One of the key questions in life is whether our dreams and desires are rooted in selfish desire or the leading of God. Ambitions can be used for God’s glory or our own glory. This is determined by whether we possess selfish ambition or godly ambition. Selfish ambition removes God as the goal. It seeks to elevate and exalt oneself rather than God. Our desire for acceptance and approval from others often cause us to make decisions that seek to steal glory from God and clothe ourselves in it.
This has disastrous consequences. Selfish ambition does not simply characterize what we do, but who we are. The approval of others will not satisfy. It is a fleeting feeling that will cause us to demand to be treated a certain way. Behavior modification might help us for a few hours or days, but it will not be sustained if there is not a deeper, more substantive reorientation. This comes about when the full force of the Gospel hits us. The idea that we have been accepted, not because of what we accomplished but because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross, is a major paradigm shifter.
Once we have been freed from the bondage of selfish ambition, it creates an atmosphere in our lives where godly ambition can thrive. We we truly and totally trust in God, that he loves and accepts us based upon his mercy and grace, then we are free to live with ambitious faith and ambitious humility. We believe and rely upon the promises of God rather than the flattery of others. The Gospel transforms our ambition.
Christians are not immune to discontentment and failure. These are the primary triggers that entice us back into a destructive lifestyle fueled by selfish ambition, even after we become believers. The reality is that once we come to Christ, the remainder of our life is not automatically silky smooth. We will fail. At times, our plans will get frustrated. We will have feelings of discouragement. These feelings manifest themselves when we do not get what we feel like we deserve. The Gospel helps put these feelings into proper perspective, because the Gospel makes it that we do not get what we deserve, but in a good way. We do not receive death and condemnation even though we deserved it. This can make moments of consternation feel like the “light and momentary troubles” Paul wrote about.
We also must have the humility to admit, if we’re not perfect, then our goals are not perfect either. We are not God, and so to some degree, failure is inevitable. The Gospel is such a treasured gift to us because we have failed so often before. So, in some sense, even our failures, as painful and disappointing as they might be, objectively speaking, can be a means by which God brings glory to himself. Risk and failure serve to remind us that we are not God, and finding security in anything or anyone else other than God will be short lives and less than satisfying.