January 9, 2019 — Godly Ambition

The late John Stott was the longtime Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place in London, and the author of over 50 books translated into 65 languages. In 2005, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Despite his influence and all the acclaim he received during his life, Stott is remembered for his humbleness and his dedication in serving the Lord.

Tim Keller, commenting on John Stott’s life, expressed his belief that we should all be inspired and challenged by Stott’s Kingdom vision and zeal for God’s Kingdom. Although Stott was considered one of the greatest evangelists of his generation, he was far from satisfied with his ministerial success. Keller noted, “Most of the rest of us would be very happy being told you are the best. You are the best preacher, you’re the best of this or that. But [Stott] didn’t care about that. He wanted to change the world for Christ. I looked at his motives, I looked at his labors, how he spent himself, and how he gave himself. Why wasn’t he ever satisfied? It really was not worldly ambition. He really wanted to really change the world for Christ. We should be convicted by that.”

Stott believed that in the end, just as there are only two kinds of piety, the self-centered and the God-centered, there can only be two kinds of ambition — one can be ambitious for oneself or for God. There is no third alternative. Stott commented, “Ambitions for self may be quite modest (enough to eat, to drink, and to wear, as in the Sermon [on the Mount]) or they may be grandiose (a bigger house, a faster car, a higher salary, a wider reputation, more power). But whether modest or immodest, these are ambitions for myself — my comfort, my wealth, my status, my power.”

Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambition for God. Stott continued, “How can we ever be content that He should acquire just a little more honor in the world? No! Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see Him crowned with glory and honor, according to His true place. We become ambitious for the spread of this Kingdom and righteousness everywhere.”