10 ways to keep talking
What makes witnessing to non-Christian family so difficult? For some of us it’s awkward family dynamics (maybe you live in a home where you just ‘don’t do God’ in conversation) for others it’s that we’ve talked a fair bit but that was in the past, in the early days and now you’ve reached some kind of stalemate.
How do you keep going in witnessing to family?
For some of us we need a two-stage approach to get conversations onto God. The first battle may be to move any conversations from trivial to ‘serious’ ie. a conversation in which ideas, values, are discussed and world-views open up. It is a whole lot more natural to move on to issues of faith and spirituality, even Christ, once a conversation gets more serious.
2. Listening well
If we are to ever gain a hearing for the gospel then we can do no better than demonstrating a genuine interest in the lives of family members. So make sure you listen well. Learn to be interested in them. That might even mean taking an interest in something you have no interest in to build common ground and strengthen a relationship. From a growing trust may well come more opportunity.
3. Asking genuine and open questions
People find it easier to open up about themselves and their own thoughts. As you ask questions you gain new insights and build trust and understanding in a relationship.
4. Easy does it
The wisdom we need in long-term relationships is to know when to speak and when to be silent. Knowing ourselves will help us to think are we being too quick, too direct, too aggressive, too confrontational in our attempts to talk of Jesus. Talk it through and pray it in with other Christians to gain a better perspective on how you’re doing.
5. Working the angles.
The more you’ve talked with family about Jesus, religion, the Bible, etc., the harder it seems to re-visit conversation directly on those issues. When you’ve been a Christian for some time it might be that a new, less direct approach will get you further. So how can we open up spiritual conversations using a less familiar path?
6. Speak personally of God’s grace in your life
Not every time or you’ll soon never be asked but why not try when asked ‘how are you?’ or ‘did you have a good summer’ including God in some way in the conversation. Eg. ‘It’s been a tough year this year. I don’t know how I would have coped without my faith’ or ‘I’m really grateful to God for a great bunch of work colleagues who make life a whole lot easier.’
7. Speak of common grace
Common grace is God’s goodness to all humanity as seen in creation (c.f. Matt. 5:45) e.g. good health, natural gifts or talents, the world God has made, etc. We can talk of our thankfulness to God in so many ways as well as in our witness to Christ’s death on our behalf.
8. Share in struggles
CS Lewis said – The Christian has a great advantage over other men, not by being less fallen than they nor less doomed to live in a fallen world, but by knowing he is a fallen man in a fallen world.
Often the very best thing we can do is acknowledge our weaknesses, inadequacies, fears and anxieties so that our non-Christian family see that we are in so many ways just like them but then talk about how the gospel and our relationship with Christ aids us in our struggles with falleness and brokenness.
9. Understate things.
One author suggests ‘try some shorter, incomplete, statements that point your family toward the gospel.’ Provoke discussion, raise questions, don’t give the ‘full’ answer, learn the art of being ‘interesting’ in comments you make.
10. Connect with gospel truth in our culture e.g. Hillsborough
Over the last couple of days the revelation that police-officers colluded to cover-up failings in the policing at the Hillsborough tragedy have led to repeated claims in our press and tv media for justice to be done. Such a story allows us to (with due sensitivity) raise questions about justice in a god-less world or an expression of confidence on our part that God will one day ‘right every wrong’.
As we look for common ground and shared values we can show that the God of the Bible stands behind such ideas.
Don’t give up on your family. Continue to pray, after all if God brought you to life in Christ why not them! Remain focused and faithful.
For more ideas and a helpful overview of the issues can I suggest Bringing the gospel home by Randy Newman.
What if Jesus had never been born…how the lives of even the irreligious have been shaped by his life
Something from Tim Keller’s new book Center Church to get you thinking:
In his history classes, C. John Sommerville used to demonstrate to students how thoroughly Christianized they were, even those who were atheistic or antireligious. He would list the values of shame-and-honor cultures (like those of pagan northern Europe before the advent of Christian missionaries) and include values like pride, a strict ethic of revenge, the instilling of fear, the supreme importance of one’s reputation and name, and loyalty to one’s tribe.
