Holy Ambition: What it Take to Make a Difference for God

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God is not looking for the brightest and the best. God is looking for people who are willing to live on the edge--people who so long to see God's agenda fulfilled in this fallen world that they attempt what seems impossible, ridiculous, and "outside the box," for God's glory.
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2002-01-01 Paperback Brand NEW copy! New trade paperback size copy of HolyAmbition: What It Takes to Make a Difference for God by Chip Ingram. Foreword by Howard G. Hendricks. ... Moody Publishers, Chicago IL, 2002. 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 22 cm. Read more Show Less

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Overview

God is not looking for the brightest and the best. God is looking for people who are willing to live on the edge--people who so long to see God's agenda fulfilled in this fallen world that they attempt what seems impossible, ridiculous, and "outside the box," for God's glory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802429810
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2007
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

CHIP INGRAM Chip Ingram's passion is to help Christians really live like Christians. As a pastor, author, coach, and teacher for 25 years, Chip has helped people around the world breakout of spiritual ruts to live out God's purpose for their lives. Today, he serves as senior pastor of Venture Church in Los Gatos, California, and president of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. He is the author of eleven books, including his newest release, Living on the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality, Overcoming Emotions That Destroy, and Good to Great in God's Eyes. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four children and six grandchildren.

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Holy AMBITION

WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR GOD
By CHIP INGRAM

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2002 Chip Ingram
All right reserved.




Chapter One

HOLY AMBITION

"Well done, good and faithful servant!" Matthew 25:21

You have probably known that phrase, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" as long as you have been a Christian. You may even know that Jesus used the phrase twice in one of His parables (Matthew 25:21, 23) to give us a picture of the way God will settle accounts at the end of the age. I'm sure you have heard at least one sermon that ended with an emotional appeal to think about how wonderful it would be in eternity to stand before God and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." The problem is such sermons rarely tell you what it will take to get there.

Most Christians I talk to want to finish well. Unfortunately, "finishing well" gets translated into some vague wish that God will say something nice to them in eternity, but they don't dare make that phrase the purpose of their lives. But if that isn't the purpose for living once we've met Christ, then what is? What is the target of our Christian life? If we aim at nothing, we're sure to hit it. What are we aiming at as we follow Christ? What's our holy ambition? What do we really want God to say to us someday?

I know ambition is one of those almost forbidden words in Christian circles. It shares a place with words like discipline, suffering, passion, andperseverance on a list of terms that may offend comfortable Christians or skittish pagans. Based on our sensitivities, the Bible is full of such offensive language. It calls us sinners and questions our integrity. If we weren't dealing with God's Word, we might resent the insinuations. The New International Version uses the word ambition seven times. Five uses are negative (selfish ambition) and two are positive. Paul told the Romans, "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation" (Romans 15:20). He also told the Thessalonians, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life" (1 Thessalonians 4:11a). Other translations tend to substitute the word aspiration for ambition, but I like the edginess of holy ambition. That's because I find the attitude of holy ambition taught everywhere in Scripture. It's unavoidable. The phrase itself isn't used that often, but many commands and directions from God's Word can only be applied if we make them our holy ambition. Consider these examples:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:2'9-31

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." Luke 9:23-24 NASB

What you just read is only a sample. Each passage presupposes or demands that we respond with holy ambition. If we make it our ambition to save our lives, Jesus said, we will lose them. But if we make it our holy ambition to lose our lives for His sake, Jesus promises that we will discover and experience life to its fullest.

Holy ambition is deep and long. It affects every part of life for all of life. The depth and length of our holy ambition will be tested. Those who prove faithful will hear God say someday, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

The Starting Place

Right here at the start of our journey, things get tricky. How does holy ambition actually work? Is this just another book about trying harder, getting up earlier, and praying more? How does holy ambition turn into a life that makes a difference? What's my part? What's God's part? The landscape around holy ambition can be very dangerous unless we understand how God creates and sustains this passion in our hearts. God wants to do something supernatural and tremendous through you; but unless you understand where He begins and how He works, you're destined for failure.

