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Redeeming Ambition, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 14, 2022 9:00 am

Redeeming Ambition, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 14, 2022 9:00 am

The word “ambition” tends to conjure up images of greedy Wall Street executives or ruthless dictators. But is there such a thing as good ambition?

Summit Life
J.D. Greear
Delight in Grace
Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
The Charlie Kirk Show
Charlie Kirk
Grace To You
John MacArthur
Love Worth Finding
Adrian Rogers

Today on Summit Life, J.D. Greer talks about biblical ambition. Christianity is neither fatalism nor is it thinking that it all depends on you. What it is is working as hard as you can, praying, never giving up on your dreams, but at the end of the day, laying it at Jesus' feet and saying, you know what, you're in control and I can trust everything with you and it's good.

It's fine to be in your hands. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor and author J.D. Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. The word ambition tends to conjure up images of greedy Wall Street executives or ruthless dictators. But is there such a thing as good ambition? Today on Summit Life, we're discovering what it looks like to have godly ambition and how these aspirations can affect our family life. It's part of our new series that we just started on relationships called Home Wreckers. If you missed the beginning of this study yesterday, you can catch up online at J.D.

Greer dot com. But right now, let's join Pastor J.D. in Philippians chapter four. The Bible in no uncertain terms tells you that selfish ambition is wrong and simple. But see, there's another kind of ambition that is good and right. 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 at that 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 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. 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 looked like and then give you some litmus tests that you can take along the way as we go through this to, 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. 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, that's, 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. 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? Philippians 4-11. 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. 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. 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, you know, 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. 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 Pulitzer Prize, that Congressional Medal of Honor, that 200,000 dollars a year salary, it's all crap compared to the worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Number two, Paul knew what he deserves. This is in 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.

Some of you are going to 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, 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. The fact that I woke up this morning anywhere else but Hell is God's grace to me. The fact that I have family, the fact that I'm breathing, the fact that I'm healthy, whatever I have, wherever you are, it is grace. Number three, Paul trusted God's control over all things. Paul trusted God's control over all things.

This is chapter four, verse six. Paul says do not be anxious about anything, anything. Ladies, does anything include your children? Yes.

Does that mean it is wrong for you to be worried about how your kids are going to turn out? Yes, it's what it means. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, not complaining, but with thanksgiving, which means that the undergirding everything that you say to God is this sense of overwhelmed thanksgiving at the grace that he's given to you, with thanksgiving, then let your requests be made known to God. Hey, can't you hear Paul? Paul is living this verse. Paul is concerned about his church. He loves them. He wants to be with them and he's saying that everything that God has told me to lay at his feet, that includes my church, that includes my children, it includes those I love, it includes my deepest dreams and desires.

I have laid them at Jesus's feet and I am now resting in what he will do with those things. Now again, Paul hadn't given up. Paul wouldn't apathetically sit there in prison just submitting to the will of God going, oh whatever, you know, I can't change anything, I'll just give up, I'll just quit caring because now I can do anything. That's called Buddhism or fatalism, it's not Christianity. Paul hadn't given up. He keeps asking boldly, he keeps praying ambitiously for those that he loved.

He'd work ambitiously for them and then he would rest in God's loving sovereignty. You see, Christianity is neither fatalism nor is it thinking that it all depends on you. What it is is working as hard as you can, praying, never giving up on your dreams but at the end of the day laying it at Jesus's feet and saying, you know what, you're in control and I can trust everything with you and it's good, it's fine to be in your hands and I'll trust your loving sovereignty. When you do that, Paul says, when I do that, he says, verse 7, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. It passes all understanding means sometimes you can't figure out how it's going to work out but you know what, Jesus can because he's all knowing and all powerful. And then he says, and those will guard your, your heart and your mind with a sense of peace and think about how real of an analogy that was for him. He's in prison with two guards and he decide. He's like, here they are to keep danger out and to keep me in.

He said, there's some guards that ought to stand on the sides of your heart and they'll keep your heart at peace and that's when you understand that there is a loving God who is doing exactly what God said that God would do and that is sovereignly working all things for his glory and for your good. Some of you have an irrational fear of the death of your spouse. Some of you have an irrational fear of your spouse leaving you. You have an irrational fear about your children.

You have an irrational fear about going bankrupt and your career falling apart and you're never going to get over those fears until you understand that there is a loving God who sovereignly holds all things and at the end of the day, after you've worked and after you've prayed, you laid it at his feet and you can trust that it is sovereignly directed in his hands. This is Summit Life with Pastor J. Greer. We'll get right back to today's teaching in just a moment, but first let me tell you about our current resource for our Summit Life listeners. This month here on the program, our aim is to deliver shareable teaching as well as a resource to help you reach out to others. So we've packaged together a set of 20 greeting cards with inspirational verses on the front and blank inside for you to use as the holidays approach or really any time throughout the year.

The goal is to give you an easy tool to encourage others with the beauty of a handwritten note. Whoever it is that you need to reach out to, be sure to reserve this box set of cards today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or visit us online at Now let's finish up our teaching for the day. Here's Pastor JD.

