Philippians 1.15-18 – Acceptable Ambition

Our Christian life is often full of paradoxes and opposites, isn’t it? We are already saved, but not yet fully saved. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but now that you are, work hard to show it. If you want to be first, be last. You get the picture…

If I said that it is ok to have ambition in your Christian life, some might disavow that as a paradox and claim that a very passive, pious life is what we need, not ambition, you heathen. Here in vv.15-18, Paul shows us what kind of ambition is ok, and what kind is not. 

He writes that some preach Christ from envy and rivalry. Preaching, teaching, or ministering out of a sense of competition with your fellow believers is, simply, not ok. Paul goes on to say that this is really out of selfish ambition. This kind of ambition, this inter-ministerial competition to have the biggest church, the best selling book, the most followed social media accounts, is not ok. 

It is perfectly acceptable, and I would suggest encourage-able, to want to be the best you can for the Lord. It is perfectly acceptable to want to give excellence to your Saviour in all you do, to represent Him well, and to strive to put the grace of God in you to work as much as you can. This kind of ambition is good, competing with others is not. The difference, when we see them together, is stark;

  • I want to preach to more people than [that guy].
  • I want to preach Jesus to as many people as the Lord gives me.
  • I want to have more Instagram followers than [that guy].
  • I want to use social media to witness to others and show people a life lived for Christ.
  • I want to write a book that is a best-seller so I become known, rich, and ‘famous’.
  • The Lord has put it on my heart to share [this idea] so I am going to do it whether two people or two million people read it.

Today I would encourage you to pause and ponder what you are doing for the Lord, and then take a moment and honestly look at your motivation for doing so; is it out of selfish ambition, or acceptable ambition?

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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