Ambition Is Not Evil
Some men pursue selfish ambition because they do not know what godly ambition is. Other men reject all ambition because they do not believe that ambition and godliness are compatible. Both paths are mistaken. True godliness is neither self-driven nor aimless. The mark of genuine holiness is an uncontainable passion to see God glorified right now, through me.
King David Had Mighty Men
Just as Jesus selected an inner circle of disciples, King David chose an inner circle of mighty men. For David, these were men who had both proven their skill in battle and their commitment over time. These were the men he could count on because in the most dangerous of circumstances they had volunteered to go forth and face lions, bears, and Herculean enemies.
Now I fear that Christian men sometimes read through the names of these mighty men in I Chronicles chapters 11-12 with the same attitude of reverent detachment that they would feel while walking through the Baseball Hall of Fame in Camden or observing the National WWII monument in D.C. Rather than feeling a deep urge to be numbered among the few, men feel a passive respect for the achievement of others, not a personal call to go out and do the same. I do not believe this attitude is a mark of piety, but of ungodliness. I don’t think that the Holy Spirit included a list of names of ‘mighty men’ in the Old Testament to confirm our role as grateful spectators. I am convinced His purpose was the opposite: to present the average Christian with a pointed and undeflectable question – do you, Christian, long to be numbered among the mighty men of Christ?
The Marks of Mighty Men
There are three marks of a mighty man of Christ. The first is that he longs with the passion of a warrior to extend the kingdom of Christ. In I Chronicles 11:10 we read,
‘Now there were the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, with all Israel to make him king, according to the word of the Lord concerning Israel.’
The mighty men of David knew the anointing that God had given David. Even while Saul was king, their hope was not invested in the house of Saul, but in the house of the son of Jesse. All of their exploits were done, not to advance individual fame, but to amplify the name of their king. So it is with any mighty man of Christ. Regardless of the disbelief of the surrounding culture, such a man knows that God has appointed Jesus as lord. His aim is not self-aggrandizement, but Christ exaltation. He longs for all the world to submit to the most fundamental truth of all, the lordship of Christ.
The second mark is a longing to dare great deeds for Christ. In I Chronicles 11 we read of Jashobeam who ‘lifted up his spear against three hundred’, of Eleazar who helped turn back the entire army of the Philistines, and of Banaiah who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. How should we today react to these exploits? We should feel a blast within our souls that throws us on our knees with the gut-wrenching petition, ‘What, Lord, can I do for you since you have done so much for me? We must acknowledge that most of the great men of church history were fired by holy ambition. Jim Elliot hungered to take the gospel to an unreached people. Charles Spurgeon desired to publish the word of salvation as broadly as humanly possible. William Carey wanted every people group of India to have the Bible in their own language. Dawson Trotman prayed for the tiniest of islands on the globe in hopes that no crevice on the planet would be ignorant of the name Jesus.
Men, are we filled with the same passion? If not, we must ask the question, why not? We must meditate on the words of Spurgeon, ‘Fight for the Lord while you can. You will never regret having done all that you can for the blessed Lord and Master. Cram as much as you can into everyday and postpone no work until tomorrow; whatever you do, do it with all your might.’ The urgency of this opportunity should not be lost on us. Now is the brief moment when our generation lives and acts on the stage of history. What will we contribute to the kingdom of God? What will our legacy be in the annals of divine history?
The third mark of a mighty man is that he is skilled in spiritual combat. In I Chronicles 12:2 we read that the men who came to David in Ziklag were ‘armed with bows, using both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows’. Later in verse 8 we read of Gadites who were ‘mighty men of valor, men trained for battle, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as gazelles on the mountains’. These men were armed and ready for combat. Are we? Do we prep ourselves daily in the disciplines of putting sin to death, in meditating on Scripture, in practices the fruits of the Spirit, in taking every thought captive so that we can be ready for battle whenever the king blasts the trumpet? No mighty man of Christ is content with slothfulness. Like a soldier, he trains himself daily and diligently keeps watch so that, if the enemy should surface, or if a movement is commanded, he is fit and ready to fulfil the order.
O that all of us had the fervor and single-mindedness of George Whitefield, that mighty man of God, who approaching an imminent death nonetheless dared to pray one last time:
“Lord Jesus, I am weary in Thy work, but not of it. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee once more in the field, seal Thy truth, and come home to die.”