Number four. Paul knew that God sometimes ordains our suffering so that we can know him more and so that he can be glorified through us. This is Philippians chapter one. Paul is describing in Philippians one how his imprisonment is actually leading to the spread of the gospel. People were talking about it. People were like, you hear about Paul? Yeah, he's in prison.

What for? What are you talking about Jesus? And Paul was like, you know what, even if I imprison it, it's making the gospel go out.

And so verse 17, look at this, some preach Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. Now what comes next? Here's what comes next in JD's prayer. Come on God, why aren't they in prison? They're the ones doing it with a bad heart. I'm doing it with a right heart. I should be preaching at the conference.

They ought to be in prison. Paul says, well what then? Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and in that I'll rejoice. Here's a very serious, a very somber question for you to consider. What if what is best for the kingdom of God is not best for you personally?

Are you willing for God to do what is not best for you if it's best for his kingdom? Can you rejoice in that and say Christ is glorified and the gospel magnified so I am satisfied? You study the ministry of John the Baptist, there's another guy. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus that preceded Jesus's ministry, that dude's ministry started off with a bang.

You ever notice that? I mean that dude got popular like that. Everybody from all over Israel's following him on Twitter.

He's like the big conference speaker. He started a whole new fashion line, the whole camel hair thing. You know he was vegan before, it was cool eating, like he was eating locust, that's not vegan. But he was eating wild oats and he started all this stuff and he was popular. That's not how his ministry ended.

You ever seen this in the Bible? Ends with him in prison. Nobody's really paying him any attention anymore. He gets beheaded as he sees how his ministry is ending not with fulfillment but with failure it seems.

You ever see what he says about it? John chapter 3 verse 30, he, Jesus, must increase and I must decrease. Same thing here, Paul was decreasing but he trusted that God was doing what God said he would do and that is constantly magnify his name even if it wasn't best for Paul's personal ministry ambitions. Question, are you willing for that to happen to you?

Are you willing for that to happen to you? Biography of Charles Simeon, I read this recently. Charles Simeon, if you know anything about church history you'll recognize the name as kind of a famous pastor of a while ago. Charles Simeon later in his career wasn't super old but just you know he was getting a little older and he had a health issue that made him step down from his pulpit for eight months. During that eight months that he was taken to recuperate it was a temporary thing they had another younger pastor, an associate pastor who preached in his place named Tom Thomason. Well Thomason turned out to be an even more effective preacher with this congregation than Charles Simeon had been. So when Charles Simeon gets better after the eight months and is ready to come back into the pulpit he's now facing this issue of, of this, this younger guy is so much more effective at leading this congregation than I am.

What do you do in a situation like that? I mean I was thinking well what if that happens to me? I'm like what if, what if it becomes apparent that God has selected somebody else and somebody else is even more effective at leading the church than I am? I mean is that the time that Charles Simeon plays that card says listen pal I've been here for 30 years I've built this thing through my blood sweat and tears you can sit out and wait for me to die and then you can have it. Charles Simeon his biography says this, and now I see why I was temporarily laid aside and I bless God for it. He, talking about this younger guy, he must increase even if I must decrease.

You're willing for that to happen with you. By the way you may not be able to see it. Paul couldn't. Paul couldn't see how him sitting in prison he was writing a letter we would study 2,000 years later he didn't know that. He just knew that God was doing what God said God would do and that is sovereignly directing all things for his glory and Paul's good.

How about this one? What if God appointed your failure to bring about his glory? We all dream about bringing God glory through our success we're like oh come on God you make me rich you God you you bring me success and I will give you glory.

Nobody dreams about their failure. Oh God what I want to do is I want to be a failure for you. I want to just fail I want to fall on my face and then glorify your name. No none of us say that but Paul knew, Paul knew that even though he worked for success there were times that God appointed failure. Philippians 3 10 he said because there is a intimacy that I can know of Christ in the midst of suffering that I can't know in prosperity and there is a power I can know having gone through the cross it's called the resurrection there's a power that I can know having gone through the cross that I couldn't know if I never went through it. What if God allows you to suffer what if he allows you to fail sometimes because he wants you to know a certain kind of Jesus and he wants you to know a certain power of Jesus that you couldn't know if you didn't walk through that valley of crucifixion. You see there is a God who loves you so much that sometimes he'll ordain the hunger of your body to save your soul and we need to give up this idea.

Soapbox number three, we need to give up this idea that God's plan for everybody is always smooth road big success best life now. Oh really you're better than Jesus really he died by crucifixion. Oh you're better than John the Baptist he died in prison beheaded. You're better than Paul he died in prison beheaded. Dave Harvey says it this way, let us not accept the world's definition of success that says always abounding and increasing and has no room for he must increase even though I must decrease.

J.I. Packer one of my favorite theologians contemporary theologian says it this way, the world's idea the world's idea that everyone from childhood up should be able at all times to succeed in measurable ways and that it is a great disgrace not to hangs over the Christian community like a pall of acrid smoke. So yeah you know how to glorify God in your prosperity but the litmus test of ambition is how you face disappointment. Paul can face disappointment because his deepest desires, his identity, his quest for fulfillment and significance had been met in Christ. His life was not defined by what he did but by whose he was and he knew that God was sovereignly in control of all things working them out so he could say Philippians 4-4, rejoice in the Lord always. He's writing that from a prison.

