1 Chronicles 11:1–47, 1 Timothy 6:3–10, Psalm 80:1–19
The Bible says much about ambition and motivation. It is okay to want great things, but not for my glory. Whether I eat or drink or whatever I do, it is to be for God’s glory. I’ve learned that nothing I do will gain the same kind of success or satisfaction as whatever is done in the power and grace of God.
In the Old Testament, this power is described in several ways. Often the Bible writers talk about it as God being “with” His people. It also speaks of God as restoring His people in a literal sense, and letting His face “shine upon” them in a poetic sense.
When Saul died in battle, Israel anointed David as their king. He’d already been appointed and anointed by the prophet Samuel, but David would not usurp Saul out of respect for him as the “Lord’s anointed.” David’s attitude was one of humility and faith. After he became king, “David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts was with him.” (1 Chronicles 11:9)
The biblical path to greatness is never about striving or personal ambition. It is always about trust in God, even contentment, all the while maintaining a close walk with Jesus Christ.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6–10)
These are good reminders for me. For years, I wanted great things, but my motives were about me, not God. I wanted to prove myself, be the best, and so on. Now I’m contented to wait on the Lord. People continue to ask me what I will do now that I’ve graduated, but I have no plan. Ideas pop into mind, yet I’m not going there unless the Lord gives direction. I’ve learned that craving my own way, whether it is about money, possessions, popularity, or power, will lead me away from God and into sorrow.
In Exodus, the people of God were enslaved in Egypt, a very real experience that depicts bondage to sin. God rescued them, but they continually turned from Him to idols. Every time that happened, the Lord disciplined them, sometimes by plagues or natural disasters, but often by enemy attack. The psalmist describes this in poetic language, asking God why He allows such attacks:
“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.” (Psalm 80:8–13)
His discipline, painful as it was and still is, is effective. God’s people cry out, “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:19) They learned, as I have learned, that having the face of God shine on me is a far greater joy than anything I might crave or have ambition for. Gain is not about stuff or power or popularity. It is learning to rely on God all the time, and then to remain in His will and contentedly abide in Jesus.