Shakespeare wrote, “Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition; by that sin fell the angels.”
J. Oswald Sanders expressed, in reference to these words, “When Shakespeare put these words into the mouth of one of his characters, Cardinal Wolsey, was he giving advice which accords with the teaching of Scripture? Is ambition necessarily a base and selfish quality? Is it indeed the ‘last infirmity of noble minds?’
The Bible appears to teach that there is an ambition which warrants these strictures, but also that there is an ambition which is worthy and to be cherished. In essence, any ambition which centers around and terminates upon oneself is unworthy, while an ambition which has the glory of God as its center is not only legitimate but positively praiseworthy.”1
In his epistles, three of Paul’s own unusual ambitions appear, some quite incidentally:
- “To be well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18);
- “to lead a quiet life” of inner repose; (1 Timothy 2:2) and
- “to preach the gospel, not where Christ was preached” (Romans 15:20).
All of his ambitions found their center in Christ, “…that in all things He may have the pre-eminence” (Colossians 1:18). 2
Charles Spurgeon admitted, “When I decided to enter college, revolving in my mind the joys of scholarship, and the hope of being something in the world, Jeremiah 45:5 came to my heart: ‘And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.’ Then I thought of Matthew 6:33: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.’ In that moment, I gave up everything. I renounced my worldly ambitions. The finest prospects melted into thin air, merely on the strength of those two passages. I believed that God would most certainly fulfill His purpose if I could obey His command.” 3
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition” (Philippians 2:3).
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- J. Oswald Sanders, A Spiritual Clinic, A Suggestive Diagnosis and Prescription for Problems in Christian Life and Service, Moody Press, Chicago, Copyright 1958, by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, pp. 115 – 116
- Ibid, p. 119
- Tom Carter, Spurgeon’s Commentary on Great Chapters of the Bible, Published by Kregel Publications, a division of Kregel, Inc., P. O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI, 49501, Copyright 1998, p. 128