That's why one Old Testament verse has had particular meaning to me over the last twenty-five years. I memorized this verse when I first became a Christian but didn't understand its full impact. The words simply struck me as too wonderful to be true. Later, as I studied this passage carefully, I came to understand that this was not only a promise for one king in Israel but also a timeless axiom of how God relates to every man and every woman in every age. Follow along carefully and listen to the spirit behind these words:

"For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." 2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB

Please read this statement again slowly. Think of it as true, not just something written three thousand years ago in the land of Israel but at this very moment in your life, your neighborhood, and your church. This verse expresses not some antiquated view of God but a timeless truth. It describes the omniscient (all knowing), all-powerful, all wise God who is carefully considering the earth and looking for a select group of people. As you read this verse, are you among those people whose hearts are fully His? The promise of this amazing passage is that God is actually looking for people He can strongly support. In other words, God wants to do far more in most all of us than most of us want Him to do. He is looking today for something in the human heart that will ignite His support in his or her life.

GOD SEEKS PEOPLE WHO ARE COMPLETELY HIS WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DOES GOD SEEK? [COMPLETELY HIS]

Nothing hides from God. Every covering and shelter becomes transparent under His knowing glance. He sees through high-priced and low-rent walls. No skin color deflects His gaze. He could see right through us, but our Creator adjusts His view to consider one part of who we are-our hearts. God looks for a select group of hearts found in widely differing people throughout the world. This select group never has race, income, education, culture, intelligence, charisma, or style in common. What they share is a heart that completely belongs to God. Their hearts beat with holy ambition.

When the ancient prophet Hanani described God to King Asa, he was merely stating what God had done, was doing, and would always do in every place and in all times. God looks for a select group of people whose hearts are completely His. That's what Hanani meant when he said, "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB). God is doing that right now. The question is: Where are you? For a moment, follow God's eyes into your own being. What do you think He sees? Does His all-knowing look find a heart in you that belongs completely to Him?

The New Living Translation of this verse says that God looks for a man or a woman or a student or a child whose heart is "fully committed to him." These are people who, when they hear the call of God directing them to do this or that, leap to obey. They may have emotional struggles, just as you and I do. They may not enjoy a particular act of obedience. They may not feel like obeying. They struggle with the implications, relationships, finances, and geography that obedience to God always involves, but they do what He has asked. High cost? They do it. Complications? They do it. Repercussions? They do it. They make a difference. They change the world. In ways you may not even know, your life has been deeply affected by people whose hearts have been completely God's. God has built His kingdom, and He builds His church on that kind of people.

Are you that kind of person? Do you have a heart that belongs to God and do you want to live on the edge? Are you ready to take the steps that develop holy ambition? Maybe you honestly don't know. Fair enough. Are you willing to find out? If you are, then these chapters will help you.

A King's Heart

In order to better understand what it means to have a heart completely God's, let's begin by looking briefly at the life of a man who had holy ambition, but faltered. This is not a story with a happy ending. Although King Asa's heart began in the right place, he eventually backed away from the life God offered him. That's when God sent the prophet Hanani to speak to King Asa the words we have already seen: "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB). People who are familiar with that verse are often shocked to discover its context. The verse comes with a story. Without the story, the verse loses some of its punch. For, although the prophet was describing God's ways, he was not describing the king's heart.

Early Years

You can read the summary of Asa's life in 2 Chronicles 14-16. God showed Asa how pleased He was with the king's early dependency, faith, and courage. The first ten years of his reign were conducted under peaceful conditions. Since his borders were secure, Asa decided to take on building projects. He gave God credit for the peace and began to develop new cities and construct fortified walls around existing ones. Rising towers and gates pushed consumer confidence to new heights. The people enjoyed a time of great prosperity.

A Time for War

Suddenly, around year ten, a looming cloud of uncertainty overshadowed the bright economic forecast for Judah. An army almost twice the size of Asa's approached from the southwest. This was a major reality check for the king and his people. Within his borders, Asa had passed the early test of his leadership by taking a stand for God. Prosperity followed. Now it was time for another test.

Faced with impossible odds, Asa did a very wise thing. He turned to God. "Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you" (2 Chronicles 14:11). Asa put his kingdom and his future in God's hands.

