Rom. 15:20 Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation,
Rom. 15:21 but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”
Paul understood the distinct calling he had from God to minister to people who had not heard about Christ — and specifically to the Gentiles. The word “ambition” is a bit difficult to translate because our understanding of that word might be a bit negative. Wesley referred to it as a “holy ambition” and therefore we have to see Paul’s goals and aims in life as having been bathed by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Plowing new ground was the place where Paul found the greatest contentment. He didn’t want to have to build on the work of another, he wanted to plant new works and God had provided him with this opportunity. Paul had already experienced what it was like to share the good news with people who had never before heard. That is why he quoted the scripture from Isaiah:
Is. 52:15 so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Paul’s holy ambition, placed in his heart by God, was to startle the people of different nations with the news about Jesus — the Messiah!
What is your holy ambition?
Maybe that’s a tough question to answer because we have been inoculated with the idea that “ambition” is a bad thing for a follower of Jesus Christ. It was the same man, Paul, who told us that everything was “rubbish” in light of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we take those words and we believe that genuine humility means that we have no ambition. However, this becomes something different when our ambition is sanctified, or made holy.
All the talents and energy of the Apostle Paul were given over to God and made holy through the working of the Holy Spirit. Paul had been zealous at traveling around and persecuting Christians — why not take that “ambition” and sanctify it? Paul is still traveling with the same amount of zealous energy but instead of persecuting people, he is planting churches, the exact opposite of what he had done before.
That’s what happens when our ambitions become his “holy” ambitions! All that we have, our talents, our abilities are infused “through and through” with the Holy Spirit and ambition no longer becomes about our own personal success, but ambition becomes the energy that helps to push us on toward the goal placed before us.
For Paul the goal was always Jesus Christ and a desire to bring as many people to Christ as possible. For you and for me, the goal, will help to define our holy ambition.
I’m on the road this morning heading toward Mount Vernon Nazarene University for a seminar on church planting. I can’t help to think that God needs a whole new generation of Pauls whose holy ambition it is to go to people who have never heard about Christ. We need people with a passion to plow new ground for the amount of unplowed ground in the world today is ever expanding. Even in a nation such as the United States where supposedly we have been a “Christian nation” more and more people are spiritually illiterate. The simplest Bible stories have faded into the memories of the past. We need a whole new generation who will be empowered with holy ambition to tell people who have never heard, about Jesus Christ!
How are we using the gifts and abilities given to us by God? The ambitions of our lives will be used in a transformational way when they are sanctified for his use.
Lord, may my ambitions be sanctified to your glory. Amen.