On Ambition

On Ambition

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One of the first Scriptures I memorized was a very obscure one.  I don’t quote it very often because it seems to be so out of favor with the times and with the church planting culture to which I belong.  It’s 1 Thessalonians 4:11a—“make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”.

Here’s the context:

9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

It appears that Paul is exhorting those who would “excel still more” to graduate to this ambition—quiet humility.

I don’t know about your preaching schedule for the upcoming year, but I would be surprised if it included a series on the ambition of quietness and humility.  That sort of thing doesn’t exactly draw a crowd, does it?

Yet humility is a foundational virtue for those who would shepherd and lead God’s people. And so often it seems there is just as much prideful ambition among up-and-coming ministers and church planters as there is in any other vocational field.  This should not be.

I have certainly recognized it in myself.

Lord, forgive me.

Francis de Sales wrote, “The King of Glory does not recompense his servants according to the dignity of the offices they hold, but according to the measure of the love and humility with which they exercise them.”

Gary Thomas wrote, “…humility is the anchor of our calling and vocation.  Pride can turn us against our own purpose in life by filling us with ambitious yearnings that cause us to neglect our true call for today…Tomorrow’s dreams are a poor substitute for today’s obedience.”

Thomas continues, “Without humility we can fall prey to deceitful desires that hinder our present effectiveness.  It is noble to desire to do great things for God; but when our desire for future ministry blocks us from our present task, we should prayerfully consider whether the desire is God’s inspiration or Satan’s distraction to keep us from living a fruitful life.”

May we stay humble and fulfill our divine vocation.



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