God's answer was immediate, swift, and decisive: "The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled" (2 Chronicles 14:12). Huge success. The army carried lots of loot and livestock back to Jerusalem. A great disaster was averted, but had any lessons been learned? Time would tell.

The Promise and the Warning

Shortly after the victory, the prophet Azariah came to Asa and basically said, "King, it has been a long time since God has been so honored, and you are moving in the right direction. Asa, God wants you to consider a proposition. Here it is. If you will trust and obey Him, and your people will trust and obey Him, He will be with you and He will do things beyond what you ever dreamed. But if you forsake Him, He will forsake you."

Asa took the prophet's words to heart and put them into action. The lands of Judah, Benjamin, and the surrounding territories got a thorough idol-cleansing. The altar for sacrifices to God in front of the temple in Jerusalem was repaired and put back into service. A revival of worship and obedience broke out in the nation that peaked in the fifteenth year of Asa's reign. People pledged allegiance to Yahweh and turned away from their sins. The Scriptures describe the attitude of king and people in this way: "They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side" (2 Chronicles 15:15).

The land experienced another time of great blessing. For the next twenty years, Asa reigned and walked with God. He trusted the Lord. The years flew by. Life in the kingdom of Judah settled into the kind of routine that usually precedes another test. The king and the people were living in the comfort zone, but they were about to discover that life with God doesn't involve "settling." Holy ambition is not a permanent condition. It's not about dramatic, one-time decisions, or living off our faith from the past. It involves active trust and continuous obedience. It's all about living now!

A Test of Holy Ambition

Thirty-five years into his reign, Asa was suddenly laced with a new challenge. A coalition of enemies surrounded Judah. Asa did something he hadn't done in thirty-five years. Until this point, he had an unblemished record. Now, instead of trusting God, he decided to handle this problem on his own.

Asa's determination to trust God and be a difference maker had been dulled by twenty years of peace and financial prosperity, His years of success had gradually hardened his heart and shifted his Focus from God to himself.

So God brought a new test to Asa to give him another opportunity to succeed. But instead of trusting God, he emptied the treasury, contacted one of Israel's powerful allies, paid him off, and got his help to defeat the Israelites. Strategically, politically, and militarily, all this was a brilliant move. Spiritually, it meant disaster for Asa. He soon got another visit from a prophet. That visit is the context of the underlying theme of this book.

Hanani came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you relied on the king of Aram and not the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand" (2 Chronicles 16:7, italics added). Then Hanani reminded him, "Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand" (2 Chronicles 16:8). Now comes our theme verse: "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB). But there's more. Here's the end of that verse that most people don't quote: "You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war" (2 Chronicles 16:9).

The Moment of Truth

This turning point in Asa's reign would determine whether he would renew his commitment to holy ambition or step away from God's guidance. The moment provides an amazing applicational insight for us. Here was a man who had walked with God for at least thirty-five years. An unexpected crisis caught him off guard, and he made a serious error in judgment. Then he had to listen to God's prophet call him a fool. But instead of repenting, Asa reacted in anger toward Hanani and threw him in prison. Now there's a wise and godly move!

Unfortunately, the king wasn't through being foolish. He brutally oppressed some of his people. He turned his back on holy ambition. He leaned away from God instead of toward Him. His effectiveness faded. Within five years, Asa developed a serious disease in his feet. He still didn't admit his foolishness or ask God for help. He died in the forty-first year of his reign.

We look at Asa's life and see great success. Each of the apparent difficulties God brought across Asa's path turned out to be a door of opportunity until that event in year thirty-five. After that failure, God had some direct words for the king. He basically said, "If you had trusted Me as you did before, I would have taken care of everything! Israel and that even bigger enemy you paid off by emptying the treasury were no problem for Me. I would have taken care of all of them. You know why, Asa? Because what was true when you were desperate and young in the faith remains true today: The eyes of the Lord still go to and fro throughout the whole earth. Why? Because I want to support every man, every woman, every student whose heart is fully committed to Me." Asa missed a golden opportunity. We are left with the sad record of someone who did not end nearly as well as he started.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Holy AMBITION by CHIP INGRAM Copyright © 2002 by Chip Ingram. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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