Is it Okay to Want More for My Life?

Selfish vs Godly Ambition

When is ambition okay?  Can I want more and still be content?  Is wanting to excel in life just pride?  In this post, we’ll address all of these questions.

Godly Drive (Ambition):

Joseph (Genesis 37 onwards) was the 12th brother in line for the family blessing.  He had no chance of sizing up to his older brothers.  But one night, God gave him a dream and showed him that there would be a day when his brothers would all bow down to him.  And not just his brothers, also his parents.

Many accuse Joseph of being proud when they read of how he shared the dream with his brothers and father.  This could be.  But it could also be that he just lacked wisdom.  Perhaps he just shared the dream matter of fact and his family didn’t like the meaning of it.  They were  jealous and offended, especially in the culture and time in which they lived.

And you probably know how the story goes- his brothers capture him and want to kill him but end up trafficking him to some slave traders going to Egypt.  In the end, he rises to power and eventually his dreams become his reality.  And the reality of his brothers.  They all bow down to him.

So it’s easy to think that Joseph was arrogant.  That was a big dream.  A totally ludicrous dream.  No humble, down-to-earth person would ever have a dream like that.

But where did this dream come from?  Joseph didn’t invent it himself.  GOD, almighty YAWEH, gave him this dream.  These lofty thoughts for Joseph came from the heart of God.  It wasn’t because of something that Joseph had done.  It wasn’t because he was more has more value than his brothers.  It was simply because God’s purposes for Joseph included leadership.

Are there dreams you've backed away from because they seemed to pretentious to follow? #ambition… Click To Tweet

How many times have we accused others of being arrogant for following the desires in their hearts when they were just being obedient to the way God wired them?

How to Want More for Your Life and Still Be ContentFor me, writing is one of those dreams.  I have often thought- who am I to put myself out there?  To think others would want to read what I write?  What credentials and accomplishments and experience do I have?  Honestly, not as many as others.  But I’m beginning to accept the possibility that it could be a dream that God put in my heart long before I understood what it all would mean.

 

I’ve criticized and accused people in my heart for doing good work that God most likely gave them to do because I was jealous and unhappy with my own circumstance (and not making any moves to change them).

God’s plan for Joseph was for his good.  And not just for his good but literally, for the good of the WORLD!  God was working His purposes out for Joseph and for Israel and for the world.  Joseph made choices of integrity that kept him on the path God had for him (which is key!), but God worked it out.

So often we can wonder where God is in the heartache of our communities, our countries, our world.  What if we would all be a little more courageous and dare to think that we could be the answer?  If we would just step into the deepest desires and dreams of our hearts and begin to live out of them, just think of the impact we could have.  (Read more about Getting God’s Vision for Your Life here.)

Let’s get rid of the lie that says if we are really humble, we will stay in our places.  Where does that idea come from?  That’s FALSE humility which is really just pride.

True humility is realizing and accepting who God has made you to be and walking in that reality.… Click To Tweet

It means understanding that you were designed by a brilliant Creator, and you are crafted in His image.  You were given abilities and gifts- not to make a great name for yourself, but to bring glory to God by reflecting his likeness, and to change the world.  (I still believe that, and I’m not even in my 20s anymore! )

Example of false humility:

Person 1:  “Wow, Joanne, you have a really beautiful voice.”

Joanne:  “No, I don’t.  It’s terrible.”

Really?  Did Joanne give herself that voice?  Would it be acceptable for me to walk up to a highly acclaimed artist and tell her that her portraits are worse than my stick figure drawings?  Doubtful.  Yet we can do that to God when we don’t acknowledge the masterpiece that He has made in each one of us and give Him the credit for it.

Although this lie of false humility is prevalent across cultures, in some countries, this is a HUGE stumbling block that keeps people from stepping into their potential.  In Australia, it’s called the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.  In Norway, it’s known as the Law of Jante.  Whole philosophies are formed around this idea that you should never excel above anyone else.  If you do, you are proud.  But it’s only pride if you think it came from you!  If you point your ability and gift and strength back to the One who gave it to you in the first place, it’s gratitude, and that is true humility.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about flattering people or lying to make others feel good about themselves because we’re too afraid to tell them the truth.  This happens often in America, my beloved home.  We are a positive, encouraging culture.  That is good.  But it is often taken to the extreme.  Just watch the tryouts for America’s Got Talent.  Someone should have told some of those poor souls long before they were ever on that stage that they just might be better fitted for a different profession.

What I’m talking about is identifying God-given strengths and pursuing those dreams.  And encouraging others to pursue those dreams as well.

The Bible says that it’s good to have godly ambition (1 Timothy 3:1).  Selfish ambition routes the glory back to selfish.  Godly ambition passes the glory where it’s truly due.

The highly influential John Stott states it as this:

Ambitions for God, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?

Christians should be eager to develop their gifts, widen their opportunities, extend their influence and be given promotion in their work — not now to boost their own ego or build their own empire, but rather through everything they do to bring glory to God.

I believe cures for diseases, more effective pedagogy, new technology, and solutions for natural disasters are buried in the hearts of people around the world.  Maybe yours.  Let’s be ones who lean in (for lack of a better term) not to try to do more, but to be more- to walk in the way we were made.  THAT, my friends, is the light and easy yoke of Jesus.