Then he would list corresponding Christian values, which had been hitherto unknown to the pagans of Europe — things like humility, forgiveness, peaceableness, and service to others, along with an equal respect for the dignity of all people made in God’s image. Many of Sommerville’s most antireligious students were surprised to learn just how deeply they had been influenced by ways of thinking and living that had grown out of biblical ideas and been passed on to them through complex social and cultural processes.
His point was that much of what is good and unqiue about Western civilization is actually “borrowed capital” from a Christian faith, even though the supernatural elements of the faith have been otherwise neglected of late in the public sphere.
I’ve just started a 3 week seminar track at City Church on relating to family. Last night we began with relationships with our parents.
Here’s the section on relating to Christian parents. I grew up in a loving home but not a Christian home in which Christ and his priorities governed our lives as children. It’s easy for me to think that growing up in a Christian home has all the advantages and should be very easy compared to others. Well that’s not necessarily so, as a number of friends at City and elsewhere have highlighted.
A. What makes it so hard?
1. Them being disappointed in us
Some Christian children have the sense, as they enter adulthood, that they have not lived up to the expectations of parents.
a) Do they feel perhaps that we have not made the most of the privileges and opportunities they did not have ( if they were first generation Christians and we grew up in a Christian home). The thought that we should be further on in our faith or more committed to Christ. Maybe they think we should be in Christian work as they are/were.
b) or perhaps they think we are taking them for granted (because we are busy, maybe busy doing Christian things) and not honouring them into adulthood
c) or perhaps they struggle with our failings and lack of wisdom. Parents can fail to remember how immaturity impacts our living. They think back to their earlier selves and suppose they wouldn’t make the mistake we are about to make (job, relationship,etc.) forgetting that wisdom is learned over a lifetime.
2. We being disappointed in them
a) Seeing sin in their lives
Maybe we think they are not living
As consistently, as radically, as faithfully as we think they should given the gospel.
Here’s one comment from a friend:
‘Another challenge can be when you see un-Godliness in your parents. As an adult you are more aware of your own sin, and many of your attitudes are often passed down. When the Spirit highlights these to you, it can be difficult when you see them in your parents too, and easy to get angry and frustrated with them. As children you don’t consider that your parents are sinful and are battling sin. As now fellow adults we must remember that as much as we still sin and are a work in progress, so are they. We have to give them as much grace in their sanctification as they have given us for 18+ years!’
3. Theological differences
Consider the following three testimonies
1. ‘When I moved church it did create a fair amount of tension with my mother. She saw me as abandoning my local church, turning my back on the things I was involved in at my ‘home’ church and moving to a church whose theology she didn’t agree with and, indeed, vehemently opposed with regards to some issues.’
2. ‘I’ve seen people bulldoze in when they ‘discover’ a different way of doing things and really insult their parents with their new-found way of doing church etc. This can also have an effect on younger siblings still at home. If their older siblings start being openly critical about your church and so on, this can be very hard to handle if you are still at home.’
3. One of the challenges can be when you take a different line on something e.g. your ecclesiology, views on baptism etc. I guess this can be particularly difficult if your parents are very sure and thought through. A change in view can understandably be taken as a verdict on your up-bringing and your parents’ current beliefs and practices. The thing is, it is in a way a judgment! There is never an easy way to disagree with your parents.
How we honour our parents in such situations is a vital part of our Christian lives. Whatever we might think of our parents’ faith, home church, etc. we are not to stand in judgment over those for whom Christ died (c.f. 1 Corinthians 8, Romans 14-15).
For some children of Christians the battle can be parents who want us to go on in our faith but they also want us to succeed in ‘worldly’ terms.
One person’s said:
Their normal desires as parents for their children (go to uni, get a good job, get married, buy a house have kids etc.) clashes with God’s desires for you. these don’t necessarily have to be different. Let me give an example, if a child express an interest and feels called to overseas mission but the parents advise, focus on getting a good job, house family and then you can go
Why would that be so?
a) Worldly Pride: They want us to be seen to be succeeding as they talk with friends and family about us
b) Human Fear: In some cases, the risks that we are willing to take ourselves are risks our parents struggle to let us face as their children, in case things don’t work out.
c) A parent’s instinctive concern: Sometimes they love us too much to let us go!
Conclusion - When it comes to Christian parents..
