Everyone is passionate about something. Whether it’s piano, painting, mission work, novel writing, homemaking, football, or business, both Christians and non-Christians alike have an ambition; a goal; a passion.
What then, sets me—a Believer with an ambition—apart from someone who does not follow Christ, yet seeks to pursue a similar life goal?
The answer can be found in two words, but only one of which will truly segregate me from the yearnings of this world:
What does this imply? Pastor John Piper describes a ‘holy ambition’ as something that you really want to do—and that God wants you to do also.[i]
But how can we know for sure that our pursuit is something God wants us to do?
Let’s look at the apostle Paul. Paul had an ambition. His driving aim was “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest [he] build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’” (Rom. 15:20-21)
In reading over these words, I find myself perplexed. Paul’s ambition seems to be directly in line with God’s will because Paul’s ambition was reach out to the unreached with the gospel. How can spreading the word of Christ not be in line with God’s will?
As crucial as global missions are, how can this apply to my passion for journalism? Or painting? Or homemaking? Or business? Could my seemingly less spiritual pursuit be something that God wants me to do too?
Read Piper’s definition of a holy ambition again.
Something you really want to do.
I don’t know about you but I often find myself believing that in order to fulfill a so-called ‘holy’ calling or ambition, I must spend my days serving and suffering for Christ on the floor of a Communist-country prison cell or in an inner-city slum, performing tasks that bring me neither comfort nor enjoyment, but must be done for the sake of Christ.
At times, and for some of us, this may be the case. But the act of pursuing a holy ambition is also something that we can begin doing right now, right where we are, with the skills we’ve been given.
In reference to Paul’s ambition, Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes: “[Paul] principally sought the good of those that sat in darkness. Whatever good we do, it is Christ who does it by us.”[ii]
You see, it wasn’t Paul’s aim to be missionary to those in darkness. It was Christ’s aim for Paul.
“Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you… was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.” (2 Cor. 1:17b-19)
Paul simply allowed his faith to inform his passions and plans, and with such an inherent faith in Jesus, his passions led him to evangelize.
Where will your passions lead you? Notice the word whatever in Henry’s commentary. “Whatever good we do…” Your calling may not be to do good across the globe. Rather, your holy ambition might be to serve Christ at home or at the office. As a Christian, whatever good you do, it is Christ who does it through you.
Isn’t that freeing?
God has uniquely crafted every individual with talents that are not to be wasted. Most likely, these abilities are things that you really, really enjoy doing. And even when they aren’t, the fact that your hope rests not in the ambition itself, but in a higher, holier calling of allowing Christ to inform you, will change the way you view life and its possibilities.
This is the drastic dichotomy between the ambitious Christian and non-Christian.
When the God who created you gifts you with a passion for that specific calling and prods you forward in all His grace, you, young Believer, have a holy ambition; a pursuit unmatched by anyone of the world because it is completely submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
[i] John Piper, “Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named” (sermon, 27 Aug. 2006), www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2006/1790_Holy_Ambition_To_Preach_Where_Christ_Has_Not_Been_Named.
All Scripture taken from the English Standard Version Bible