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Redeeming Ambition

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 13, 2022 9:00 am

Redeeming Ambition

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 13, 2022 9:00 am

In a brand new series called Home Wreckers, we’re taking an in-depth look at the pitfalls that corrode our relationships and destroy our homes.

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J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life, Pastor J.D. Greer talks about the benefits and hazards of ambition. To desire success, to desire marriage and children, those are good, God-given desires. But it is, listen, it is how we respond when our ambitions are disappointed that reveals whether they were godly or selfish ones. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author and theologian J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You're joining us at the very beginning of a teaching series that Pastor J.D. preached quite a few years ago called Home Wreckers. It's an in-depth look at ways to avoid many of the dangers and pitfalls that often corrode our relationships and destroy our homes.

But don't let the title fool you. We'll be covering so much more than just marital issues. So let's hit the ground running and be sure to stick around to the end of today's program and learn more about our latest resource.

You can check it out at For now, let's jump right in and join Pastor J.D. as he begins a message in Philippians that he titled Redeeming Ambition.

I'm going to start this series in a very unusual place. That is, I'm going to talk for a couple of weeks about how God's Word teaches you that you should think about your work place. And we're going to do that today from the book of Philippians.

So if you got your Bible, I want you to open it to Philippians. Now, some of you would ask this question. You say, well, if the series is about home wreckers, why are we going to talk about our jobs? Good question. Here's why. Because for many of you, especially some of you men, your home life is out of whack because your job life is out of whack.

Right? I mean, think about it. Think about it. What is the source of most of the stress that you end up bringing into your home? Work. You're dissatisfied in your job. You hate your boss. Money is tight. You're under a lot of pressure.

And so you take that out on your family. And for many of you, if you could ever get your job life right, then a lot of issues at home would just end up resolving themselves. The majority of your adult life is spent at work. And I just want to acknowledge to you, I think the church has done a patently bad job at teaching you what it means to follow Jesus in the workplace. Sometimes we talk about working for God as if it's like 45 minutes that you volunteer at your church on the weekend.

And hear me. I want you to volunteer at your church on the weekend. It's just that I know that for many of you, your primary ministry is not volunteering for 45 minutes here on the weekend. Your primary ministry is happening in the place where you spend 50, 60 hours a week.

And that is in the workplace. I've often pointed out to you that how many miracles are there in the book of Acts? 40. That's right. There's 40 miracles. There's like one person that said it.

That's right. 40 miracles in the book of Acts. How many of them happen outside of the workplace? 37 of them.

37 of them. So question, where does the power of God most want to manifest itself? Is it here? Is it right here through my preaching?

Well, I mean, I hope a little bit, but only about 3 40ths of it. 37 40ths of it wants to happen through you in the workplace. So we want to see you learn how to take the kingdom of God, how to take the power of God out of this place into the workplace, and that's what I want to try to teach you a little bit about in the next couple of weeks. Here is specifically the subject for today, and that is the role of ambition in your life. Ambition is often what drives us in our work. Now, ambition on the surface has gotten a pretty bad rap, isn't it? When you say that somebody is a really ambitious person, that usually has a fairly negative connotation.

We usually think of Michael Douglas in Wall Street. Greedy, proud, cutthroat, overly competitive. And so let me be really clear, all right? The Bible in no uncertain terms tells you that selfish ambition is wrong and sinful. James chapter 3 verse 13 tells you that selfish ambition is the source of all kinds of bad sins in your life. Bitterness, jealousy, exploitation, constant dissatisfaction, and that over-competitive nature that some of you live with that just makes you really annoying to be around.

Can I get an amen from some wives out there, all right? That overly competitive nature, that means you're always competing. So Jeremiah 45, 5 tells you, do you then seek great things for yourself?

Seek them not. But see, there's another kind of ambition that is good and right. It was ambition that led David to expand the borders of Israel. It was ambition that led Solomon to build the temple.

It was ambition that led Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It was ambition that led Paul to extreme measures to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Paul even said this, Romans 15 26, I have made it my ambition to take Christ where he's never been named.

And I'm going to work harder than anybody works at their job. The gospel writers say about Jesus that he was more ambitious than anybody who ever lived. John chapter 2 verse 17 says about Jesus, zeal for God's house had eaten him up. You can translate that word zeal as ambition.

Ambition for the house of God had eaten him up, right? Yes, selfish ambition has caused greedy executives to exploit the poor and ruin our economy. Selfish ambition has driven some dictators to drive nations into war. Selfish ambition has made some men and women destroy their families and neglect their children. But in our reaction to that, we don't need to get rid of all ambition. We need to redeem ambition.

