Christine Caine - Re-Vision: A Heavenly Perspective - Part 2
Thanks for joining me today on "Equip and Empower". I'm so excited to partner with TBN to share today's message with you. We're going to talk about something that may surprise you, and that's the topic of ambition. It's a word that often gets a bad rap, but what if there was an ambition that wasn't only helpful, but godly. An ambition that would help you fight the good fight of faith, finish the race and keep your faith. Stay tuned for a message that's going to challenge your perspective and increase your faith.
Hey everyone I am so grateful that you've joined me today. I believe that God has a word in season, on time, right for your life. You know, I will never forget the day that Darren, my husband's best friend, invited Nick to join him to participate in the cape epic mountain bike race. Now Nick had no idea what this race entailed and he had never even ridden a mountain bike. But he'd just turned 50, and Darren who used to be a professional cyclist and was in the Australian Olympic team, had managed to win the cape epic lottery and that gave him two places in the race. So he thought it would be a great birthday gift for Nick and a great idea to raise money for A21, if they participated in the cape epic.
Now I want you to know what we were unaware of is the fact that the cape epic is the premier professional mountain bike race in the world. Now it entails riding 500 miles in eight days with 60.000 feet of elevation. And I want to stress that this is the premier professional mountain bike race in the world. My husband Nick at this time had never even been on a mountain bike, nor was he a professional cyclist, just in case you're wondering. I want you to know that people die doing this race. It is a legit race. And to say that Nick had undertaken an ambitious project is the understatement of the century. Now, what I can say is that Nick has surprised me. He undertook a training program that I never thought he would do, especially with all the travel that we do. And the first year he was medically eliminated in the race because of dehydration. So he did four of the eight days and then they said to him, "You can't ride any more" because he dehydrated so much.
So he came home for another year of intense training. So the second year he went to South Africa, he landed, ready to start the race. It was the day before the race, but then it was canceled because of the coronavirus. So he came home and then he's trained for another year only to learn that the race was postponed because of the coronavirus again. So he'll be competing next year because he is determined to fulfill his ambition of finishing the cape epic. So ambition is a powerful force. I think we all know that. It's that grit and the salt that makes us dissatisfied with the ordinary. And it dares us to dream that more is possible than we could see right here and now. Ambition in its pure form, it's great because it provides us with the motivation and the determination needed to achieve our goals in life.
Things get done on the planet because somebody had ambition. It helps us make political and scientific and medical, environmental, economic, social, technological breakthroughs. It helps to make Olympic champions. It helps to abolish injustice. It helps to advance humanity. It helps to propagate the Gospel. It helps to build great businesses. It helps to build great churches. It helps to build great families. It helps us to have great relationships. It's going to enable us to fulfill the great commission. Ambition helps to keep us disciplined. It keeps us focused. It keeps us committed. It helps us to make right choices and avoid poor choices to have no ambition is simply to accept what life brings our way. To think that we cannot change anything. To believe that this is all there is with no possibility of improvement or change.
Our lack of ambition can lead to laziness, to purposelessness and ultimately to hopelessness. So pure and undefiled ambition is necessary to get out of bed and to actually be fruitful on this planet for the glory of God. Now I've got two daughters. One is about to go to college and we have spent the past year talking about the future, talking about colleges, talking about courses about Catherine's goals and dreams and her hopes for the future. I want her to have godly ambition. I want her to know that God can and will use her to do what he has purposed for her to do and to be who he has purposed her to be. I want her to know that it is to her father's great glory, that she bears much fruit. So you don't bear much fruit by accident. You bear fruit by being intentional. Dare I say, by having an ambition to bear fruit.
Now I hope and pray that the next generation has great ambition for the glory of God. I want people to thrive and flourish in life. I believe that in Christ, we have access to the life and life more abundant. When it comes to my own children, I encourage them to dream big dreams, to make right choices, to choose great friends, to do their homework. I want them to know that they are created on purpose for a purpose. I want them to have an, I don't want them to have an aimless or a purposeless approach to life. I have repeatedly told them that they are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. They know they cannot be saved by good works. They can only be saved by grace through faith in Christ, but there is a for to their existence. We've all been saved by grace, for good works that God has prepared for us. And if we are to fulfill those good works, we must have a degree of ambition and intentionality to do that. It does not happen by default but by design.
Now I think that very often, we in the church have equated having humility with having no ambition. And because of that, so many people have not stepped into their God-given purpose. To show any degree of ambition or goals or dreams in some streams of the church has been considered as being prideful. Now I know in the town where I was raised, if you said you wanted to go to college and make something of your life, people would say, "Who do you think you are? You think too highly of yourself. What makes think you're better than us? What makes anyone think that you're better than us"? There was the inference that if you had any ambition to get ahead, to make something out of your life, to do something with your life, then you were proud or arrogant. In some Christian circles, having no ambition is actually celebrated. Often a religious spirit tends to quench any kind of ambition or bold audacious aspirations.
Now I'm grateful in 1989 that I learned what it was to have great godly ambition and purpose. I would never have stepped out without it. I would have been someone that settled with the Status Quo and never believed that I could make any difference on the earth. There would be no A21 today if I didn't have godly ambition. There would be no propel women today, if I had no godly ambition. I would not have written any books today, if I didn't have any godly ambition. I would not have had this TV program today or podcast, or be able to help and serve all the people we are helping and serving around the earth. See God has given us gifts and talents. And I believe he expects us to use them. There is nothing God glorifying about living a life less than that for which we are created. Just quietly sitting back waiting for the rapture does not quote glorify God. Settling for less than his best is insulting to our Creator. If God is glorified by us bearing much fruit, why would we not want to do that?
So I'm often inspired by the life of the apostle Paul. We read in scripture that Paul had the kind of ambition that we could refer to as godly ambition. In Romans chapter 15:20 he writes, "It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where the Christ was not known so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation". In I Thessalonians 4:11, he writes, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands just as we told you". In ii Corinthians 5:9 he writes, "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether it be at home or absent to be pleasing to him". So we see that three times, Paul uses this word ambition. And every time it is for the purpose of pleasing God and fulfilling God's purpose. It's not about pursuing personal goals, but fulfilling divine purpose.
Godly ambition is to discover God's purpose for our lives and living in order to please him as Christians. This is the kind of ambition we all need to have. God made us and has a purpose for us. And our ambition should be to see that purpose outworked on the earth. But scripture also warns us against a different type of ambition. The kind of ambition that surrounds us in our culture. The type of ambition that is so focused and is often celebrated and applauded, encouraged, and promoted in our society. But it can ultimately lead to our destruction. In the book of Philippians 2:3-6, Paul writes "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made into human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross".
In this passage, Paul writes "Do nothing out of selfish ambition". Now I've been talking a lot about godly ambition, but he, Paul warns us that the enemy to godly ambition is selfish ambition, which begs the question. What on earth is selfish ambition? How do we know if we have crossed the line from a healthy, godly ambition to an unhealthy selfish ambition? It's a very important question because we know that Jesus never had selfish ambition. And since we want to be like Jesus, we too don't want to have selfish ambition. So how do we know? And maybe here are some things to consider when checking our motives that can help us to know if we're doing something out of a place of godly or selfish ambition.
Now selfish ambition is an ugly selfish promotion that is willing to step on others to exalt yourself. It will lie. It will cheat to others to advance yourself. It will use others to advance and promote yourself. It will disclose private information to advance yourself. It will sell human beings to become rich. It will indulge in gossip and slander so that you can move ahead. It will delight in someone else's failures to advance yourself. It will kick someone when they're down to advance yourself, it will trade loyalty, friendship, and integrity to advance yourself. It will sacrifice health and wellbeing to be the biggest and the best. It will sacrifice marriage and family in order to chase the next deal. It will compromise ministry integrity to exaggerate numbers, influence. It will compromise business ethics to make the deal. We live in a world that loves status and celebrity and ambition and power and prestige and wealth. And so often we are willing to compromise in order to obtain these things.
Now, the pursuit of these things is born from a place of selfish ambition. And it's antithetical to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, compromising your integrity to gain status, never leads to ultimate peace or joy. Scripture reminds us that selfish ambition never has a great outcome. In James 3:16 we read "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice". I don't know how much more plainly God could state it through the pen of James. Disorder and every evil practice. That's pretty comprehensive and it helps us to understand why there is so much confusion and disorder in our world today. Selfish ambition never bears good fruit. In fact, it's listed as an act of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21. It says "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious". I love what he says, are obvious, "Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage. Here it is selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy: drunkenness, orgies, and the like".
We live in a world that celebrates selfish ambition and it encourages us to pursue selfish ambition. But scripture teaches us that this is part of our sinful nature and is something that we must put to death before it puts us to death. Selfish ambition can be seen as the root of so much evil in our world today. Wars happen because of selfish ambition. Injustice happens because of selfish ambition. Dictators rule because of selfish ambition. Corporations use trafficked labor because of selfish ambition. Marriages end because of selfish ambition. Churches split because of selfish ambition. Relationships are ruined because of selfish ambition. Selfish ambition is essentially about pride, about power, about money, about wealth, about control, about influence. It wants to be prominent and it lives to glorify self. It's when we is sacrificed on the altar of me. It's often difficult to recognize selfish ambition in our world because we're saturated by the cult of self aren't we?
