ON AMBITION IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE
Once I was chatting with a group of younger delegates after the closing session of an international conference at which I had spoken. One of them thanked me for my message and, pointing to the platform, said, “We will be the speakers at the next conference.” I have never felt comfortable about asking God for such things. I know that if I receive any responsibility it is because of God’s mercy and not because of any qualification of mine. I also know that some non-prominent saints are so much closer to God and to the life of obedience than me. In heaven (where it really matters) they will have a much, much higher place than me. I must concentrate on obedience to the will of God; and, right now, I fall short so much that obedience to God has to be my greatest pursuit in life.
But if God gives me a job to do, I must try to do it as best as I possibly could, so that God is glorified. A passion for the glory of God is a greater and more noble motivation to excellence than competition—the desire to be better than others. We compete only with ourselves, so that we can be the best we can be for God.
By the way, I do not think it is a sin to dream about doing certain things. Those who feel that it may be God’s will for them to aspire after some high office or responsibility should go ahead and pursue that. But they must do so remembering that God may not give them that and that that is not a big problem. They must steer clear of using unprincipled methods in their quest for this. Things like politicking, slandering rivals, and buying up votes are an abomination to God. Those who use those methods may succeed in their quest, but they will be shamed at the judgement where unconfessed secret actions are revealed. It is sheer folly to break God’s principles and do dishonourable things in ones quest for advancement in life.
Later I thought that perhaps these young leaders I spoke to may have been kept down by senior leaders who are threatened by their bright ideas and desires. If that were so, what a tragedy that would be! Look at the lives of people like Jesus, Paul, and Barnabas; and you see that a major portion of their ministry was encouraging young people and enabling them, that is, opening doors for ministry for them.
What should young people who have seen doors shut in their faces by selfish elders do? Whatever they do, they should not try to come up in the ladder by using means that do not honour God. God is greater than the most powerful leader in the world. Surely we can trust him to give us the best if we follow him. Let’s concentrate on that, and on doing what we do as best as we can. This work may not be done in a prominent place. Important people in the church may not see it. But God sees and he will honour that in his time: in this world—which is not a big deal—or in the next—which is a very big deal! Those who break God’s principles as they seek to achieve their ambitions will one day see what fools they were. If they succeed they would have contributed to creating a culture in the church which brings great dishonour to God. What a terrible legacy to leave behind!
So if one door closes, try another, or try a window, or the roof like the men who brought their paralysed friend to Jesus. Don’t give up on the vision God has given you. Each refusal, criticism or rejection could be used by God to help you clarify and sharpen your vision so that the end product is even better. Don’t give up. Remember Paul’s desire to go to Rome. How long it look to be realised! He did finally make it to Rome, as a prisoner! It was because of that vision that we today have the glorious Epistle to the Romans, perhaps his greatest book in the Bible. Paul wrote Romans to introduce himself to the Romans in anticipation of his planned visit.
My dear young friends, if you see elders in your church politicking and acting in selfish ways, don’t follow them. They are fools; only fools follow fools. You concentrate on pleasing God. You will not regret it; because God is greater than all the powers of this world! Follow God. Ask God to give you a vision and pursue that vision. You too can do great things for God.