Covered: Matthew 19 // Mark 10 // Luke 15-18 // John 6
Scripture Memory: Self-Image – Matthew 10:29-31 // Philippians 2:3-5
If you are a superhero fan, this might be the best time ever to be alive. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has put out 20+ movies in just ten years, all culminating in Avengers – Endgame. (And just for the record, we all need to accept Captain America is THE greatest hero ever – except for Jesus.) DC is doing it’s best to keep up with Marvel but launching a topnotch series of movies as well. The reason I believe these superhero movies have been so successful is that all of us have this innate draw to heroes. We’re impressed by them, wowed by them, motivated by them, and ultimately I think we all aspire to be a hero in our own way.
Now we might not all aspire to be Iron Man, Batman, or Thor, but we all have this drive within us to make a difference with our life. There is nothing wrong with this because it is actually derived from our Imago Dei -> us being made in the image of God. Our drive to make a difference, stand against injustice, have purpose, push forth the mission, etc. all comes from us being made in the image of God.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with having this type of drive or ambition. The issue arises when we take it a step too far: when our ambition shifts from being God-centered and others focused to selfish gain, when we have personal agendas attached instead of gospel mission, we inadvertently care about our name being out there more than God’s, when we put our aspirations above others, etc.
I want to be the first to admit -> I struggle with this! I don’t plan to make my life about me – my goals, my aspirations, and my influence – but it consistently happens. But why? Why is this a consistent issue in our lives? Because we don’t naturally drift toward an “others-focused” life; we naturally drift toward a “me-focused” life.
We saw this in our reading this week with the “sons of thunder”, James and John, in Mark 10 when they asked to be at the right and left hand of Jesus. I mean, they had been walking with Jesus for an extended period of time and saw how He loved/served others, yet they still had their own best interest at heart.
So if ambition is something we have because others-focused in God’s image, how do we guard against making it about us instead of others? I am so glad you asked. And so is the Apostle Paul, because he gave us the remedy in our memory verse for this week.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. me-focused, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV)
I love that first line from Paul ->,” don’t do it. Thanks, Paul. That’s the goal. So how do I guard against it? “In humility, value others over yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Paul’s answer is as simple as his imperative – put others in front of yourself.
Now, as simple as the remedy is, the application is another story. I don’t know about you, but at times this is very difficult for me. I find myself quite often elevating my needs above others. Of course, I will, at times, meet the needs of others, but it’s only when it doesn’t interfere with my life and my selfish ambitions. Sadly, in the end, I choose myself over others nine times out of 10.
So how do we fix this? How do we leverage the character of God within us for others instead of ourselves? Paul shares in verse 5 -> “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” How do we do this? We have the mind of Christ, which Paul illustrates in Philippians 2:5-11 as he describes Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice Himself for us. Jesus, who owed us nothing, loved us enough to set aside status, heavenly rein, and ultimately His life for us. He has exemplified what humility and an others-focused life looks like. He has modeled for us a “holy ambition.”
The way we address our issue of ambition isn’t to run away from it; it’s to look at it through the correct lens. The lens of Jesus’ example and sacrifice for us. When we have the right perspective, starting point, and motivation, I truly believe holy ambition becomes a possibility in our lives.
Throughout your readings, this week and the following weeks, take time to note within the Gospels Jesus’ example of others-focused living and begin to allow them to shape your life into one that is lived with holy ambition.
Written by: Andrew Bates
Photo Credit: Nic co uk