We live in a narcissistic society, where we are preoccupied with self man. I looked up all of the things that come under self in the dictionary. And I was amazed. I mean, here's just a few of them. We can be self-indulgent. We want self-realization. We like to think of ourselves as self-made. We could be self-serving. We are self-important. We want to be self-sufficient. We tend to be self-absorbed. We want to be constantly improve our self-esteem. We sign up for self-enrichment courses. We long to be self-assured. We tend to be self-obsessed. We could even be self-infatuated. We tend to be self-seeking. We're obsessed with self-improvement. We tend to be self-centered. We are self-willed. Most of us are self-righteous. We walk around self-conscious. And man I could go on and on and on. I think we have such an obsession with self because deep down our greatest fear is that we really don't matter and that we're not important and we all want to matter. And we all want to feel important. Nobody wants to be ignored. This is not a bad thing. It's a need that we all have. But when we do things out of selfish ambition, in order to be seen and to be known, it will leave us empty and always hungry for more.
Selfish ambition, never delivers what it promises. Ultimately, if we do not get our value, our worth, our significance, our security, our approval from God, we will try to get it from man, from position, from titles or from things. We tend to tip over into selfish ambition when God is no longer filling the void on the inside of us, we have a need to feed that insatiable appetite that rages within each and every one of us. And we want to let the world know somehow I matter, that we matter, that we exist. And if we think we are unimportant or marginal or on the peripheral, we want to put ourselves in the center. If we think we are small, we act big. We must know who we are in Christ, or we are always going to default to selfish ambition. It's just part of human nature. When you know who you are like Jesus, then you don't have nothing to prove. You simply outwork what he has already worked within you. You live to please him and him alone. You shift into godly ambition and then your goal becomes fruitfulness for the glory of God.
You know in, I think April of 1991, I remember reading an article in vanity fair by lynn hirschberg and it was called "The misfit". Now it was a profile on Madonna. And it stuck with me. And you know we're nearly 30 years later because it was so telling. In the interview, Madonna said, "I have an iron will. And all of my will has been to conquer some horrible feeling of inadequacy. I'm always struggling with that fear. I push past one spell of it. And I discover myself as a special human being. And then I get to another stage and I think I am mediocre and uninteresting. And I find a way to get myself out of it again. My drive in life is the horrible fear of being mediocre. That's always been pushing me, even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove I am somebody. My struggle has never ended. And it probably never will". That's a verbatim quote from vanity fair. I so appreciated Madonna's transparency because I think if we were honest, that same fear it lurks deep down in all of us.
I think that articulates the struggle of many. It's not just something that plagued Madonna. If we do not know that God accepts us right where we are nowhere will ever be enough. We will always be looking to do, to be, to have more so that God will love us more. And yet it was while we were still sinners, that Christ died for us. I want to remind someone today that Jesus Christ could never love you any more than he does right now. If we do not understand this, we will always be striving for more, in a very unhealthy way. We look for our value in a blue check Mark on a social media profile or a bank account, or a position or a title or in numbers, or in followers on likes. It's a never ending treadmill. It's taking us nowhere. It's sapping us of all of our strength. The source of our strength is no longer Christ or his purpose, but it becomes our own fleeting, selfish ambition.
One of the most powerful things we can discover in life is that we are accepted, scripture says, in the beloved, that we are loved by God as we are, Ephesians 1:6 says, "To the praise of the glory of his grace by which he made us accepted in the beloved". If you could allow that truth to get into the very marrow of your bones today, it would literally change your life. From the time our girls were little, we would tell them always Catherine and Sophia, there is nothing that you could do that will make mommy and daddy love you more. And there is nothing that you can do that will ever make mommy or daddy love you less. We want our girls to know that we love them because they are our daughters. That they don't have to earn my love or their dad's love. They simply have our unconditional love.
In the same way God wants us to know that we are his children and he loves us because he created us. We don't have to earn, we don't have to deserve. We have it because he's a good, loving, and just and gracious father. So much of the striving leaves when we rest in the love of God. When we realize that he is the source of our completion. When we don't have to make it happen. He started this great work of salvation, Philippians 1:6 says, "In us and he will finish it". When we meet with God, the main point of his evaluation will not be, how much did you accomplish for me or for yourself, but how well did you love? Let's ensure that we have godly and not selfish ambition so that we can live a life that is pleasing to God.
I love Paul's words to Timothy in ii Timothy 4:6-8. He writes "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering. And the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race and I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day. And not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing". Like Paul, let our ambitions be attached to the things that enable us to fight the good fight of faith to finish the race of faith and to keep the good faith. Our eternal rewards far outweigh any temporal accolades that we may receive on this earth. Let's not compromise godly standards for temporal accolades. Let's not waste our life pursuing selfish ambition, but let's live our one and only life for the glory of our great God who is worthy of our all. Let's determine to not settle for a naturally productive life, but a godly fruitful life that will bring our God great glory in Jesus' name.