“Slay the Beast of Ambition before It Slays You”
J. R. Briggs
As a type-A oldest child and driven leader, I find that my RPMs are in the red zone much of the time. Sometimes this can be beneficial, but when left unchecked it can be incredibly detrimental to my soul—and also the souls of those I am called to lead.
I’ve had to repeat this phrase to myself and many other ministry leaders I’ve connected with. Ambition isn’t inherently a bad thing. Drive and motivation can be helpful. Paul was quite an ambitious leader. Paul was careful to qualify his instruction to the Philippian church by telling them to do nothing out of selfish ambition (see Philippians 2:3).
Ambitious leaders attract other ambitious leaders. Sadly, my identity as a male in a North American context is determined way too easily by what I do and how well I do it. This runs counter to my gospel identity that tells me that, because of God’s immense grace, I am not defined by what I do or how well I do it; I am defined by who I am and, most importantly, to whom I belong. Dallas Willard once said, “It turns out that what you really think about Jesus is revealed by what you do after you find out that you don’t have to do anything.” Read that last sentence again slowly. It gets to the heart of motivation and ambition.
So, how do we slay the beast? It starts in the form of a question: “What’s my motive?” Without proactive, careful, direct, and frequent attention, ambition can add fuel to a dangerous fire. “What’s driving me? Why? What’s behind all of this ambition?” If I can get to the root of my motivations, I can, by God’s grace, eliminate the detrimental effects of cancerous selfish ambition. This oftentimes-painful process leads to a much-needed realignment.
In my own life, the most ridiculously practical discipline that helps slay the beast is to practice Sabbath religiously. Many pastors tell me they just can’t bring themselves to do it. I’m too busy. I have too much going on. People will think I am lazy. I wouldn’t be able to think straight if I were just sitting around doing nothing for an entire day. I fear that the lack of progress and attention to my church will lead to its demise.
All of these answers reveal to me even more how much they need to practice Sabbath. I’ve practiced Sabbath since the beginning of my pastoral calling, and admittedly, it hasn’t been easy. Embarrassingly, it’s oftentimes the most difficult day of my week to trust God. Deep down, some weeks I actually believe that our church will fall apart or that people truly need me today—or worse, that God needs me to keep the church together.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
J. R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt