘I was ambitious, and I am ambitious today, but I am not ambitious for Chuck Colson, I am ambitious now for Christ.’
Ambition has been defined as the ‘desire to succeed’. There are ultimately only two controlling ambitions to which all others may be reduced: one is our own glory, and the other is God’s glory. Be ambitious about your relationship with Jesus. Make your relationship with Him your number one priority. A good short prayer might be to say; “Lord, I love You. I want to make it my ambition today, and for the rest of my life, to walk before You in the land of the living.” Philippians 4:4 says- “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”
Sometimes Christians wonder whether it is right to be ambitious. They associate ambition with pride and think that humility means not being ambitious.
However, Paul was fiercely ambitious. Before he was a Christian, Paul had been ambitious in his zeal for Judaism, which led to a desire to persecute the church. After his conversion, he did not lose his ambitious nature, but its direction changed. If anything, he was even more ambitious!
Paul contrasted his great ambition for Jesus with two wrong types of ambition. The first was his own ambition before he became a Christian. Then he described how he put his confidence in the flesh, external appearances, trusting in his old religion. But Jesus Christ came to destroy that religion.
God wants us to be confident, but not ‘in the flesh’. Rather our confidence should be in God alone. Paul’s religious ambition and zeal were misdirected. He ended up ‘persecuting the church.
The second wrong type of ambition is the material and earthly focus of so many in the world around us: ‘Their god is their stomach ‘their appetites, their sensuality’ and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things’.
Once Paul converted, he then had a godly ambition. He described the ‘surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus and the ambitions that flow from it.
Paul realized he could never attain perfection. All his ambitions to attain ‘a righteousness on his own was nothing more than ‘rubbish.’ Instead he enjoyed the fact that through trust in Christ he received ‘the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith’.
God never allows us to achieve perfection in this life. Our weaknesses keep us dependent on Him, leaning on Him and on His love and grace.
What was Paul’s ambition? What should your ambition be?
- Know Christ intimately
First, his ambition was ‘to know Christ.’ The Greek word for ‘to know’ means far more than intellectual knowledge – knowing things about something. Instead, it is a personal knowledge. Paul's ambition was not just to know about Christ, but to know Him as a person. Make your ambition not just to know about Christ, but to know Him as a person.
- Experience Christ’s resurrection power
Paul described what this intimate relationship with Christ looks like. First, it means to know ‘the power of his resurrection,’ not just as a past event in history, but as a dynamic and exciting power at work in your life.
The Spirit of God brings this resurrection power to your life. By the power of His death and resurrection, Jesus disarmed Satan, broke the hold of sin and defeated death. This power is available to you to enable you to live a holy life and to minister to others with His resurrection power. Make it your ambition to know that power more and more.
Be a partner in Christ’s suffering. For Paul, ‘knowing Christ’ involves ‘the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death’. He saw suffering as an inevitable part of knowing Christ. It should not be a penalty but a privilege.
The suffering and death of Jesus is different from ours in that he died for our sins to save us from what we deserve. You will never suffer in exactly the way He did. But sometimes you will suffer for your godly ambition.
This suffering is the practical result of our Christian life. For some, this will mean severe persecution, like those Christians in Syria and Iraq suffering horrifically right now under ISIS.
For all of us, it will include the struggle against sin. It is at these moments of suffering that we experience ‘fellowship’ with Christ. Make that fellowship your ambition whatever the cost.
God gives us resurrection eyes. Only Jesus opens eyes... but all who believe in the resurrection of the dead know their destination is a place of comfort, a better country, a heavenly city.’
Paul said he wasn’t there yet but it was his aim and ambition. He had his eyes on the goal. Don’t focus on the past – how far you have fallen, your failures or even your successes. Rather, ‘forgetting what lies behind’ as Paul stated in Philippians 3:13; keep focused on Jesus, be single-minded, press forward and respond to His call.
Be ambitious to speak God’s words. The Lord speaks through Jeremiah and says in Jeremiah 4:22- “For My people are foolish; they know Me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.”
Jeremiah thinks that surely the leaders will know the right way. But they, like many people today, ‘refuse to repent. Their ambitions were focused on the false gods of money, sex and power. Right and wrong mean nothing to many. They stand for nothing, stand up for no one, throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor’ as described in Jeremiah 4:28- “For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark; for I have spoken; I have purposed; I have not relented, nor will I turn back.”
It is important not to be hindered by the past in any way – either the failures and disappointments, or the successes, which might make us over confident. Instead we need to keep our eyes on Jesus.
As I think about our God, I close in this prayer. “Lord, may the words in my mouth be like fire so that others may come to experience the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.”
May God bless you with an ambition of fire for Christ.
From your Deacon @ Immanuel