Rescuing Ambition (Foreword by C. J. Mahaney)

Rescuing Ambition (Foreword by C. J. Mahaney)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433523564
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 04/14/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 467 KB

About the Author

Dave Harvey (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the teaching pastor at Summit Church in Naples, Florida. Dave has over 25 years of pastoral experience and has traveled nationally and internationally teaching Christians, equipping pastors, and training church planters. He is the executive director of Sojourn Network, founder of, and serves on the board of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). Dave is the author of Am I Called?, Rescuing Ambition, and When Sinners Say I Do, as well as a contributing author to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.

C. J. Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books, including Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Don't Waste Your Sports; and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of three married daughters and one son, and the happy grandparents to twelve grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt


Ambition Conceived


Along the River Wye in Wales, there's a little market town known as Hayon-Wye. This quaint village has earned an international reputation for its rather unusual trade — buying and selling used books. With more than thirty used bookstores within a square mile (one occupying an entire castle), this place embodies storybook charm.

My friend Pete, an Irish Englishman living in Wales, frequented the town and its bookshops for years. He arrived each time with a single goal: to excavate the theology sections and unearth an original copy of Lectures to My Students by the great nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon. But Pete wouldn't settle for just any original copy; he wanted one signed by Spurgeon's wife, Susannah.

What's with the signature? This remarkable woman was bedridden for much of her marriage but somehow managed to start a ministry called the Book Fund. Seeking to serve her husband and their church in the cause of the gospel, Susannah provided free copies of Spurgeon's books to pastors all over the world. Before they went out, she typically personalized them with her own signature.

Pete figured a few of these copies had endured a century of use and would eventually turn up in Hay-on-Wye. The keys to their discovery, he told me, were patience, perseverance, and a keen eye. This guy was like Indiana Jones on a used book safari.

On a visit with Pete to Hay-on-Wye, I stood in the theology section of a bookshop as my friend recounted his quest to find his treasure. As a first-timer to this Holy Land of Used Books, I was just honored to make the pilgrimage. I was also impressed with Pete's dedication. To search for an original-edition Spurgeon book is a true measure of theological devotion. But to return to Hay-on-Wye time and time again to rescue a book with a symbolic signature makes its own statement. Here was someone willing to pursue a valued prize with uncommon devotion.

There among the shelves, as Pete chronicled his tale of miles traveled and hours logged in his still-fruitless search for Susannah, my vision focused on a book perched on the shelf behind his shoulder. Slipping his gaze for a second, I squinted at the title. Sure enough, staring back at me was a dusty copy of Lectures to My Students. I reached over his shoulder and pulled the book from the shelf. Without interrupting Pete's continuing narration, I flipped open the worn cover and glanced down.

You guessed it. In the rookie hands of this Hay-on-Wye greenhorn was an original copy of Lectures to My Students signed by Susannah Spurgeon. A smile crept across my face. Oh boy, this was gonna be good.

One of my greatest privileges in ministry is working with churches in the United Kingdom. But these mates describe Americans as a bunch of illiterates who sack the English language like a lordless fiefdom. Since I don't know what a lordless fiefdom is, I usually just smile and nod. But right then I knew one thing: in less than sixty seconds I had nabbed this treasure for which my well-versed Irish-English-Welsh friend had spent years searching.

While Pete kept talking, I held out the opened cover and said with my best Philadelphian Shakespeare, "Yo, dude, is this what you're looking for?"

Score one for the Yanks.

We Chase What We Love

What's stayed with me most about that experience was not the astounded look on Pete's face, nor the smile as it dawned on him that the treasure was finally in his hands, but the quest itself. Pete wasn't just looking for an old book to add to his collection. He wanted to rescue something that had value beyond appearance, value that connected it to something that mattered to him in a deeply personal way.

Pete's story points to something fundamental about each of us. We're pursuers — we go after things we value.

What is it for you? Think about what you value. Maybe you can rattle off your priorities like a shopping list — God, marriage, family, work, peace — these often top the charts. But do they actually define how you live? Or are there some bottom-dweller items on the list that actually get headliner attention?

We're pursuers — we go after things we value. What is it for you?

If you're not sure, look at how you spend your time, your money. Consider what you think about, where your mind drifts, what you notice and ponder. When all is said and done, what we actually go after is what truly matters to us.

Motown captured it in "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." If we love it ... no wind, no rain, no winter's cold can stop us. That's just another way to say we all chase what we love. It's something in the way we're wired. Be it books, Broadway, or Botox, we pursue what we value. And what does all of this have to do with Brits in bookstores or pursuing what we value? Good question. Keep reading.

Recognizing this impulse isn't a big deal. The trick is getting a handle on how deep it runs and how much it determines what we do. This impulse is so big, it can determine how we respond to Jesus himself.

A Story of Glory

John 12 gives us a window into how this human hardwiring works — this impulse to pursue what we value. After Jesus arrives for the final time in Jerusalem, the scene that quickly unfolds is pivotal in the drama of redemption. He's the center of attention — everybody's attention.

