Selfish ambitions have no place in the life of any would-be disciple. In the world, people live for self.
There are two types of people in the world - those with great worldly ambitions who because of their ambitions accomplish great things for themselves or for the world, and those who because of their lack of ambition accomplish nothing for themselves.
There are three possible classes of believers:
- Those who are bound by self and want to accomplish great things for themselves. The Bible prohibits this by saying, “And do you seek great things for yourselves? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5).
- Those who seek nothing great. They are content with no accomplishment.
- Those who seek great things for the Lord and His Church.
The Lord is looking for people who will seek great things for Him. This is spiritual ambition. The Lord had spiritual ambition. The words “I MUST” characterized His whole life. At the age of twelve He said,
“How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
“I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice” (John 10:16). He was moved by a great sense of compulsion. He accomplished the impossible for God!
Paul had great spiritual ambition. He wanted to know Christ in His totality. He did everything he could to win some. He wanted to preach Christ where He had not yet been named and also wanted to lay the claims of Christ before the Emperor himself. He wanted to accomplish great things for the Lord and he did! If you want much fruit, you must have great ambitions in the areas of soul-winning, ministry and Christlikeness. For example, you may determine to witness to a certain number of people every day; aspire to a certain spiritual gift and insist that God gives it to you for ministry and then use it for the service of the Lord and His Body. Also you may aspire to put on the character of Christ by mercilessly dealing with all that will stand in the way of holiness in you. If you mean business you will go very far.
God-centered and Christ-glorifying ambitions must be crystallized in clear goals. Anyone with vague goals will accomplish nothing. The goals of the one who will succeed must be so clear that if someone were to wake up from sleep at midnight he would be in a position to state his goals correctly and clearly.
Such goals must be fairly narrow. If you want to accomplish everything, you will end up accomplishing nothing. The apostle Paul said, “One thing I do” (Philippians 3:13). “One thing”, said he and not one hundred things. Your goals in the three areas of fruit-bearing should be worked out into clear and straight-forward objectives that are understandable to you but big enough to envelop you.
Great ambition crystallized in clear goals is good but it will not be realized without a great price paid. Someone said, “There must be great renunciations before there can be great Christian careers.” Something must go. This is where discipline comes in. A disciple must be disciplined. If you are indisciplined, you immediately disqualify yourself from becoming or continuing as His disciple.
Discipline means that you say “NO” to many things that, though good in themselves, may hinder the one great purpose to which your life is consecrated. A disciplined person is of necessity narrow in his choices. You cannot invest in ten things. The disciplined person will not be extravagant in the things he loves.
Discipline means that the body is brought under control to serve. The major reason why many people do not make much progress in fruit-bearing is that they allow their appetites, inclinations, desires, and wishes to pull them in different directions. A disciplined person will refuse all indulgences. He will follow one hard line of living on the barest necessities. He will ask about everything, “Will it help me to accomplish my one ambition?”
Discipline means that the body is buffeted when necessary. The apostle Paul said,
“I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel by body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I should myself be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
There is practical reality in this. I remember a man I knew and loved as I have loved few others. He was a student in the seminary at the age of 40. He decided that he would stay among the top three of his class. To do this he studied and studied. He would place his feet in cold water when he felt sleepy and in that way put in the extra time that was necessary to help him to accomplish his goal. Not too long ago, I met the son of this man. The son’s ambition was to subdue a nation for Jesus. To do this he decided to pray for many hours each night. I was touched when I found that he was using his father’s technique. At the early hours of one morning, I found him at prayer. He had been praying the whole night through with his feet in a basin of cold water. He was disciplined. He was buffeting the body!
Indulgence is a tragedy. The love of sleep, the love of food, the love of luxury, the love of pleasure, and the others, are among the most tragic loves of a life. Big nations have been destroyed by indulgence. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by the love of ease (Ezekiel 16:49-50). Gideon’s army was reduced from 10.000 to 300 by the test of indulgence at the state of drinking. It takes only a bit of indulgence at a time to ruin a life completely.
Think of those who practice the indulgence of procrastination. Where are they? How far do they go? Are they not ruined permanently?
Discipline means that one can keep at the task when all natural and emotional incentives for doing it are gone. The disciplined person obeys God’s commands and voice. He goes on and on irrespective of what he feels and irrespective of what it may cost him. He is bent on succeeding. He strives, presses and strains to reach the set goal. This is the way of discipleship?