He's not saying that from a conference. He's not writing that after having experienced his greatest year of ministry and his book sales are off the chart and everybody's trying to get him to come speak to their conference. He's writing from a prison when everybody's turned their back on him and his ministry's falling apart. He says rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. You see your discontentment, your fear, your jealousy, your strife are like, and let me use this analogy that I've used before, are like St. Augustine's, this is his analogy, those things are like the smoke from a fire that'll lead you back to the altar of your selfish ambition. Discontentment, fear, strife, jealousy, that's like smoke from a fire that will lead you back to the altar of your selfish ambition. You know what you ought to do?

You ought to let your discontentment wherever it is right now. You ought to follow the trail of that smoke and you ought to let it lead it back to you to the places that you have substituted some ambition for Christ and what can happen is God can use that to transform your selfish ambitions to godly ones because they're rooted in Christ. If you come to this church, you've heard me say before that there was a defining moment in my life a few years ago when I was praying for our church and praying that God would do something in our church that would just be unbelievable, that God would use us to reach the city, that there would be a movement of God in our church like never before. Now you guys know, I mean, this is our church, yes, but it's my job, so just like you want to succeed in your job, I want the church to succeed because that's the success of my job, right? So in the midst of praying that God would do this, it was one of those times that the Holy Spirit spoke to me, not audibly but just as clearly and the words of the Holy Spirit whispered in my heart were these, okay, what if I say yes and what if I cause there to be a movement in the city of Raleigh-Durham that is something like nobody has ever seen? What if I transform Raleigh-Durham for my glory? What if I from Raleigh-Durham send out church planters all over the world to unreached people groups all over the world? What if I do everything that you are hoping for and what if I don't use you or your church in the process?

What if it's somebody else? Are you willing to say he must increase even if I must decrease? And in my heart, I knew that the answer to that was no, I wasn't okay with that and that began a process for me, but it's still going on, I'm not through with it yet by any means, but of God tearing down this ambition that I have had for our church that is selfish ambition and begin to replace that, see, with ambitions that are for you and for the good of God's kingdom even if it doesn't involve me. It's like I think about this a lot, King Solomon, King Solomon, wisest king who ever lived. If you grew up in church, you know the Sunday school story, you've all probably heard this if you grew up in church, the Sunday school story that God appears to Solomon at the beginning of his ministry, beginning of his reign and says, Solomon, what do you want? What does Solomon say? I want to be wise and we're all impressed that he didn't ask for riches, he asked for wisdom, but what we don't notice is why he asked to be wise.

You ever see this? It's a little phrase right after the word wise. Make me wise for the purpose of this great people. I'm not asking to be wise for myself, I'm not asking that I be wise so that everybody will know that I'm the wisest king who ever lived.

I'm asking because it's going to take wisdom and insight to lead these people. And see there's a lot of times that I have prayed for wisdom and insight and vision as a pastor, but it's been about me. God make me wise, make me insightful, make me great for my sake. But when I can say no, not for my sake, make me wise, give me insight and success as a pastor, not for me, but because these people need somebody to preach the Word of God to them. And it's not about me and if you don't use me that's okay because what I want is your ambition not mine.

And if you're going to increase, even if I decrease, that's okay because my focus is your ambition because I'm satisfied in you. Can you say God make me a success, God give me this, but it's for you not for me and so if you pass me by and you do it with somewhere else, that's okay because I found what I have and what I need and what my soul's been searching for in Christ. You see for the first time in my life I've begun to be freed for godly ambitions instead of selfish ones and that's happened by grounding my soul in Christ and finding in Him what I had once found in selfish ambition. You can be free to.

You can't. It's by receiving what Christ has offered to you as a gift and by embracing that. Everything your soul searches for is in Christ. If you will and ground your soul in that, you'll be free for earth-changing, family-altering, eternity-shifting ambitions for Jesus. Have you submitted your ambitions to Christ? He can transform a willing heart into a force for His kingdom. All it takes is surrender. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian J.D.

Greer. Summit Life is entirely funded by listeners like you, so your giving really does make a difference, helping more people dive into the gospel message every day through the radio, podcast, and web. I'd like to invite you to sign up today to be a monthly gospel partner.

Gospel partners are the lifeblood of this ministry. We also welcome your one-time gift as well, and we'll say thanks with our box set of 20 inspirational greeting cards that we mentioned earlier. Call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can give online at While you're on the website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get ministry updates, information about new resources, and Pastor J's latest blog posts delivered straight to your inbox. This is a great way to stay connected with Summit Life, and it's completely free to subscribe. Sign up when you go to

I'm Molly Vinovitch. Be sure to join us next week when we're talking about turning our careers into acts of worship. I think this timely message will encourage us, so be sure to join us for the next Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-05 12:29:12 / 2022-12-05 12:39:39 / 10

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