This is Part 3 in our series.  If you’d like to catch up with Parts 1 and 2, click here:

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19 Comments

  • Magda January 12, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing so generously! You are a very good writer, with a big heart that comes through so clearly in your text. Thank you for all the inspiration you just gave me!

    Reply
    • Brooke January 12, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      Thank-you so much for taking the time to read it! I’m so glad that it was meaningful to you. That’s my prayer.

      Reply
  • Erik January 20, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Well written again Brooke, suits well in my life at this moment! E

    Reply
  • Lois Flowers May 10, 2016 at 10:13 am

    This is all really insightful, Brooke. I think you’re spot on about Joseph … not proud, just lacking a bit of wisdom early on. Later, though, he had the kind of confidence that only comes from knowing God’s call–and the One who issued it! There’s great freedom in walking “in the way that we’re made,” isn’t there? I’m so glad to be your neighbor at Intentional Tuesday today!

    Reply
    • Brooke May 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Thank-you, Lois. Yes, I agree! Living in the way God wired us brings great freedom and peace. Nice to be your neighbor too at #IntentionalTuesday.

      Reply
  • Bethany May 10, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Something I so struggle with. Not sure I could be God’s gift or instrument in any way. Old school, but one my favorite songs by The OC Supertones says “could you use even me?” Thanks for reminding me of His answer, Brooke! And for the record- I’m so glad you pursue this writing ambition God has given you. Your words so often exhort and encourage me! #RaRaLinkup

    Reply
    • Brooke May 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Yes, Bethany, I hear you! And thank-you. As long as I keep my eyes on Him, I remember where everything good stems from and can let it flow out. When I don’t, it all becomes about me. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Jennifer May 11, 2016 at 8:09 am

    “Not try to do more, but to be more”…truer words have never been spoken. What a great reminder and article! Thanks for linking to Waiting on…Wednesday!

    Reply
    • Brooke May 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Jennifer!

      Reply
  • Tiffiney (Welcome Home Ministry) May 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Hey Brooke: I’ve got to tell you that I really struggle with this concept as a believer – so I had to click over from Titus 2 Tuesday to learn more. Is it okay to want more and ambition vs. contentment – I’m still praying through some life issues related to these themes. This post has really wet my whistle to read parts 1 and 2 of your series. I can tell you that I appreciate your perspective as well. If I had read any “name it and claim it” theology in your post I would have been disappointed. In my quest to not make God my magic Genie in the sky and to be content with what I have I believe I’ve been limiting myself. There is such a delicate balance between the two. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Brooke May 11, 2016 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Tiffiney. I still wrestle with both as well. For me, a lot of it comes down to my heart motivation. Do I want God to change my circumstances simply because I don’t want to develop the patience to walk through them (yes, often!). But also, do I ever settle and call it “contentment” when it’s really just a mask for hopelessness from past disappointments. Faith is so vulnerable. Anyway, it’s nice to connect with you! Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  • Erik May 12, 2016 at 4:14 am

    Thanks again for well spoken words Brooke. It certainly reminds me about the Lord being interested in what is in our hearts, what are our deepest motives. If whatever we decide to do or change lead us closer to Him, we are on a very safe road, even if a decisions might be wrong, because the closer we are the easier it is for Him to correct us.
    Erik

    Reply
    • Brooke May 12, 2016 at 10:57 am

      Yes! Thank-you for that reminder. We don’t have to be afraid of going off the path because his rod and staff will make sure we stay close if that is our heart’s desire. Thanks for reading, Erik!

      Reply
  • Horace@pleasingtothePotter.com May 13, 2016 at 9:02 am

    What an insightful post Brooke! I absolutely love the story of Joseph. It is such a true picture of how God works in our lives. We may not see or understand what is going on in our lives but God is always working. I ask God for wisdom and direction in my life so that my actions are for His glory and not mine. Thank you for the perspective you share here. I want to balance striving for more in my life with being content as I seek to do God’s will. So nice to visit you here today. Have a wonderful weekend and may God bless you and yours in all your endeavors!

    Reply
    • Brooke May 13, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Thank-you, Horace! It is an ongoing journey to be both content and yet continue to trust God for all that He wants to release through faith. Have a great weekend too!

      Reply
  • Michele Morin October 6, 2016 at 8:14 am

    This is so good, and I’ve been pondering this topic myself lately. I appreciate your balanced consideration of it.

    Reply
  • Courtney Leigh October 6, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Brooke, I love how you point out that our ambitions should be from Godly motives. I find that it can be a hard balance. I constantly have to check my motives when I am working hard toward goals I have in mind to make sure they are not completely self-motivated. At the same time, it is good to be reminded that not every goal that would make us happy is completely self-seeking if we are following God. Joseph’s story is a great example to teach us in this area. I was encouraged by your post.

    Reply
    • Brooke Grangard October 7, 2016 at 8:01 am

      Thanks, Courtney. I agree. I think in doing what we are made to do, there is great satisfaction. As long as we are always able to lay down our ambition at anytime for God, I think we’re safe! 🙂

      Reply

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