Mark 9:33-35 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
Yet as believers, we often consider ambition to be a bad and worldly thing. But Yeshua (Jesus) said, “He who would be greatest among you must be the servant of all.” So think about it … did Yeshua say we shouldn’t desire greatness? No, to the contrary, He recognized desire and ambition for significance and accomplishment. He even affirmed them, and gave instruction how to direct these passions. But His perspective required an important reorientation.
C.S. Lewis had something illuminating to share about this subject:
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (Excerpt from “The Weight of Glory”).
Lewis agrees with the Lord that desire and ambition should be intense, in the right expression, toward the right objective. Some people have great and passionate worldly desires and ambitions for wealth, power, fame, etc, and even these desires reveal an aspect of God’s image which every man carries, because God is great, with great desires, so those whom He created reflect this characteristic.
The critical element then, is not to kill desire, as for example Buddhist religion demands, but to sanctify it… How? Simply by yoking it to love for God and love for others, expressed by becoming a servant. Being great in God’s eyes comes from being great like Him, and in Him, who was the most exemplary servant ever.
Yeshua said that true greatness is achieved in servanthood. In this light, ambition, passion, and desire, under the unction of the Holy Spirit do not serve pride or vainglory, but are expressed in humility, servanthood, and self-giving.
Yeshua came from glory and lowered Himself from the heights of heaven, and so He taught us how to be great. The awesome paradox that the Son of God, entirely equal with the Father as His express image, became a flesh and blood human in order to die, is the quintessential act of loving servanthood. This qualified Him to receive the greatest Name above every name.
Perhaps you have been seeking to beat down your ambition, squelch your desire, and quench your unquenchable passions. Apart from being nearly impossible, short of becoming a self-flagellating monk, these energies ought rather to be redirected. Consecrate your passion, dedicate your desire, submit your ambition, by offering your body as a living sacrifice to God [Romans 12:1-2]. His Holy Spirit will inspire your desire, fashion your passion, and condition your ambition, to bear the beautiful fruit of His Spirit for His Kingdom’s sake. The greatest in the Kingdom will be the servant of all! Be a servant of His love, His compassion, and His grace. Exemplify Godly ambition!