In the middle of it all, Jesus prays, "Father, glorify your name." Immediately a response booms out. "Then a voice came from heaven: 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again'" (v. 28).

A voice from heaven! When was the last time you heard someone's prayers get answered at once with the audible voice of God?

One would expect this episode would permanently turn all the bystanders into Christ's followers, right?

Not exactly.

John goes on to tell us something shocking: "Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him" (v. 37). Surprised to hear that people could be with him — and hear God speak to him — and still not believe? It gets worse. There were others who did believe, yet still wouldn't follow. "Many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it" (v. 42).

Let's track this: they listened to him, they believed in him — but they wouldn't say so publicly.

How come? What was so important that they could look straight at the Son of God and turn away?

John says it was "for fear of the Pharisees." After all, these so-called believers were "authorities" in the Jewish community, which meant their jobs and reputations were tied to synagogue life — and the Pharisees could put them out of the synagogue. To be bounced from the synagogue meant you could kiss your position and your income good-bye. That's pretty serious.

Before we judge them too severely, though, think about whether your own conversion carried any fear of reprisals. My decision to follow Jesus was a response to an altar call — several, actually. The possibility of being expelled from my neighborhood was inconceivable, although there were certainly incidents at school where expulsion seemed possible. If the fear those Jerusalem authorities felt was anything like mine during those episodes, I'm sure they were freaked out.

But here's the grabber. In the very next sentence God restrains our instinctive sympathy for these guys by flipping the light on their true motives. Why the hypocrisy? Was it something they feared? Yes, at first glance.

But deep inside it was really something they loved.

"They loved the glory that comes from man," John writes, "more than the glory that comes from God" (v. 43).

Glory. They craved it. They were addicted to it. Their drive was so powerful, it diverted them from the Son of God himself.

We're Glory Chasers

John is offering us amazing insight into the way we tick: we love glory. We were created to look for it and to love it when we find it.

A lot of glory is being promised and delivered in this section of Scripture. The idea of glory occurs at least seven times in John 12. Glory also remains a significant theme for the remainder of John's Gospel. John wants us to understand that everyone in this scene, including Jesus himself, is pursuing something — and that something is glory.

What is glory? The New Testament word — doxa — speaks of worth and dignity and weight. It's most often applied to God but also includes man. Glory is about radiance and splendor. But glory isn't just an attribute; it exists to be seen and recognized. It's about reputation, esteem, standing, honor. At its core, glory is about inherent value that's recognizable to others. It draws attention. Like a magnet, the value of glory attracts us.

The Bible presents us with a God who is glorious in himself (Ex. 33:18–22; Isa. 42:8; 48:11; 60:1–2; Rev. 21:23) and whose glory is recognized and acknowledged (Ex. 15:6; Ps. 66:2; 76:4; 145:5). In a profound sense, this glorious God created the cosmos to display his glory, his worth, his value.

To whom? To a special creature who could take it in, make some sense of it, and rejoice over the worth of his Creator — to us! That's what the Bible means when it calls us to glorify God. We can't make him something he already is — glorious. But we can recognize the glory that radiates from him, value it properly, and give God his due.

That's why we were created. The Westminster Divines understood this. "Man's chief end," they said, is tied to our glory instinct; it's "to glorify God and enjoy him forever."

You've probably heard of storm chasers. They're people who dedicate their lives to running after storms, even at great risk to themselves. If a tornado is barreling down on some Midwestern town, these lunatics are speeding up the road to catch it. They're in pursuit of this spectacular force of nature.

Maybe you don't chase tornadoes, but we're all born glory chasers. Glory moments stir us. Think about what prompts your elation. Your favorite team wins the championship. You read about a blind man climbing Mount Everest. You watch an Olympic gymnast dismounting flawlessly to grab the gold. You learn that Beethoven would sit down and improvise pieces at the piano that witnesses swear were finer than his written compositions. You hear the story again of Wilberforce prevailing over Parliament to end the slave trade.

We're awed by great comebacks, heroic efforts, sacrificial endurance, and extraordinary gifts. Glory arrests our attention.

My friend Paul Tripp describes us as "glory junkies":

Admit it. You're a glory junkie. That's why you like the 360-degree, between-the-legs slam dunk, or that amazing hand-beaded formal gown, or the seven-layer triple-chocolate mousse cake. It's why you're attracted to the hugeness of a mountain range or the multihued splendor of the sunset. You were hardwired by your Creator for a glory orientation. It is inescapable. It's in your genes.

Glory grabs us. But even more than that, it arouses something in our souls. It stirs us. We experience something totally vicarious, some strange exercise in identification. And make no mistake, it goes deep. It calls to something we value. To do something that matters. To seek something greater than our own puny existence.

It's an instinct for glory.

It pops up in a stark contrast Paul portrays in Romans between two groups of seekers. On one side are "those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality"; on the other side, "those who are self-seeking." To the first group, God "will give eternal life"; for the second, "there will be wrath and fury" (Rom. 2:6–8).

God doesn't oppose glory-seeking; he commends it. And what's more astounding, he rewards it with eternal life.

