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?
For 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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