We need to rescue it. We live in a world that is desperately in need of people who should be ambitious for the right things and for the right reasons. So let me be real clear. The goal of this sermon is that you become more ambitious, not less. That ambition that some of you have burning in your heart that has made you such, what Paul is showing you about himself is pretty remarkable here. Paul is genuinely disappointed but he hasn't grown bitter and he hasn't given up on his dreams. He is a man that is disappointed in his ambitions but he has not given up on his dreams. He faces disappointment without disillusionment.

He is genuinely sad at his losses but he is not in despair. He is hungry for more yet happy with less. We say there are 1.7 million people in Raleigh and we want every one of them to have a chance to hear the gospel and to see it up close before they die. That is ambitious and God has told us to be ambitious for those things. So Paul displays the good kind of ambition in the book of Philippians, the good kind of ambitions, and I want to show you, try to show you what his ambition looks like and then give you some litmus tests that you can take along the way as we go through this so you can test yourself to see whether or not your ambition is the good kind or the bad kind. All right, background of the book of Philippians. Background of the book of Philippians, things are not going that well for Paul. Paul's career has taken a pretty substantial turn for the worse at not a really good time in his career. He's later on in his career as an apostle and by this time things really ought to have settled out.

This is when you ought to start enjoying the fruits of your labor. But Paul, when he's writing the book of Philippians, is in prison. People are telling lies about him. Other people have taken credit for his work and then trashed his reputation. I mean, have you ever had that happen?

I mean, it's bad enough when somebody takes credit for your work but then when they trash you in the process, have you ever had that happen to you? That's what is happening to Paul. Somebody has taken credit for what he did and then is tearing him down to the people that he spent so much time with. And in Philippians, he's unable now to be with those people that he loves.

This Philippian church is in a lot of danger because there are people who are trying to corrupt the doctrine that Paul taught them and they are literally being persecuted. And like anybody who has children, he wants to be with those that he loves and he can't because he's shut up in prison. Have you ever had that situation where somebody you love was in danger and you wanted to protect them, you wanted to provide for them but you just couldn't for whatever reason? I remember the first year that I was married, I was speaking at a youth camp down in Florida. And at 1.30 in the morning, my cell phone rings and my wife, before we have kids obviously, she's at home by herself and she is convinced that somebody's in the house. This is not just like I got spooked but I think I hear somebody walking around downstairs. Now I am two hours from the nearest airport.

There's no possible way that I can get there. That feeling of hopelessness, like I want to protect her. My new wife, I want to protect her but I can't. That's how Paul feels about this church right now. His ambitions are good ones. He wants to protect them. He wants to help them but he just can't and the dangers that they're facing are no less real than what my wife thought that she was facing.

Turns out it was nothing or at least the person left. I don't know because you know nothing ever came of it but the whole point I'm making you is that Paul is in some pretty discouraging circumstances. His ministry is not surging, it's lagging. His ambitions, which he thought were good ones, are being unfulfilled. That's when most of us grow discontented right there, isn't it?

When our ambitions are being unfulfilled and a lot of things are not turning out like we hoped they would or like we expected that they would. And so you think, well by now I ought to be in this leadership position. By now my career ought to be here. By now I should have been making this much money. At this age I should have been married. At this age I should have kids. I should have traveled here.

I should have accomplished that. And listen, those are not wrong desires. In fact, many of those desires show that you're growing spiritually, to desire leadership positions, to desire success, to desire marriage and children. Those are good God-given desires. But it is, listen, it is how we respond when our ambitions are disappointed that reveals whether they were godly or selfish ones. We'll return to our teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to take a moment to personally invite you to become a monthly giving partner of Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. The gospel is the welcoming message of the power of God. And not just once, but always every single day. God isn't just something that we add into our week, like the cherry on top of an already good life. He is our life. God wants to partner with us and lead and direct us through the power of his gospel message. We take this seriously and invite listeners to partner with us financially with a regular monthly gift.

It's not that we're worried about money. We know that God will provide, but we want to give you the opportunity to join with us in our mission to use the resources that God has given you to bring the gospel to your community as well as to the nations. Give us a call at 866-335-5220 or sign up to be a monthly gospel partner at Take a look at Philippians chapter 4 verse 11. Paul says, I have learned, I have learned in whatever situation, whatever means in prosperity or in prison, in whatever situation I am to be content.

Verse 12, I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. When you abound is when you land the contract. It's when you get the raise. It's when you're engaged. It's when you're pregnant.

Brought low is when you face failure. You get overlooked for the promotion. You're still single and all your friends have gotten married.

You still don't have grandkids. You're knocking on the door of your dreams and it just won't open and your knuckles are bloody from having knocks for so hard and so long and you're looking at heaven saying, God, why? Why? What did I do wrong?

How come this door hasn't opened for me? Verse 12, in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I love that phrase, I have learned.

