Monday, December 24, 2007

A Theology of Ambition: Biblical Considerations, Pt. 2

Update on December 25th--Merry Christmas to all consumed readers. Enjoy the holiday!

We pick back up in our biblical consideration of ambition. On Wednesday, I'll give a concluding synthesis.

1. Gen. 1:26-28 the call to take dominion
2. 1 Chron. 4:10 Jabez's bold prayer
3. 2 Chron. 1:7-13 Solomon's ambitious prayer for wisdom
4. Nehemiah an example of godly ambition
5. Matthew 28:18-20 the call to take spiritual dominion
6. 1 Cor. 10:31 life as an exercise in biblical ambition
7. Hebrews 4:16 the invitation to pray with boldness

The story of Nehemiah is incredible. Hearing that Jerusalem and its people are in shambles, Nehemiah prays to the Lord and asks Him to bless Nehemiah as he seeks to rebuild the city and reconstitute the people. We have no indication of divine prompting of this prayer. Like so many biblical characters, Nehemiah sees a lack and prays boldly that he might be used to address it. Read chapter one of Nehemiah to get the full vision of his prayer. What transpires after the prayer is equally inspiring. To make a long and invigorating story short, Nehemiah and the Jews prevail over their enemies and in an incredibly short period of time rebuild Jerusalem. It is clear from Nehemiah's example that the Lord is richly honored by Nehemiah's faith and by his bold request. Nehemiah asks God for Jerusalem, and the Lord gives it to him.

Skipping ahead to the new creation call to dominion, Matthew 28:18-20 teaches us that Christians are to be ambitious for the spread of the gospel. Jesus Christ's final recorded words in Matthew's gospel propel His disciples away from ensconcement and ease and push them to all the ends of the earth in order that sinful men might be recreated for the kingdom through the gospel's transforming power. If you follow up the new creation call to dominion by reading the book of Acts, you will see that Christ's disciples were nothing less than zealous for the publishing abroad of the euangelion, the good news. They prayed, planned, and acted, and they didn't do so in bite-sized bits. They went out and took the world by storm with the gospel. The disciples and apostles were fearless and ambitious, and their efforts, borne out of that spirit, changed all history.

There are so many texts that cover this theme, but we cannot skip 1 Cor 10:31, where the apostle Paul instructs us to do all to the glory of God. We commonly reference this text in other discussions, but it has an important place in a biblical consideration of ambition. We don't simply rubber stamp our actions as "Christian." That's not what Paul is encouraging us to do. Paul is encouraging us to be active in finding things to do that bring glory to God even as we respect the consciences of our fellow Christians. As opposed to those who prescribe a code of respectable actions, Paul pushes the Corinthian Christians to realize that all of life is an exercise in glorifying God, and thus to act boldly toward this end. We should do the same.

The final text I'll cover deals with the matter of prayer. In Hebrews 4:16, the author exhorts us to come boldly before God and to make our spiritual requests known to Him. Many of us know this text (and other passages I've covered), but I think that we sometimes fail to construct a broader theology of ambition. We are to be bold in prayer, but we are also to be bold in all of our lives. This does not and must not preclude the steady exercise of supplication to God, but just as we are to pray boldly and courageously, so we are to live boldly and courageously. The author of Hebrews makes this very clear on the matter of prayer as he pushes away from our natural hesitations to make big requests of God and tells us that such prayer is the very prayer God desires. We can of course make selfish, worldly requests of God, and this is not right. When we pray with right motives and for spiritual ends, however, God is well pleased with us. Let us live, then, as we are called to pray: boldly, courageously, passionately.

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