By Derwin L. Gray
What do you think about when you hear the word ambition? Depending on how you were raised you may think ambition is great. It’s needed for life and should drive us to greater heights so we can achieve success. Perhaps you cringe when you hear this word because you think it leads to self-importance and drives people towards workaholism.
Here is what ambition is: it’s the strong desire to achieve a goal. That’s all. It’s a wonderful thing for Christians. Here’s why. Because we are made in the image of God, it means we have the capacity to love and image forth the glory of God. But because we are born broken, the image of God has been defaced and our ambitions become misdirected.
We have the ability within us to escape the dangerous idolatry of ambition. How can we then have ambitions that align with God’s heart?
Let’s look at the life of Moses. When Moses was still young, we see in Exodus 2:11-12 that he had misdirected ambition; he was out of alignment with God the Father. He witnessed an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew and wanted to do something about it. He wanted to protect his people. He wanted to be a leader for them.
So, what did he do? He killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. He knew what he did was wrong, and he tried to hide his sin, but he was found out. The Hebrews couldn’t trust him because they didn’t know if he would turn on them as well. He ended up spending 40 years in the desert learning to align his ambition with God’s desire.In 2021, let’s not bury our sin in the sand anymore. Let’s bury our sin in the cross. — @DerwinLGray Click To Tweet
In 2021, let’s not bury our sin in the sand anymore. Let’s bury our sin in the cross. Let’s step in the light of Jesus, embracing His forgiveness and aligning our ambitions with His.
Often, I’m asked by others, “What is God’s will for my life?” We are so concerned with making sure we don’t miss His will that we become obsessed with vocation and ministry. The answer is not what many think it is. If you want to know God’s will for your life, here it is: Let Him love you.
As you receive His love and healing, you will love your neighbor as yourself. Then, wherever you find yourself, you can show His love to others. Isn’t that what the heart of Jesus is all about?
As you pray and seek to align your ambition with God’s heart, you can ask yourself these questions:
Does your ambition point to you or Jesus?
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit.” What are your ambitions? Are they pointing to Jesus? Are you seeking to glorify yourself or Him?
Here are my personal ambitions: I want to be a man who loves the Father, Son, and Spirit more than anything else in the universe. I want to fight for the heart of my wife and children. I want to lead and serve the people of Transformation Church in such a way that Jesus is made famous through us.
I want to help create thousands of gospel-shaped multiethnic churches in America and the world. This is how I am seeking to make much of Jesus through my ambitions. What about you? Take a hard look at your motivations and be honest with yourself. Trust in Him and let Him lead you.
Does your ambition value people?
The rest of the verse in Philippians says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”If your ambitions get fulfilled, will people around you feel more valued as a result? — @DerwinLGray Click To Tweet
If your ambitions get fulfilled, will people around you feel more valued as a result? You can influence the culture around you. Be transformed from the inside, not conformed by the outside. God values people; this much is clear. As we image forth His glory, we ought to value people as well.
Does your ambition look out for the interest of others?
Philippians goes on to say, “Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather the interests of others.” The blood of Jesus rains down heaven on earth through people who have been soaked in His blood. “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).
Do you suffer from a scarcity mentality? A scarcity mentality can be difficult to overcome. You may find yourself thinking you have to “get yours” because there’s not enough at the table for everyone. It’s a state of the heart, and you worry about who will look out for you.
Be encouraged: We can trust God to meet our needs, not our “greeds.” Then you can move from scarcity mentality to a generosity mentality. And if you find yourself with excess, remember the way God provides is though His people. Our abundance meets someone else’s need.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33). What does the kingdom of God look like? It looks like Jesus. The way He loved. The way He served. Seek Jesus.
The prayer God will always answer is, “Make me more like Your Son, Jesus.” When I was in the NFL, I was injured. For a whole year I couldn’t play. I spent time in the locker room, healing, doing therapy, sitting in the ice bath, and reading the Bible.
I thought I was in the NFL to play football, but God had other plans.
As a result, my faith grew, and I began sharing about Jesus with my teammates and coaches. I thought I was in the NFL to play football, but God had other plans, and, as a result, my ambitions became aligned with His.
Colossians 1:28-29 says, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.” We don’t labor in our own strength, but in His. We proclaim Him by being the hands and feet of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Your gifts and passions are the vehicle by which Jesus delivers His grace to the world.Your gifts and passions are the vehicle by which Jesus delivers His grace to the world. — @DerwinLGray Click To Tweet
There’s no such thing as the secular-sacred divide. All of life is worship: your ministry, your schooling, your job, your family, everything. He wants your ambitions to line up to His so we can flourish, but also so the world can see Him.
No matter where you find yourself, you’re a missionary for Christ. As you go into the rest of your week, take time to reflect and pray. Take time to read His Word and be conformed into the image of Christ. Take time, seek Jesus. Take time to ask the Holy Spirit to align your ambition with God’s glory.
Once you’re able to tap into this powerful alignment, you will see how God can use your ambitions to allow you to flourish and to further His kingdom.
Derwin is the co-founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. He is a former NFL player and author of several books, including his most recent, How To Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation. Learn more at DerwinLGray.com.