I’m going to give you several different texts to think about in relation to my topic. Today and tomorrow, we do a study of biblical material. After that, we synthesize the material.
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
These texts should not and must not be understood as the only texts that speak to my topic. They are not. However, these texts when taken together give us a bare framework by which to begin to understand the Bible’s view of ambition. With that said, we proceed to look at what this framework is and what it means for us as Christians. We will work quickly through these texts, and you can think of more on your own (and suggest them in the comments, if you would).
The call to take dominion over the earth in Genesis 1 is fundamentally a call to theological ambition. Those who think that ambition has little place in the Christian life find an opposite ideal in this first chapter of the Bible. From the beginning, God intended man to subdue and rule over his environment. It is clear from the lack of instruction recorded in this text that God did not spell out all the details of this dominion-taking. Rather, he left it to Adam, His vice-regent, to figure out what needed to be done and to do it. Such action necessarily includes an aggressive mindset that seeks to glorify God through action pleasing to God. The race of men, then, was not created to be passive and weak, but to be active and strong, assessing their domain, ruling over their territory, glorifying God by virtuous, godly action.
It’s silly to pass up all the examples of Old Testament believers who acted ambitiously for God’s renown, but time and space is limited. So we skip ahead to the much-discussed Jabez. Now, let me say a word here. Bruce Wilkinson took the whole Jabez thing a bit far, if you ask me, but I still think he had a point (one made by men like Spurgeon well before prosperity theologians). His point was this: Jabez was spiritually ambitious. Wilkinson was no genius in understanding this, but he was right. Jabez prayed that the Lord would bless him. The Lord did bless him. Jabez had a desire to glorify God through a blessed life. God answered this desire. We could take this text and run, but we should not do so. Instead, we should simply make the point that God rewarded Jabez’s spiritual ambition, and leave things there. Clearly, it is no terrible thing–far from that, it is a good thing–to be spiritually ambitious before the Lord.