Manly Quote Mondays: Godly Ambition

22 Apr



In the end, just as there are only two kinds of piety, the self-centered and the God-centered, so there are only two kinds of ambition: one can be ambitious for oneself or for God. There is no third alternative.

Ambitions for self may be quite modest (enough to eat, to drink, and to wear, as in the Sermon [on the Mount]) or they may be grandiose (a bigger house, a faster car, a higher salary, a wider reputation, more power). But whether modest or immodest, these are ambitions for myself—my comfort, my wealth, my status, my power.

Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambition for God.

How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honor in the world?


Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honor, according to his true place. We become ambitious for the spread of this kingdom and righteousness everywhere.

When this is genuinely our dominant ambition, then not only will all these things…be yours as well (i.e. our material needs will be provided), but there will be no harm in having secondary ambitions, since these will be subservient to our primary ambition and not in competition with it. Indeed, it is then that secondary ambitions become healthy.

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.

Lesser ambitions are safe and right provided they are not an end in themselves (namely ourselves) but the means to a great  end (the spread of God’s kingdom and righteousness) and therefore to the greatest of all ends, namely God’s glory.

-John Stott

(from pg. 155-156, “Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement” By Alister Chapman)

3 Responses to “Manly Quote Mondays: Godly Ambition”

  1. Lance Wonders April 23, 2013 at 07:56 #

    Actually, as much as I respect Dr. Stott and his writings, I am not sure he is correct when he says, “there is self-centered ambition and God-centered ambition, and no third alternative.” The Pharisees, like Paul before his conversion, was “God-centered” in his ambition…but not Spirit-led, until the Lord stooped down and changed his heart. This is no small “footnote”: as Reinhold Niebuhr pointed out years ago, pride based on religious zeal is the most dangerous and most destructive sort of pride of them all! Rather, in I Tim. 3, where Paul deals with whether some in the church might qualify to function as “overseers” (= elders or pastors or — literally — “bishops”), he affirms that, if God Himself has planted this in their hearts, and they demonstrate the maturity and character and spiritual/practical aptness to serve well in that calling, then Timothy should go ahead and recognize them in that work. But not everyone who WANTS to be a “leader” OUGHT to be a leader — even if they are aiming at “serving God”. Our flesh/fallen nature can “want to be a leader” out of a false sense of need or obligation or even because others are seeking to “promote” them in ways that they are not genuinely “wired” for by the Lord. When that happens, it would be far better for them to say “No — but thank you for your encouragement” than to take on a task that, if pursued very far, would readily become a trainwreck. The Spirit may sometimes “bless” our own erroneous decisions, but He is by no means REQUIRED to do so. Many, many pastors should have remained businessmen, school-teachers, engineers, or architects, rather than “answering a call” that came from man, and wasn’t ever truly confirmed by the Lord Himself — even though their intentions were “God-centered” in trying to take up that mantle.


  1. Out Of Gas | More Than A Beard - April 24, 2013

    […] sitting on my butt rather than going after God, stepping up in my household, and living a life of godly ambition. Rather than pushing through when I’m in the midst of the valley, I end up taking the bus […]

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