A confused and perplexed stare.

That’s the reaction I recall getting when I told someone about my decision to go to college and to pursue an undergraduate degree in music. Music has always been a part of my life, but I think people assumed it was a hobby rather than a vocation. I was asked how I would support myself financially and if I would reconsider a more lucrative career.  

Several years later, I also made the decision to pursue a Master’s degree in seminary. My pursuit of pastoral ministry wasn’t a financially lucrative career move either.

Prior to pursuing higher education, I remember praying to God to give me His wisdom, to align my ambitions to be Godly, and to open the right door according to His will for me.

Here I am, years later, leading worship every Sunday at Grace — right where I believe God has led me to be at this moment in my life journey.

I have many goals and dreams that I’m striving to accomplish. My goals and dreams aren’t merely career-focused, but they are also personal and spiritual. I also love putting in the hard work to get those things accomplished

I’ve always wanted to make sure that my ambition was more than a pursuit for success, power, and fame, however. I believe the way God designed me, with specific gifts and abilities, is a way in which I can experience much joy in serving God and His Church in creative ways. I’ve also found so much joy and satisfaction in doing so.

The heart of the matter

Over time, I’ve come to understand that ambition in and of itself isn’t inherently a good thing or a bad thing; but scripture does differentiate ambition as being either Godly or selfish.

Ambition is often defined as “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.” According to the Bible, however, the core of our ambition is much more than that. Ambition comes down to the motivation of our hearts behind our drive. If your ambitions are ultimately all about you and how you can achieve success, fame, rank, and power, then  they are clearly self-seeking.

To help determine if you have a Godly ambition as you pursue your goals and dreams, here are some questions to ask yourself:

How does your ambition allow you to serve God?

The Apostle Paul was one of the most ambitious people in the Bible. Romans 15:12 says that he was ambitious to preach the gospel. He was called to serve God in this way. In Philippians 1:15-18, Paul discusses how some preachers would preach out of selfish ambition; building up their own platform and trying to make their own name great; but Paul’s aim in preaching the gospel was to make the name of Jesus great among the nations.  

It is easy to elevate our goals and dreams higher than they need to be. Many times we forget that our ultimate ambition, desire, and goal in this life should be to be a disciple of Christ who takes up our cross daily to serve God and to serve others rather than make a name for ourselves. If your ambition is more about your own success, power, and fame rather than being Christ’s disciple, reflect on this Bible verse: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:24-25)

How does my ambition help me serve God and please Him through it?  

How does your ambition allow you to serve others?

Godly ambition can be demonstrated when you strive to serve others rather than strive for meeting your own needs first. Paul gets to this concept in Philippians 2:3-4 when he says “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.

If our desire for making money is simply to get a bigger house, a faster car, or build a more comfortable retirement, then we’re missing the mark. Rather, we are called to steward what we’ve been given to advance the kingdom by giving generously with a cheerful heart. If our desire for power is ultimately to be in control or get the next promotion at work, and we don’t choose to use it to help others, then we’re falling into the trap of selfish ambition.

How does my ambition with my gifts, abilities, and strengths help serve others?

How does your ambition bring you joy?

Godly ambition allows us to experience true joy; but happiness is not the first thing you should be concerned about when you are striving for Godly ambition. God gives us a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that we should experience when we accomplish our ambitious goals. The Good Gift-giver wants you to enjoy the benefits of the gifts that you have been given. Having all the success, money, and power in this world doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have joy, but God has designed you with a specific set of gifts and abilities, and, when you use them as He wishes, you will.

So review your end goal: is it to have all the things the world can offer, or is it to make Jesus’ name greater and to experience His joy for you

So, as you embark on your ambitious journey to new and better things, make sure to:

Inspect your ambition. Identify what motivates you. Inspecting your heart will help you move to a closer understanding of your motivation to pursue your goals and dreams. Ask: How do your ambitions allow you to serve God, others, and bring you joy?

Align your ambitionPray that God would stir your desires to live according to His will for you. Ask: How can I take up my cross daily as I pursue a certain job, career change, or education?

Pursue your ambition. Be the best you can be at your career, education, and personal life. As first and foremost a disciple of Jesus, do it all for God’s glory and honor.