Try to wrap your brain around this: God doesn't oppose glory-seeking; he commends it. And what's more astounding, he rewards it with eternal life.

But there's a condition. We must seek a certain type of glory. We're to hunger, crave, earnestly desire — to be ambitious for — the glory that comes from God.

So where do we discover it?

Growing up, my next-door neighbor had a swimming pool. This was before the idea of "a pool in every backyard" was invented. This pool was awesome in how it attracted children. I mean, kids bused in all the way from Idaho just to have a swim. Pools had that effect back then. They gathered kids into one place.

If we want the glory that comes from God, we must begin at the place where it gathered.

This Glory Is a Person

I was converted in college, sometime around 1979. I've met people who know the day and hour of their conversion, their spiritual birthday. That's cool. But it didn't happen that way for me. God's grace was ultimately irresistible, but I can be pretty stubborn, so I resisted to the point of exhaustion. I think fatigue played a prominent role in my conversion. It's probably why I don't remember when I became a Christian.

But there are memories I treasure from that time, all of them centering on a surprising joy in becoming captivated with the person of Jesus. Reading the Gospels was a life-transforming experience — seeing his holiness, his love, his miracles, his kindness. It was entrancing. Jesus wasn't theoretical or abstract, like the logic class I was finding totally illogical. He was amazing, real, alive, and accessible.

Before, I used to think, If God would just appear to me in glory, I could finally believe. He did appear — Jesus Christ is the glory that comes from God.

Loving this glory that comes from God means first savoring the One who personified God's glory, Jesus Christ. Glory isn't simply a quality of Christ: Jane has a nice smile, Ronnie's tall, and oh, by the way, Jesus has glory. No, Jesus embodies the glory of God. He literally is the glory that comes from God.

This is why, in opening his Gospel, John leaves no doubt that glory is on his mind: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (1:14). John later notes that even Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus and testified of him (12:41).

Paul and James both call Jesus "the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8; James 2:1). Paul speaks eloquently of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6), and the writer of Hebrews says of him, "He is the radiance of the glory of God" (1:3).

God's glory — his honor, his esteem, his mind-blowing perfection, his incomprehensible value — is embodied in flesh and blood, in the person of Jesus Christ. This is where God's glory gathers.

To love the glory that comes from God means we love the person of Jesus Christ. To love Christ means we value him more than anything else. This is the defining characteristic of Christian conversion — we love the Savior and want to live for his glory. We want to follow him, obey him, trust him, and proclaim him.

But loving the glory that comes from God isn't just an emotional attraction for Jesus. These days spirituality is trending positive, and Jesus is considered pretty hip. But you can have good feelings about Jesus and be far from his glory. To love God's glory means connecting Jesus, the person of God's glory, to Calvary, the summit of God's glory.

Remember when Jesus prayed in John 12, "Father, glorify your name"? Heaven's response was twofold. "I have glorified it," God said, testifying to the fact that his glory is incarnate in the Son. But the Father didn't stop there. He continued, "I will glorify it again."

When would the Father glorify his own name again? He was speaking of the atoning death Jesus was anticipating at that very moment.

God was most glorified when the Lord of glory was crucified on the cross.

We know this because Jesus immediately explained it to his listeners. He said, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John follows up to make sure we get it: "He said this," John explains, "to show by what kind of death he was going to die" (12:32–33). God's magnificence, the magnetic power of his glory, was on full display at the summit of Calvary. God was most glorified when the Lord of glory was crucified on the cross.

As John Stott writes,

The gospel is Christ crucified, His finished work on the cross. And to preach the gospel is publicly to portray Christ as crucified. The gospel is not good news primarily of a baby in a manger, a young man at a carpenter's bench, a preacher in the fields of Galilee, or even an empty tomb. The gospel concerns Christ upon His cross. Only when Christ is "openly displayed upon his cross" is the gospel preached.

Contemplating the cross, we're left to stand and wonder at this chilling spectacle. The Lord of glory hung upon a cross of shame. Bearing the wrath we deserved, God displayed his love "so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). On the wings of this remarkable, incomprehensible historical event, God's glory soared ad infinitum.


Excerpted from "Rescuing Ambition"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by C. J. Mahaney,
Introduction: Ambition's Face,
1 Ambition Conceived WE ARE WIRED FOR GLORY,
Afterword: Why I Wrote This Book,

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Rescuing Ambition 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
lauranav on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I heard good things about this book and looked forward to reading it. I am so glad I did.Harvey writes with clarity and humor, good examples, plenty of references to the Bible to support his points, and a passion to convey the importance of this area in our lives.He begins by talking about what ambition is and how we all have it. That, of course, leads into a discussion of how it has been corrupted into an ugly selfish ambition. Next he talks about how ambition, along with all of our passions and strengths, are converted by our faith in Christ. Now our ambition should be driven by seeking God's glory and understanding that God is shaping our ambition with His own goal in mind. He covers when ambitions seem to fail, the need for confidence and humility, and the ability to be ambitious and content at the same time.Highly recommended, and convicting!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago