Humble Ambition for Glory

We Americans have had a twisting relationship with ambition. Alexis de Tocqueville observed about us:

“There are no Americans who do not show that they are devoured by the desire to rise, but one sees almost none of them who appear to nourish vast hopes or to aim very high. All want constantly to acquire goods, reputation, power; few envision all these things on a grand scale.”

The ancient, royal regimes prior to democracy envisioned “all these things on a grand scale” - so they went to war. Americans instead acted out of economic self-interest and plunged into commerce, to acquire all these things for oneself. Ambition’s glory was sought from business, not the battlefied. This is because, according to Tocqueville, we Christians could not pursue pious humility and glory at the same time. Ambition had to go.

He might be half-right, but what say you, Paul? Look at how Paul prays in 2 Thess. 1:11-12. Paul assumes that the aim of our life is ambition, the pursuit of glory - the glory of Christ. But this glory comes not by war or commerce, but by active, creative, imaginative faith.

The context is Christ’s glorious return - the moment in history when we will see “all these things on [the grandest] scale”. But that glory then is increased by our ambitious pursuit of it now. Therefore Paul prays that God would fulfill - provide the necessary resources, make happen - “every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (v. 11). As ideas occur to us for the fame of his name, God promises to fulfill those ideas.

What frees us to act on those ideas is faith, that he will keep his promise to give you grace. So then, the conduit of glory is faith.

So we do seek glory. Yet it is entirely different, because it is entirely humble - it is all “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 12). And it will be a shared glory - “. . . and you in him.”

He promises to fulfill our ambitions for his glory. Our job is to believe he will give us grace, as he has promised. As you read this, what “resolves”, what ideas for his glory come to mind? Ask him for faith to believe him, and for grace. Then talk about your ambitions for his glory in your Community Group. What streets and doorways do you hope to cross for his name's fame? Do you believe He’ll provide the grace?