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Friday
Dec182015

Contentment and ambition; friends, not enemies

Currently, I am asking the Lord to help me grow in biblical contentment, coming to the conclusion that there is a difference between human contentment and  biblical/godly contentment.

Human contentment can at times manifest itself as being lazy, complacent, having no goals, no appropriate ambition, no hunger, no hustle. This is not my understanding of what the Bible calls contentment. Biblical contentment is being at rest mentally and emotionally with what is happening.

I’m okay with where I am and what is going on until, by His grace, things change.  At the same time I’m working hard to initiate changes I believe would honor him. I totally believe that a Christian leader can be content and ambitious at the same time; contentment and ambition are friends, not enemies. A true understanding of biblical contentment and biblical ambition is a marriage made in heaven.

In Philippians 4:11-13 the Apostle Paul says some insightful things about contentment. No one would accuse Paul of being lazy, coasting through life with no goals or aspirations to achieve things for God’s honor and glory; but, at the same time, he was content with what God was allowing. He says:

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJ)

Now admittedly he is referring mostly to material needs, but a look at his life reveals that his understanding of biblical contentment applied to any and all circumstances in which he found himself. Shipwrecked, in jail, being beaten, being misunderstood, or being criticized, he had learned how to be content with what was happening, leaning into and trusting Jesus to deal with it.

I pray regularly to be content with:

  • Who I am
  • Where I am
  • What I’m doing
  • What God is doing

In the same way that biblical contentment can be frowned upon and misunderstood, so can biblical ambition be frowned upon and misunderstood.

Sometimes leaders do have the wrong motives and are ambitious for the wrong reasons--self-glorifying reasons. However, this should not prevent us from dreaming big dreams and pursuing lofty God-led and empowered goals which honor him.

In I Timothy 3:1, biblical ambition is encouraged. In James 3:13-14 unbiblical and selfish ambition is discouraged. Not all ambition is wrong just as not all contentment is wrong. We need wisdom to know the difference.

A few years ago, I read the book Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey. He does an excellent job of building an understanding of true biblical ambition. There is also a "Book Note" on this book on this blog site

I want to learn how to be content and, at the same time, be ambitious for God and his purposes and plans. I see a solid understanding of true biblical contentment and true biblical ambition to be wonderful friends--not dangerous enemies.

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