Ambitious for Higher Gifts

Should a Christian be ambitious? Can a Christian be ambitious? We are deeply suspicious of ambition. We link ambition with unpleasant characteristics such as selfishness, ruthlessness, egoism. Often we think it is not right to be ambitious. And yet, when we think further about it, we realise that ambition is important. I find myself uneasy, as I am sure you do, when young people at school or college show no ambition. If you were am employer you would want your new employee to show some ambition. In lots of ways we need to have hopes, dreams, aspirations, aims, goals. It is quite natural to want to get ahead in life. It encourages us to develop our gifts, to nourish our talents and to enhance our skills. Without ambition surely the world would never progress.

But what about the negative features that can so easily accompany a sense of ambition? How can we guard against these? Well, think for a moment of the Ascension. The Ascension reminds us that earth and heaven are closely linked. The Ascension of Jesus takes us literally upwards, to view, for a moment, the earth from the perspective of the Lord. The ascending Lord Jesus symbolises how his presence is now to be found everywhere, at all times and at all places.

We are to strive, we are to dream, we are to reach out to what lies ahead. Without these things the earthly kingdom will never be built. But we are to view our ambition from the standpoint of eternity. What is important in what we are trying to achieve? What will last and what will fade? What price is being paid, and by whom, for our achievements? If we view our ambition from the standpoint of eternity - which is to say, from the viewpoint of the Ascended Christ - then we will more likely to be able to move ahead in life without losing our souls. Yes, let Christian people be ambitious. But let them always strive to see their life, their career, their aspirations from the viewpoint of Christ, so that they may have perspective on what they to. This is the Ascension: Christ in our life, encouraging us, inspiring us, but always giving us the perspective of eternity and of God's love on what we hope to achieve and dream of doing. With this perspective our ambitions will always be guided by the greatest ambition of all, to grow in faith, hope and love. Without these things there is no true achievement. As St Paul tells us, ‘Be ambitious for the higher gifts’ (1 Cor. 12.31).

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