By Ben Ward
Holy Ambition: The Process
In Part 1, we defined a holy ambition as the process by which God leads us to mission as our subjective desire is confirmed by the word of God and affirmed by the people of God in the church. In my experience, a holy ambition does not serve as a mission statement for your life. You don’t make a plan and work the plan. It’s part of the process by which God refines who we are and conforms us into a citizen of his kingdom. A holy ambition is a growing identity in the gifts and purpose he gives us in his family.
The question I want to answer today is, “I want a burning passion for purpose in the Kingdom of God—what now?”
Believe God Speaks
As I walk as a disciple and help make disciples of young men, I am struck at the large percentage of people that believe God is far off. We formulate the Christian faith: “Church attendance (X) + Bible Reading Plan (Y) / (4 out of the 7 days of the week)squared = Wisdom and God’s Will.”
While all of these truly are good, the activity is worthless if we are void of relationship. My daughter runs to me when I get home. I whisk her into the air, and whisper in her ear, “I love you little girl.” Often, we both giggle, but we both know she is my child.
Romans 8:16 says, “the Spirit of God testifies to our spirit that we are children of God.” I think we fear sounding like a mystic, so we neglect the mystical reality of the Spirit of God testifying to our hearts that we belong to him. If you can’t conceptualize the Holy Spirit communicating to his children, you will never step into a holy ambition.
We must believe we are personally guided into a vibrant relationship with God the Father of our Lord Jesus, through his Spirit. As we are guided, themes of passion and gifts will come to the top. Paul says it this way, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6). A holy ambition starts by believing God will give you a measure of grace to use in his church and kingdom.
Begin in the Word
We all know 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is God breathed and profitable”. However, we sometimes miss the purpose revealed in verse 17: “so that you may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Holy ambition falls into the paradigm of “every good work.” We ask, “How do you want to use me, Lord?” and he answers through his word.
When I felt called to ministry in a worship service, I was visiting a pastor-less church who was hurt by bad leadership. I prayed Psalm 1 and Matthew 9 for the church the entire service. “Plant them by streams of water,” and “Have compassion on the helpless and harassed, and send them a shepherd to feed them.” The Lord impressed on me that I was the answer to my own prayer and he gave me a pastoral heart. I had a subjective experience.
So I began to read and pray, beginning a process to understand this newfound desire. Isaiah 61 gave me clarity and, subsequently, my philosophy of ministry. God has given me a holy ambition to see the hurt, helpless, and harassed; to see the great exchange of salvation so that they can spread the good news and see their communities transformed by the gospel.
A holy ambition doesn’t have to be solely in pastoral ministry, though. I know men and women who are gifted engineers who have used their gift to see the church raised up in a Muslim majority city. I know a mother whose ambition is to see her kids and all their friends affirmed in the youth group. I have seen an energetic extrovert who wants to use his marketing prowess to tell everybody he can about his local church. Our gifts and ambitions will change. We will all be guided by one unchanging source: the Bible.
Befriend a Mentor
Mentorship is everywhere in the Bible. Robert Coleman helped popularize this concept in evangelism and discipleship in his classic, The Master Plan of Evangelism. The only way to equip someone to minister for the masses is to spend a massive amount of time invested in a small group. This is the charge Paul sends to Timothy, “Teach what you have heard in the presence of many witnesses to faithful men, who will teach others also.”
Yet, it’s rare for me to approach a man in church that has this type of investment poured into his life. The concept of mentorship is popular in theory, but not in practice. I challenge people to befriend a mentor because more than likely a mentor won’t find you. It’s not our culture. However, I have seen young men and women be mentored successfully if they ask for it. It might not be right, but for now the challenge is on you to find someone who will invest in your life as you adhere to their wisdom.
A mentor will be able to give specific clarification as they walk life with you. For me it happened at a fast food restaurant. I was talking with John at a crossroads in my life. Do I stay and minister in Louisville long term, or do I go overseas and start a business in an unreached area? He didn’t give me the answer, but he spoke into my life. “Ben, whatever you do, you don’t need to start something. You’re an innovator, but not a starter. The most fruit in your life comes when you lead something existing and bring fresh ideas to it.” Many people had falsely advised me that my innovation was entrepreneurial, but John brought specific affirmation in an encouraging way that helped me understand my role in the Kingdom.
Build the Church
I believe all holy ambitions should find a way to build the breadth and depth of the local church. The gospel is a multiplying force in the world. The gospel is how a seed turns into a mighty tree. A little leaven affects the whole lump of dough. Paul wrote that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world (Colossians 1:6). We are invited to be a part of the process: “We haven’t stopped praying for you so that you may filled with the knowledge of his will . . . bearing fruit in every good work.” (Colossians 1:10) The holy ambition process is a way to find your gifts and direction. But when you do, remember they are given for a purpose, to build up the body of Christ bearing fruit in the grand narrative of the gospel.
This process is not a foolproof, golden key we have missed since Christ’s ascension. It is, however, an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to captivate young men and women’s minds for the heart of Christ, to seek and save the lost—through our ordinary lives and giftings. All across the country, people are asking their college advisers, “What’s my calling?” The process of seeking a holy ambition is a tool in a leader’s toolkit to guide men and women to hear how God may want to answer that question.
Ben Ward is from Louisville, Kentucky. He is a Missions Pastor at Highview Baptist Church and works in Ministry Connections at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can listen to Ben on the Upstream Collective podcast.