1. It can be pretty short-sighted, not to say ungrateful to God, if we choose to focus on what is ‘wrong’. Is it all we can do to criticise God for giving us parents, however imperfect they may be, when they have served us well and sought to raise us in the faith?
2. Christian parents are a powerful testimony to the providential grace of God.
One very helpful comment from a friend:
‘Did we choose that family? Did we pick faithful parents? The fact that God placed us there to receive the gospel is a powerful picture of his election before we were even born. 5 year olds who get converted (like me) are very clearly pursued by God, not the other way around!’
3.Christian parents are a reason to thank God
‘I often hear Christians talk about being brought up in a Christian home with a sense of embarrassment.’ It shouldn’t be so.
4. Honouring our Christian parents gives them a great opportunity to grow in their own faith
As our parents see us living out our faith before them in a humble yet godly way, knowing how and when to challenge the wisdom of parents and how and when to submit they are blessed.
One father and grand-father said:
A Christian can have a very positive effect on their parent, just by their example and can often be a release for them from their rigid ideas…I am amazed when I sit and listen to my children’s wisdom and spiritual understanding. Parents need to let go and earn the respect and love of their children.
(With special thanks to those who offered their wisdom – you know who you are!)
Skimming through a friends copy of John Lennox’s Gunning for God: Why the new atheists are missing the taget I came across this striking quote from Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists taken from an article in The Times (£) newspaper:
The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best-kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land.
In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism;purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.
What is God’s purpose in when we want to be married but have to live contented lives as single people? Justin Taylor has pulled together a bunch of resources (books,audio & video) for anyone wanting to think through issues of singleness and the Christian life.
The third installment on our series on work, stress, anxiety & the gospel. Today an opportunity to consider whether a time might come where the best way to deal with a difficult work situation is to move on. 14 useful questions to guide you;
How can I tell if I should persevere or leave my job?
Is it having a negative impact on my family that would be quickly removed by a change of job?
What is this job doing to me spiritually? No amount of job-satisfaction can possibly compensate for spiritual damage.
What is likely to happen if I do nothing about it for the next week, month, 6 months?
Is the stress leading to sin? Worry, or worse!
Is the stress leading to illness? Physical, emotional, spiritual
How is stress affecting my performance at work? Am I no-longer capable of doing this job well? Am I motivated enough?
How is stress affecting my witness at work? Is it obvious to all that I just don’t want to be here. Although there are other godly ways of staying and dealing with attitude issues it might be right to leave.
What are the alternatives before me? Eg. Resign, sign-off sick, take a different role in the same firm, etc.
Is it easily avoidable? Ie Am I the primary cause of the stress in which case how should I change the way in which I work?
Are there opportunities for witness that make it worthwhile to suffer stress? (Maybe we are all in the same situation and I can be a help to others, etc.)
What would I say to someone else if they were in my situation?
What spiritual support have you sought? Are there ways of being helped through it by the church?
What does my church-leader think?
Following on from an earlier post on work & stress here is part 2 on worry, stress & work.
What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
It’s quite normal in conversation to use the ideas of stress and anxiety interchangably as if they were either one and the same thing or necessary partners in crime but it’s important that we see that they are really very different things. Stress is a reaction of mind and body to increased pressure (Jago Wynne) and a normal experience that comes from living in a fallen world. There is nothing inherently sinful or wrong about feelings of stress and we saw that both Paul and Jesus experienced stress in the work God called them to do.
Worry is an attitude of the mind. In the context of stress we can worry before, during and after times of stress. It is an attitude and response to stress. Jago Wynne summarises it this way - When we worry, we are stressed in the present about some event that may, or may not, happen in the future.
What is the relationship between stress and anxiety?
The key reason we need to appreciate the difference is that stress at work is often unavoidable but worry about work is always avoidable. It might be helpful to think of the relationship between temptation and sin in general. Jesus was tempted but without sin. So we might be tempted to sin as we glance at an attractive person as we walk along the street but we then make a choice to turn a situation of temptation into a sinful response when we lust after that person. We might be tempted to gossip about someone when we get asked a nosey question about them but we choose to sin when we give the information being sought.
