“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” – Salvador Dali
“Big results require big ambitions.” - Heraclitus
Ambition can be a great and horrible thing all at the same time. Ambition means a desire of honor, excellence, or superiority. The word comes from a Latin word that was often used to describe a Roman candidate running for office, who went about the city to solicit votes.
Ambition can be negative as a person can desire power, eminence, and will do anything to achieve this end. We see this all too often in politics. A person has ambition to aspire to power in government, and along the way allows their character to get shredded, and their beliefs to fall to the wayside. A lust for power and recognition has destroyed many a person.
On the other hand, ambition can be a positive thing. When it is not smothered in pride and arrogance, ambition can drive an individual to do more for the Lord than they otherwise would. Instead of ambition that seeks recognition and power, the right kind of ambition seek excellence for the sake of excellence. It is the pursuit of greatness, so that Christ is better honored in our life.
One thing I love about the life of David is the presence of proper ambition, while lacking prideful ambition. Excellence was a part of David’s life, and he pursued it with everything that was in him. David had ambition to be the best “David” he could be for the Lord.
At the same time, David’s ambition never drove him to pursue power or fame (although they did come to him). In the early life of David, we find him over and over again deferring to Saul’s leadership. Even when Saul attempted to kill David, David refused to usurp the authority of Saul. David’s ambition led him, but never controlled him. Even upon hearing about Saul’s death, David defended Saul’s honor and wept for the loss of Saul’s life. David honored the good things in Saul’s life, and lifted up his legacy. David’s ambition did not require him to tear down his predecessor (even though there was much he could have criticized).
Contrast this ambition with that of Absalom, David’s third born son. A handsome charismatic individual who had bad ambition for the throne of his father. Absalom usurp his father’s authority, and led an open rebellion against David. The ambition of Absalom was driven by his need for recognition and power. It drove him to commit heinous acts, and align with malicious and vindictive people.
There is so much we can learn about the pursuit of excellence from David, and the raw destruction of negative ambition from Absalom.
I encourage you today to have ambition, but make it the right kind. Never ‘step over others’ in order to advance yourself. Never seek fame and power in a prideful, self-serving way. Instead allow your life to be consumed with being excellent for Christ.
When you post on social media about your Bible reading and church attendance, what is your motivation? Is it the desire to praise the Lord and encourage others in their walk of faith? Or, is it a selfish move to seek influence and applause from others?
In every avenue of your life, have ambition, but make it the right kind of ambition. Be like David, not Absalom.
Daily Scripture Reading
2 Samuel 1 - 3
2 Samuel 2:4
“And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabeshgilead were they that buried Saul.”