Ambition can be good or bad, depending on whether it is self-focused or God-focused. The dictionary definition: “An excessive desire for honor, power, or wealth.” Or, more neutrally: “A desire to achieve a particular end.”
We’ve all seen selfish ambition. A co-worker that only wants promotions and doesn’t care who gets in the way. An actress who wants fame through magazine covers and leading roles, and schemes to get it. A politician who sells votes to get on a ramp for higher office. Or. Or. Or.
There are many examples in the Bible. Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3, Daniel 4:30). Herod (Acts 12:21-23). Pharisees (e.g. Matthew 6:2).
Selfish ambition does NOT please God. Nebuchadnezzar was driven away for seven years to eat grass like cattle (Daniel 4:31-32). Herod was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:23). Pharisees, by seeking and getting their rewards from men, had their reward in full (and not from God).
But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them. (Jeremiah 45:5)
For Christians, believers in Christ, we are to make our ambition to please God.
We also have as our ambition … to be pleasing to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:9)
We are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)
This does not mean we cannot seek specific work, for example 1 Timothy 3:1, but our motive is key.
The Lord … will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
In whatever path we take, our ambition must be to please the Lord. And whatever God gives us, we must keep our goal to please Him.
And we know that the Lord will reward us.
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
We [Christians] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad [worthless]. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
We need to routinely examine our motives. Are we doing something for a selfish reason or to please the Lord? We should pray that the Lord will make our intentions clear to ourselves. If they are selfish, we must confess our sin.
As we go through our days, we can ask the Lord: “Does this (thought, plan, action) please You?” And then decide accordingly.
Father, please help us make pleasing You our ambition.