So when it comes to the relationship between stress and anxiety Jago Wynne comments;
As Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he drew a division between two groups of people. Not a division between those who faced stressful situations and those who don’t, because we all face stressful situations. The challenge is that Jesus says, when it comes to the area of worry and stress, many of us who think of ourselves as very religious and Christian actually act just like those who are not Christian.
What should we do with worry?
4 things to understand;
1. Worry is usually sinful
We really do have a choice as God’s children not to worry that must be true because Jesus commands us not to worry about some things. So in Matthew 6:25-34 he tells his disciples I tell you, do not worry about your life before going on to give at least four reasons not to worry! More on that theme at an earlier post When worry becomes a way of life.
When we worry we demonstrate what someone has called a ‘practical atheism’.
2. Worry can spiritually destroy you
If we do allow stress to turn to anxiety and worry it can be spiritually very harmful, even fatally so. When we start to obsess about our work so much so that it becomes the focus of our thinking the burden can become overwhelming and it will be a huge distraction from our key priority - our relationship with Christ.
Jesus said in Matthew 13:22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
And in Luke 21:34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.
We need to understand that not only is worry sinful but it is a danger to us.
3. Worry about the right things
Maybe it is a surprise to you to hear that Jesus’ concern is not that we shouldn’t worry but that we should worry about the right things. Only if we stop worrying about the wrong things can we choose to worry about the right things.
Growing in our godliness is about being free from wrong concerns precisely so that we can be concerned about the right things.
Paul certainly knew what that felt like. In 2 Corinthians 11:28 writes And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Paul felt under a daily pressure in his work and it led to anxiety. This sense of ‘anxiety’ flowed from reports he received about the churches he had founded such as the Corinthians themselves. His anxiety was godly and profitable in that it led him to pray and work for their salvation.
Jesus warns us all in the sermon on the mount not to worry about life (which includes our work) but to give our attention to seeking first the Kingdom of heaven. We should worry when that is not our number one priority.
4. Worry should drive us to Christ
Stressful situations such as the daily pressure of work lead us to a place where we quickly become conscious that we have run out of resources to cope. The purpose of stress, like all temptation is to drive us to Christ.
The apostle Peter urges us to Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
When stress leads to anxiety we must give those anxieties to God.
Two more posts to follow; 1) managing times of stress and 2) when should we persevere in our work & when should we leave our job?
Last Thursday we looked at our second in a series of 3 seminars on issues relating to work. Posts on the first session ‘work & ambition’ can be viewed here and here. Here is the first of three posts on coping with stress and anxiety.
Work & anxiety
What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:23
1. Stress can be defined as ‘the reaction of mind and body to increased pressure’ – Jago Wynne
2. Although it can have positive effects it is usually a negative response to pressure. It can lead to anxiety, depression, physical illness and ultimately to a feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to cope with work.
3. Stress affects pretty much everyone at some time and is now the most common cause of sick leave from work.
A. Stress and work – a brief Bible overview
1. Stress has its origins in God…
We only experience stress because we live in a world subjected to frustration by God (Romans 8:20-23). That’s why your computer crashes!
We experience stress because we now live in a world in which work in particular is affected. In Genesis 3 we remember that work now has a downside ‘Cursed is the ground because of you.’
2. Stress is exacerbated by our sin and the sin of others
The sin of others impacts our lives. Pride, selfish ambition become evident in work-place bullying, cultures of overwork, etc.
Our sin, particularly when we make work or what we derive from work our idol, means we choose to work in unhealthy, unsustainable ways and we put unfair and unrealistic pressures on ourselves.
3. Stress finds its resolution in Christ
In our culture we are given all sorts of remedies for stress. But if ’Stress originates in God’s righteous punishment, and only he is able to deal with it.’ Rodney Green
It makes sense that we should therefore look to him rather than to coping mechanisms to relieve feelings of stress. Restored to a right relationship with God through Christ we can now find rest in Christ. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28 .
4. Stress can have a God-given purpose in our lives
As Christians much stress is as a result of circumstances thrust upon us. How can we trust a sovereign God in times of stress and work?
Stress is not sinful in and of itself. It can infact be a godly reaction to circumstance. A sense of feeling overwhelmed becuase of trial, temptation, suffering, etc., is in no way wrong.
