Summary: The sermon deals with the ethical question: "Is it right or wrong for a Christian to be ambitious".
In Jesus Holy Name January 28, 2007
Text: James 3:13-4:3 Epiphany IV, Redeemer
“Ambition and High Hopes”
The Book of James 7th in the Series
One of the fun things to study in the scriptures is the biblical themes. These biblical these weave through the fabric of scripture. We are quite familiar with the theme of “grace”. God is a God of grace who gives mercy and peace to his people. There is the theme of “oneness”, “unity” and “harmony” which begins in Genesis. Husband and wife were no longer two but “one flesh”. God and mankind had harmony and peace with each other.
Even though this peace was shattered by sin god began to plan humanity’s salvation and restoration. Ultimately Jesus came and prayed… “Father may they be one as we are one.” Jesus brings sinful humanity back into peace, holiness and oneness with God through his sacrificial death.
Another familiar theme is the theme of “covenant.” God establishes a covenant….a promise… with Abraham and his descendants. The covenant meant that the people …would keep the law. When they failed, they would receive forgiveness through the blood sacrifice of an animal. Jesus said, “I have come to fulfill the law”. (Matthew 5:17) He gave himself as a “perfect Lamb of God.” The perfect sacrifice so that sins might be forgiven. He said, “take this bread…. Take this cup… it is the new covenant in my blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Two other major themes in the bible are “the way to God” and our “walk with God:. This first theme tells a person how they can have peace with God. At one point in his ministry Jesus asks the disciples: “What are the people saying about me? Who do they say that I am?” and then he asks the disciples what they believe and Peter responds: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, you have the words of eternal life.” You are the one who offers salvation and peace with God… you are the one who was to come… you have the words of eternal life.
Today’s text from the epistle of James is addressed to the Christian. This passage deals with Christian behavior, your “walk with God.” James is writing to believers, to the Christian community. He is talking about living the Christian faith.
(read the text)
Think of your office, school, your church, or shop where you work. Is there envy? Selfish ambition? If you are a supervisor a lot of your time is spent keeping peace.
Here is an ethical question for you. Is it right or wrong for the Christian to be ambitious? If you are a Christian working in the market place, seeking a promotion, is personal ambition a sinful trait the godly Christian must abandon?
I’d like to suggest this morning that the right use of ambition can reveal a God who made us in his creative and dynamic image. Ambition can be a way of honoring God and celebrating life. The key? What is your inward attitude? Inward attitude that not selfish enables ambition to be faithful to living in the image of God.
Ambition can be faithful when exercised along with the talents and abilities of others for the common good. Teamwork is the key concept and service to and with others is the norm. Ambition is good if a person uses it for the common good of everyone with whom they work. This is the same standard that Paul uses in 12th chapter of Corinthians when talking about the use of spiritual gifts. “To each one gifts have been given for the common good.
Look at Mark 9:33-35 (read)
The disciples James and John wanted to ascend to positions of power and influence in the kingdom of God, where Jesus would reign. But Jesus called all of his disciples together to tell them…. (Mark 9:42,44)
As a Christian in the business world you need to have a servant’s heart. You have to blend ambition and servanthood. It is difficult to be a leader and maintain a servant attitude. Because leaders are often in positions where they can be served, rather than serve and there can be a spiritual conflict between the drive to achieve and the gospel call to serve.
I think this is what Jesus was saying …”If you want to be ambitious and excel as my followers, you must be prepared not only to serve, but to suffer.” You see, ambition’s true purpose is not to achieve or own ends….. that would be selfishness…. Selfishness is always a result of sin, opposition to God’s plan for the world.
The ambitious Christian realizes that positions of power and influence are not to be sought after for glamour and glory, rather ambitious Christians will find that God often places Christians in these positions so they can be a witness. They can be servants…. They can be salt… The ambitious Christian strives after the example of Christ whose ambition was to serve, who in serving, suffered, who in suffering was exalted.