Do you know what comes to mind when I think of ambition? Me.
I’ve always had more of it than I knew what to do with. If it involved a ball, I wanted to be on a winning team. If it involved a group, I wanted to lead. If it involved school, I wanted to leave to go play something with a ball. (Yeah, my ambitions were strong, but they ran pretty shallow.) From early on, I remember wanting to make an impact, to differentiate myself in some way. Gimme the ball, gimme the lead, gimme the wheel—it didn’t matter. I just wanted to be somebody creating momentum. And if, in some strange and totally unexpected way, my actions brought attention to me . . . then bring it on, baby!
John Adams once spoke of the natural “passion for distinction” we all have—how every person is “strongly actuated by a desire to be seen, heard, talked of, approved and respected.”2 I’m not saying this is a good thing, but it sure was a Dave-thing.
Being “first wherever I may be” was an unconscious mantra I repeated with religious fervor. And it’s that very struggle with ambition gone bad that eventually led me to write a book on ambition.
What kind of person are you? Maybe you’re like me. You have a vision of success that guides your dreams and decisions each day.
Or maybe you’re saying, “Nope. I’m not ambitious. I’m pretty good at just chillin’ with whatever comes along.”
But ambition, by definition, is about the future, which means it’s about all of us. And as we step into the future, whatever it is we’re pursuing—whether it’s finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, occupying the corner office, well-behaved kids, a successful ministry, or just a long nap—it matters to God.
Maybe you have big ideas about what you want to accomplish today, this week, this year, or in the next five years. Or maybe the recent years have thrown you into a bit of a slump and it feels like all your ambitious dreams have slipped through your fingers. Maybe you have drama-fatigue and you’re just starting to look towards the future again.
I want you to think about something right now. Wherever you might place yourself on the spectrum of ambition, you do nurture hopes for the future. You have something you’re working towards. That’s part of what it means to be human. Your ambition may be as small as getting a good meal tonight. Or it may be as big as graduating with an advanced degree or winning an unreached people-group to Christ..
Make no mistake. We all possess some dream for the future.
Try this. If you’re just grabbing your morning coffee, start your day by acknowledging the reality of that dream. Or begin by admitting the loss of it. Take it all to the God who has already planned every day of your life and say, “Lord, here’s my empty soul, or here’s my burning desire. Here’s what I want to accomplish today, this week, in ten years. Would you kindle and sanctify my ambition? Would you use it for your glory?”
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. . . .
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:16, 23–24
Tenacious Tuesday Questions
Why does it matter that God has written out the days of my life in his book, even before one of them came to pass? Consider one of your future goals and how it might align with God’s plan to lead you in “the way everlasting.”
Lord, may you take all my plans, all my desires, all my hopes, all my ambition, and conform them to your will. Help me to release them to you and pursue them for the sake of your kingdom.