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Selfish Ambition

In a letter written to the Philippian believers, the apostle Paul told them he knew that some ministers were preaching Christ to build their own reputation. Paul also said they were taking advantage of him by speaking negatively about him being in prison, and by discrediting Paul these preachers were selfishly making a good name for themselves, seeking to become popular. They did not want to acknowledge that it was God who led Paul into prison, in order to use him to preach the Good News, making Paul look like a sinner, actually a criminal, in the eyes of the Christians.

Many of them were actually jealous in the way God was using Paul. Unfortunately, this situation with Paul is no different than what many times takes place nowadays in Christian circles.

But, despite the wrong motives of these preachers, Paul kept a positive attitude and rejoiced that even so, the Gospel was being preached.

Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know the Lord brought me here to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.

But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and as the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will all turn out for my deliverance. Philippians 1:15-19 NLT

We all struggle, or have struggled, with evil desires in life and that includes, at times, acting with ulterior motives because of being jealous or for instance driven by selfish ambition. (See Galatians 5:20).

These evil desires are the result of our sinful nature and should absolutely not be ignored, but repented of. If we don’t deal with it, it will show that we are not willing to allow the Holy Spirit to transform or change us.

So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

In order for us to follow God’s Holy Spirit truthfully, we must deal with these evil desires decisively, and that means we must crucify them, as the Bible continues to say in verses 24 to 26 of Galatians chapter 5:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.

In other words, this scripture tells us, we should lay aside selfishness and consider other people’s interests as more important than our own, since that kind of attitude will link us with Jesus Christ who is the true example of humility.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? Matthew 16:24-26 NLT

Following Jesus is about making a true commitment, even to the point of giving up everything for God. Because, when we give our life to serve Christ, we discover the real purpose of living. Then, we do not have to selfishly live to make a good impression on people or have the need to constantly be acknowledged by others or being busy comparing ourselves with the calling and ministries of others.

Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Galatians 6:4-5 NLT

Oh, don’t worry; I wouldn’t dare say that I am as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, and measuring themselves by themselves. What foolishness! 2. Corinthians 10:12 NLT

It’s exactly this foolishness of ‘comparing’ ourselves to others that leads to all sorts of disorder and confusion in our lives. It is the result of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition that is inspired by the Devil. But God’s wisdom always leads to peace and goodness.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don’t brag about being wise. That is the worst kind of lie. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others.
It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.
James 3:13-18 NLT

Walking in the wisdom that comes from heaven is also about having our identity in Christ, which is knowing who we are in Him. We find our value in the fact that God loves us for who we are, and not for what we do. And therefore we do not have to pretend to be anybody different than we are.

That is how we understand that we are not able to do anything without Jesus, and we only find our real value in believing in, and knowing His love and guidance for us.

As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Romans 12:3 NLT

Copyright©2008 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan

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