You want to know why? Because I tend to think Paul was like something different that he just kind of got this stuff thrown in when he got saved. Like he just came out content. You know, and you think, wouldn't it be awesome if that's how we fix like discontentment in our lives? It's like an email attachment. You just point, click and apply and it comes in and it fixes everything in your computer. Like those little Microsoft updates they sent out like every other day to fix the bugs in your computer. Bill Gates made a statement that if the car industry had kept up with the computer industry that we would all be driving cars that went safely 150 miles an hour and got 200 miles to the gallon.

And one of the car executives said, well yeah, but who wants to drive a car that crashes every 45 minutes? Which I thought was helpful to make. But wouldn't it be awesome if that's how you fixed the discontentment bug in your life is you just, the Holy Ghost just dropped off a little update package that updated your spiritual life and bam, you're content.

That would be awesome, but that's just not how it works. Not for you, not for me, not for Paul. Paul said, I have learned this.

I learned it. And then he says it was a secret. He not only tells us just to be content. He didn't just tell us what to do.

Like be content, get on with it. He says, there's a secret to this. And then he gives us a verse that is the most misquoted verse in all the New Testament. Verse 13, I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Basketball players quote this verse before they take a foul shot.

You go through your routine, you spin the ball backwards, you kind of do all things and you shoot your shot. Paul is not talking about foul shots here. Paul is talking about the ability to be content in all things. Scholars say that that word that's translated through, through him, really ought to be translated in him. He's saying, I have found in Christ both the resources to succeed and the resources to have my dreams disappointed. What Paul is showing you about himself is pretty remarkable here. Paul is disappointed, genuinely disappointed, but he hasn't grown bitter and he hasn't given up on his dreams. He is a man that is disappointed in his ambitions but he has not given up on his dreams. He faces disappointment without disillusionment. He is genuinely sad at his losses but he is not in despair.

He is hungry for more yet happy with less. He wanted to preach to large audiences but he was content to sit in prison. He's not sitting there in prison angrily brooding over the question. God, by now I was supposed to be here.

God, what's wrong with me? God, what's wrong with you? He's not doing that. Paul is not taking it out on those around him either.

Isn't that what we do a lot? A lot of us are disappointed at work and so we take it out on our families trying to get them to fill in that gap in our heart that's been left by the disappointment we faced in our careers. You're going to see in the book of Philippians that the Philippians had, they let Paul down in some ways and Paul is not writing them from prison going, seriously guys, seriously, after all that I've been through for you, this is how you repay me, this is how you respond. No, he's overflowing with grace and forgiveness to them.

He's not taking it out on them. It is how we respond when our ambitions are disappointed that reveals whether they are godly or selfish ones. How do you handle it when you don't make the million dollars? And even more than that, you don't even, you can't even hardly make ends meet this year.

When you're not married, when you don't have kids, when you didn't get into the program, how do you respond? You get mad at God, you give up on your dream, you despair about yourself, you take it out on others. Paul could face disappointment with contentment because his ambitions were godly ones and they were godly ones because they were rooted in Christ. So here's the question, what does it mean to have your ambitions rooted in Christ? In Christ is one of those phrases that, to be honest, to a lot of you sounds like spiritual mumbo jumbo, doesn't it? I'm in Christ. What does that mean? I don't know, but I'm in him.

Really? I mean, you wake up at four o'clock in the morning strumming Chris Tomlin tunes on the harp you have beside your bed, that's in Christ. I don't know what it means. I'm going to show you four things that Paul meant by in Christ from the book of Philippians. These are not what JD thinks it means to be in Christ. These are what Paul is explaining to you in Philippians that he means by that phrase, in Christ.

Okay, here we go. Number one, Paul had found his approval in Christ. Paul had now found his approval in Christ. This is in chapter three, beginning about verse five. Paul starts going through a list of his accomplishments.

It would be kind of like his resume or his CV for those of you in the academic world. And it's pretty impressive by anybody's standard, especially for somebody in that day. Paul's like, you know, I came from the right family. I went to the right school. I had the top job in the country, most sought after job.

I was a rising star in that job and I was famous. And then he says this, verse eight, and I count everything, everything that you would have drooled for, everything you've worked for, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. I count them as rubbish that I might gain Christ. That word rubbish, by the way, scholars tell us is a really interesting word. It's the Greek word scubala. Say the word scubala. Say scubala. You just cussed in Greek. Scubala is a word that, and this, this is not gratuitous crassness, okay. Scubala is a word that is very rough and it really ought to be translated something like crap. I actually probably translated something else but I don't feel comfortable saying that.

All right. Paul says those Harvard degrees, that Pulitzer Prize, that Congressional Medal of Honor, that $200,000 a year salary, that national championship, it's all crap compared to the worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Jesus gives my soul more fulfillment and more significance than I could have found in anything I obtained. Some of you men are driven to work at the expense of your families because you're trying to find a satisfaction and an approval in your work. So you're working, working, working and chasing, chasing, chasing and you're trying to prove yourself what you need.

That satisfaction and identity your soul craves is not found by achieving, achieving a certain position or making a certain salary. It's given as a gift in Christ. Number two, Paul knew what he deserved. Paul knew what he deserved. This is in chapter two.

I'll summarize there halfway through chapter two. Paul says, I now view myself and what is happening to me, I view it through the lens of what I deserve. You see, another secret of contentment and unfulfilled ambitions is understanding what you deserve because the heart of discontentment is not getting what we think we deserve. When you complain, when you complain, which for some of you is eight or nine times a day, eight or nine times an hour for some of you, when you complain what is going on as you were saying in your heart, I deserve better than I have right now. I deserve better than I have right now and I'm not getting so I'm gonna complain about it.

Some of you are gonna think this is over the top, but it's not. What does the Gospel teach you about what you deserve? According to the Gospel, what do you deserve?

It starts with H rhymes with L. Hell. And when you understand that what you and I really deserve is that, that it changes our attitude to everything that we actually have in life. I'm trying to teach this to my kids right now and I know some of you gonna think this is over the top, but I really want them to learn this. I had this conversation with my five-year-old yesterday. You could ask her, my five-year-old, Ally. Ally, you're complaining again. What does complaining show that you think you deserve? Ally, better things than I have. Ally, what do you really deserve? Hell. So what does what you have now equal?

Grace. You might think that is over the top, but that is exactly how the Bible teaches you to see your life. The Puritan Thomas Watson said it this way, if we have not what we desire, well, we have more than we deserve. You think you don't have what you deserve. You're right.

And you can thank God for that. And when you realize that, all of a sudden, you find it remarkably easier to be content. There's kind of a Disney-ish, Oprah-ized version of content, soapbox number two, all right, that gets passed off a lot of times as the secret of contentment. So let me just deal with it real quick. It basically goes like this.

I'll give you the Christian version of it. So here you are, you're in your job, and you're not satisfied because you can't drive the cars your friends drive, and you don't live where they live, and you're just dissatisfied, and you think, God, how come you haven't given me more, and then you go on a mission trip. And you go on the mission trip, and when you get overseas, you start to see people who really live without anything. And you're talking with some of these little kids, and they're like, whoa, you got food in your cabinet?

You got like extra food that you can't up, and you put it, you know, and you've got one of those little grindy things that grinds up food you don't eat. Are you serious? You got a whole house just for your car called a garage?

We have like 19 people that live in one room in our house. Seriously? Then you go to a leper colony, and you see people who are in real deprivation, and you're like, oh, my life is not so bad after all. And you come back, and you're just content with what you have because you've seen how some other people live, right? I guess there is a little truth in that, but here's the problem with that. It always wears off like that.

Two weeks tops. That's the mission trip buzz. And you come back, and then you're bitter again because you're not driving as nice a car as a friend you have as. The Bible never ever tells you to gain contentment by comparing your situation with somebody else's. It tells you to gain contentment by comparing your situation with what you deserve. God's grace supplies us with an important perspective shift.

It's all because of Him. You're listening to JD Greer and Summit Life. JD, this new teaching series includes some topics that I not only need to hear, but that I'm looking forward to passing along to other people that I know needed as well. Tell us about Home Wreckers. Now, what we're trying to do is take a look at the things that corrode our relationships and destroy our homes. I mean, sadly, Molly, I'll say this.

I know you well enough that this is probably true of you too. It's in our families where sin and selfishness become the clearest and where we have the capacity to do a lot of damage, ironically, to the people that we love the most. The Bible offers us hope in this, and it shows us how our marriages and our families, whether we're single or in a large family, that we really can experience the beauty of Christ in our homes. Our homes can be laboratories that help us love Jesus better and help us make the people that we love love Jesus better. So this month, we want to equip you to care well for people in your life. It's a pack of really encouraging greeting cards.

Thanksgiving is a great time to reach out to somebody, reconnect with somebody, and maybe even indicate to them what's going on in your life. Maybe invite them to listen to this radio show or podcast and talk about maybe other things that have really benefited you. So maybe right now you're listening and you're like, I know exactly who this is. Yeah, listen, it's an honor to be a part of your life and to help that. So take a look at Thank you, JD. We'd love to send you this box set of 20 cards when you donate to support this ministry or when you become a monthly gospel partner. Give by calling 866-335-5220 or give online at I'm Molly Vidovitch. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you right here tomorrow as Pastor JD concludes today's message Friday on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-06 09:56:41 / 2022-12-06 10:07:10 / 10

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