Friday, September 25, 2009

Obedience vs. Ambition

Obedience vs. Ambition

Early one morning, I was awoken from my sleep by an inward voice intensely saying “Take heed! Do not start off in obedience but end up pursuing your ambition instead …….” Almost immediately, two words began to arrest my attention - “obedience” and “ambition”. As I meditated on these two words, the Lord began to enlighten my understanding in what had been spoken.

Obedience and ambition may sound vastly different, and indeed, the meanings of both words differ distinctively. However, they actually lie on the same ground, and what separates obedience from ambition is not a great deep gulf as we would imagine, but only a fine, thin line. Led by the spirit then to reflect upon my own life, I came to realise the many times when I have tread past my sphere and crossed the line from obedience to ambition. In more specific words, I had started off in obedience, doing that which the Lord had commissioned me to, but had in the course of it diverted my attention from the Lord’s call and began to focus on serving my personal interests and ambition instead.

Today, there are many among us who “having begun in the spirit, ended up in the flesh” instead (Gal. 3:3); and this is not to be dismissed lightly, for this very subtle shift is really one of the most prevailing traits that has succeeded in bringing about the fall of many servants of God.

For any person who desires to achieve for himself a life recognised by great exploits and accomplishments, having an ambition awaiting fulfillment is undeniably one of the most sustaining and powerful force of motivation for him. Having the fulfillment of an ambition to look forward to indeed gives a person the drive and strength to constantly progress in his work or ministry. Yet, the devil has so perversed this area that many serving in God’s ministry have inadvertently ended up serving fervently in the Christian ministry with hearts that are however set on making a name for themselves out of their service in the Lord. We therefore need to constantly and honestly examine the intents of our hearts here and see to it that we do not serve the King with a divided purpose (Lam. 3:40).

There are many of us who would be willing to give up our lives for Christ, but yet not willing to forego glory for Him. It is dangerous ground we stand on if we take the same position described here. For like Satan, such of us would be a people who carnally craving for approval, for the worship of men that we might gain public recognition for our works! The test of obedience therefore is whether we would still serve if serving meant that we have to do without the glory that may sometimes come along with it. If we are not prepared to forego such glory, then like the devil, we would be given to self-seeking and self-glorification, attempting to build something which the Lord had never commissioned us for. It is important that we do not make a mistake as grave as this. We need to reckon that the seeking and craving of spiritual authority is a dangerous occupation for any believer to engage in, for true spiritual authority that is within the King’s pleasure to give is not an honour to be clamoured, but a burden to be borne. Unless clearly instructed by the Lord, we should neither seek a position of authority nor contemplate accepting an invitation to possessing it (Judg. 9:7-15). Spiritual authority comes to a believer at the same degree of the pre-eminence of the King that is in him - premature responsibility shoved onto an unprepared individual will only breed superficiality in his life; and for this reason, we must refuse spiritual authority and/or responsibility when it is not or not yet ours to assume.

On the other hand a life nestled in obedience is reflective of that of Christ’s. Like Christ, an obedient minister of God is one who lives a life in full submission to the Lord’s will for him, not asking for more or pleading for less. In regard to serving in the Lord’s ministry, we have been forewarned of offenses and rejection that will come upon us like how Christ Himself suffered men’s despise and contempt. If we desire to use our lives to serve the purpose of God, then we must be prepared to put a nail to even our reputation and popularity among men. We are without excuse every one of us who seeks self-glorification, for the Bible clearly warns of every form of confusion and evil thing that will be present among self-seeking men whose wisdom is not of divine origin but which is of the world, being earthly, sensual and demonic (James 3:15-16).

True and acceptable ministry can only come from a position of already having God’s approval, not from a position where one is working hard to hopefully gain His approval. What went wrong with the devil was that he was not contented in being where he was - he was more concerned about receiving worship than he was in serving God. Let us be careful that we do not make the same mistake.


In this present time, there are several ministries locked in strife and anxiety that have resulted from unfruitfulness and from a lack of funds. Could it be that these have crossed the line from obeying in singleness of heart to driving themselves and their ministries to fulfilling their own ambitions? The Lord provides for only an inch, but there are yet those who would reason that only a mile would do, and surely, these would pay out of their own strength, the cost of those extra miles. We labour in vain who do not labour in the Lord.

More often than not, a driving ambition stirs up impatience in a person and causes us to adopt ways and means other than the ones prescribed to achieve our goals. A person propelled by zeal but who is not humbly submissive to the Holy Spirit opens himself up to the wiles of the enemy. We may receive a promise or a revelation spelling a fulfilment of some kind or another, but if ambitions and personal interests should overcome our desire to obey, then we will soon lose no time in engineering for ourselves opportunities and circumstances that are favourable in promoting the fulfilment of that promise. The very moment we begin to do this, we are already spoiling things for ourselves by being so wrong as to try and use human wisdom to bring about the things of the divine. It ought to register in us by now, that we employ only spiritual means to reach spiritual ends. The Lord’s desire is for us to rest in our work (Ex. 33:14) and such rest comes by our abiding in His presence. There is only one acceptable way into God’s presence - Jesus, the Way, and besides Him, all other ways lead away from the presence of God. Rather than follow manuals blindly, let us follow Immanuel safely. We need to recognize God as the Father, the source, and originator, and who is in control of everything. Unless He authorises the work, our efforts do nothing for us. A man may not be able to do everything that he wants to do, but there can be nothing to stop him from doing that which God prepared for him to do. Watch then that we do not get so swept along by the momentum of life in today’s society such that the spiritual realm appears to us as fuzzy and elusive. With all reverence, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the words spoken by our Lord in John 5:19 that “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do, He does in like manner.”


Another hindrance from obeying Christ is that we often fear the outcome of absolute obedience. An another words, we do not dare enough to trust that our obedience will yield good results for us. My point here is illustrated in Gen. 32 where we see Jacob’s obedience being put to the test. He needed to return to his land (God told him to), and the Lord Himself promised him a safe journey back to his country. And so Jacob began on his way back to his country, but enroute made further arrangements to ensure that he is safe from his brother. He wanted to obey, yet could not trust God enough that no adversity would arise out of such obedience, and so he tried to make things work out by partially obeying the Lord and at the same time making other plans to provide for his own security. Many of us are guilty of the same thing today - we obey God on one hand and grasp in the other hand a back-up plan, “just in case ……..” we would reason.

May we all learn to trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God, establishing our belief in the promises of God, strengthening our faith, and giving the glory to God; fully convinced and accepting that whatever He has promised He also is able to perform (Rom. 4:20-21).

Eph. 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. This being the case, let us not be divided in purpose, but let us give ourselves to diligently obeying and pursuing that which has been ordained for us by God, that our lives may manifest the glory of Christ.

Further let us also not neglect the word given to us in Jeremiah 45:5 that says “do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold I will bring adversity on all flesh.” Christians, therefore, who have been made aware of the divine purpose in their lives but who live out that purpose contrary to the ways prescribed by God are like those who unlock a door only to open themselves to troubles and sufferance. The consequence is a life wastefully squandered.

May we then heed the words in Matt. 7:21 - “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

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