Once full of ambition, I’m slowing down. It could be too many birthdays, but God has redefined my priorities.
Jeremiah says to his companion “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord . . . .” (Jeremiah 45:5)
Many other passages speak of personal ambition. Here are a few of them:
Contentment: O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:1–2)
Humility: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:3–5)
Checking the source: But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:14–18)
After reading these and then Chambers’ conclusions (based on the one from Jeremiah), it seems important to clarify what kind of ‘great things’ am I supposed to not seek. It seems there are some things God wants me to go for, so what are they? And what is the difference between them and the selfish ambitions described above?
Jesus talked to His disciples about seeking food and clothing, the daily necessities of life: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32–33) This means I’m not to be ambitiously preoccupied with my own daily needs. God will provide.
Matthew 7:7 tells me to seek and I will find, linking this to “good things” that God will give me. Romans 2:7 also says that I’m to “do well as I seek for glory, honor, and immortality” putting my focus on eternal matters, not caught up in the temporary stuff of this life.
1 Corinthians 10:24 tells me to seek the good of others and Philippians 4:17 adds that I’m to seek out in others spiritual fruit produced through the power of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:1 is explicit that I seek what is ‘above’ where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Again, this is having an eternal focus.
However, 1 Peter 3:11 tells me to seek peace, not just for myself but for a very needy world.
Chambers says we are to seek God only, not merely the gifts God gives. I understand that. If I make peace, honor, etc. my sole reason for living, I am in error. However, if my relationship with God is first and foremost in my heart and mind, it is not evil to seek for the good things that He gives. It only becomes a problem if He withholds them and I begin to resent God because of it.
His goal for me is that I am like Jesus in my attitude. He said, “Not my will but thine be done.” If I can say and mean that, then I am seeking a great thing. But if I am thinking, “God, this is what I want from You” and have even the tiniest suggestion of ultimatum in that request, then I am not seeking God at all, only His ‘good’ things.
Chambers sometimes makes it sound like I must have all the right attitudes and motives before God will give me anything. However, I’ve learned that even the right attitudes and motives are gifts from God. If I am asking for these, even as I ask for other things, God hears me and begins to change all selfishness and personal ambition into a deeper desire to know Him and to ask with the mind of Jesus Christ. He wants me to drop that ‘me first’ ambition because it isn’t among His list of great things.