Reading Paul’s own account of stress directly as a result of the work that God gave him to do in 2 corinthians 1:8-11 and we find him describing himself as ‘under great pressure’ and ‘beyond our ability to endure’ so much so that he ‘despaired even of life’. Paul was certainly no super-hero immune from daily pressures. But through a time of trial he could testify that God had allowed him to endure so that he ‘might rely on God.’
Stress as an experience of suffering in a fallen world is common to all and God allows his people to suffer times of pressure so that we might not rely on techniques, breathing exercises, stress balls, etc. but on God himself.
The greatest encouragement for us when we go through difficult times at work is that it is Jesus himself who knew what it was to be stressed because of the work that God gave him to do (John 17:3). In the garden of Gethsemane we remember his experience of anguish (from the Greek word agonia) and we remember his response – prayer. He took his stress to God and God met him in his need. We are told that he experienced God’s grace through the ministry of an angel.
5. Stress will finally be gone!
Romans 5:2b-4 shows how suffering has the purpose of creating hope in our hearts. It works out character, perseverance and finally hope for the future. Whatever our struggles in a world of stress we do know that one day they will be gone and in the new creation work will be free from the effects of sin and judgement.
Next post: Worry, stress & work. What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
Here’s the second part of the seminar I ran last week on work & ambition. You can find part 1 here.
B. Ambition in practice
1. Putting Ambition to work:
The Bible has a lot to say, especially in books like Proverbs & Ecclesiastes to help us define and pursue a godly ambition.
‘Diligence’ – a case-study in Proverbs adapted from Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms by Daniel Estes
Proverbs 22:29 – Work hard, learn a skill and This kind of diligence will lead to distinction (Estes)
Proverbs 11:27 – Estes comments - Failure can come in two ways. On the one hand, a person can focus on the wrong things, such as power, fame, convenience, popularity, or fun. Seeking fullfilmnent by these means leads inevitably to disappointment. On the other hand, one may have the right things in view, but be unfocused on them. This approach to life leads to aimlessness. True diligence stays focused on what is crucial, and in doing that, the person who searches intently for what is good will indeed find it.
Proverbs 21:5 – Hubbard draws out the point here - The diligent person not only works hard but plans well, measuring each step in the process and then carefully implementing the strategy. The ‘hasty’ settle for an approach that is quick and dirty, sloppily planned and halfheartedly implemented.
Proverbs 10:4 – Alden notes The generalisation here is that the industrious, conscientious worker is eventually recognised by his superior and promoted, while the man who constantly watches the clock and puts forth as little effort as possible will stay in the same slot forever, if he manages to keep his job.
There are character studies too that help us learn how to apply godly ambition. So the example o f Joseph, Genesis 39:2-6, or Daniel, 1:17-21, are two examples of God rewarding hard work.
2. Ambition frustrated
As Christians we are to pursue godly ambition but living in our fallen world we have to be prepared for some of our good ambitions to fall. Why might your ambitions go unrealised?
a) Unemployment or underemployment
Waiting is often God’s reorientation program aimed at our definition of success. – Dave Harvey
b) Unfulfilled ambitions
No one gets all he ever wanted or accomplishes all she set out to do. Our ambitions are strained through the limits of opportunity, resources, or our own physical capabilities. In other words, God’s sovereignty fixes certain limits to our lives. – Dave Harvey
c) Rejection for being a Christian
Read 1 Peter 2:18-22.
Q. Which of these three issues is biggest in your own mind? How does God’s sovereignty speak into unfulfilled ambition?
Making the connection between our circumstances and God’s goodness can be the difference between delight and disillusionment. This will transform the way you think about that promotion you didn’t get, the job interview that tanked, or the sales commission of the year that somehow evaporated. The denial of ambitions isn’t ultimately a penalty or punishment. It’s the gracious work of a loving God defining the path for our walk. – Dave Harvey
3. Ambitions prioritised
If we are ambitious for God’s glory above all things that will relativise our ambitions to glorify him through our work.
As Christians we have other priorities that might come before work; family, church, etc.
Q. Given the prospect of a promotion how do you decide whether it is the right next move for you?
How else ought your ambition for God’s glory be evident in your life that might limit your ambition at work?
4. Ambition and witness
If we work for God’s glory that should be evident to those around us.
Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:1 ‘All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect,so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.’
If your father or mother, your sister and brother, if the very cat and dog in the house are not happier for your being a Christian, it is a question whether you really are – Hudson Taylor
5. Ambition put to the test
a) I work with a true humility
Selfish ambition says ‘I have to have it and it will crush me if I don’t.’ Ambition rooted in God, an ambition that flows out of a secure identity in Christ says ‘I don’t need it; I’m happy to accept it.’
b) I am more concerned for holiness even if that costs me in my career
Matters of integrity, honesty, godly humility, may mean the loss of a competitive edge but produce in me a godly contentment.
c) God’s priorities are my priorities and work finds its proper place
God, spouse, children, church, job – in that order!
d) I am just as concerned to make a success of others as myself at work
Spurgeon wrote: The best ambition is: Who shall be the servant of all.
e) A failure to succeed at work (maybe even relative to others within the church) does not lead us to despair but humble trust.
f) Godly ambition puts the building of the church at the centre of our dreams
What is the biggest challenge to you when it comes to work & ambition?
How can others in the church help you pursue a godly ambition?
What is the first thing you’d like to change about your attitude to work to bring your thinking into line with God’s design for your work?
Further thinking on ambition head for Dave Harvey’s site www.rescuingambition.com
Here are the first half of my notes on a seminar on work and ambition run at City Church last week.
Set yourself earnestly to discover what you are made to do, and then give yourself passionately to the doing of it – Martin Luther King
Be careful what you set your hear upon — for it will surely be yours – James Baldwin
Work & Ambition
Introduction: Ambition – a dirty word?
- How ambitious are you and why?
- What do you think might be the difference between a godly and an ungodly ambition?
- What worries you about being ambitious?
A. A biblical framework for ambition
In its holiest form, ambition is simply the desire to use our gifts for God’s glory – Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition
1. Ambitious by design
God is ambitious. God works for his glory. c.f. Genesis 1, Revelation 4:11
Made in his image we too were made to be ambitious. Humanity were given work to do and were to be ambitious for God’s glory in fulfilling it. C.f. Genesis 1:26-27, 2:15
God loves good ambition – Harvey
2. Ambition corrupted
The problem is not therefore ambition but distorted ambition. In two ways:
a) Wrong ambition – Work as an idol.
Q. How do you think the fall has corrupted ambition?
Q. What attitudes do we bring with us into the work place when we are working for selfish ambition?
Through the fall a right ambition centred on God’s glory is replaced by a wrong ambition centred on self. Working for God is replaced by work as a god.
Wrong ambition is recognized in the answer to this question: who’s glory (reputation & renown) are you ambitious for? With wrong ambition work becomes a God-substitute in which rather than making God’s name great we want to make our own names great.
Case study: Genesis 11:1-9.
Q. What motivates the workers in Babel?
Q. How does God view ungodly ambition?
A good ambition becomes a selfish ambition when it’s our only ambition. It’s called idolatry – Dave Harvey
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. Tim Kreider, ‘The Busy Trap’, New York Times
b) No ambition — Preferring to be idle
Read Proverbs 6:6-11
Q. What does Proverbs have to say about idleness?
3. Ambition converted
In creation we were given good, godly ambitions for work, as a result of the fall that ambition becomes distorted but in the gospel we don’t lose our ambition but see it converted back to an ambition for God and his glory.
In our work ambition is less about the job you do than the way you do your job!
a) We say ‘no’ to selfish ambition
Read James 3:13-16
Q. What is the consequence of selfish ambitions?
b) We pursue a godly ambition
We might be tempted to think that all ambition is now wrong. But there are many examples in the Bible of hard work and godly enterprise.
Read Proverbs 31:10-21
Q. How does a godly ambition feature in the work of this noble woman?
c) A godly ambition is defined as an ambition for God’s glory
Ambitions for self may be quite modest….Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. – John Stott
i) Jesus was ambitious!
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do – John 17:4
Christ’s humility did not restrain his enterprise, it defined it. – Dave Harvey
ii) Paul was ambitious
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation – Romans 15:20
iii) We are called to be ambitious
Read 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23-24,
Q. How does being a Christian change the focus of our ambitions?
In the next post: how do we pursue godly ambitions?
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