May 10, 2022

Changing Our Ambition

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Powerful religious zealots, willing to slander, persecute, and even kill people to insure nothing threatens the religious order that has them on top — can change. 

Followers of Jesus, desiring to be the best, overconfident in their own abilities, and who fail miserably and repeatedly — can change.

Lonely people, looking for love in all the wrong places, and finding themselves empty and full of shame — can change. 

Successful party and music promoters, seeking power, influence, and pleasure in the most success driven culture in the world — can change.

Ambitious, self-directed leaders in the workplace who trust Jesus with their lives, but misuse their assurance for selfish gain — can change.

No matter your background, circumstances, or ambitions, you — can change.

The Goal Of Life 

“The Goal of life is not accomplishment, it’s formation into the image of Jesus.” – Jon Tyson. This statement goes against everything the world – especially the business world – tells us about life, yet the truth is undeniable. Now, let's see how God changes, hearts, minds, and our ambition. 

A Religious Zealot Changed 

Saul, also known as Paul, had an unusual combination of power. As a Roman citizen, he had protection and status. As a Jew, taught by one of the most influential religious teachers of the day, he had the very best religious education. Paul had high esteem and honor as a Pharisee. He used these gifts and his zealous ambition to protect the religious order that gave him special recognition. Paul misused his gifts and ambition until he was knocked off of his horse and met Jesus face to face. 

Paul tells his amazing story to a group of powerful royalty and rulers of the day. 

I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord's people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. 

On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord? 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'” - Acts 26:9-18

Jesus loved Paul so much that He confronted Paul with his sin and recommissioned him at the same time! Paul would later say, “My ambition is to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20).

A Confident Coward Changed 

Peter, a confident yet naive follower of Jesus, claimed he would never deny Jesus — even after Jesus himself predicted the disciples would “all fall away” (Mathew 26:31). Peter responds with a resounding, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35). Yet, Peter did deny Jesus three times, and then, in humiliation, wept bitterly. 

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, when Peter and the other disciples, in their confusion, had gone back to their old job, fishing, Jesus appeared to them, prepared a meal for them, and when they had finished eating, Jesus spoke with Peter. 

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” - John 21:15-17

Jesus restores Peter and commissions him at the same time. Soon after this, on the day the Holy Spirit descended on the believers in Jerusalem, Peter stood up and proclaimed the truth and love of Jesus in front of thousands of people, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off---for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). Peter spent the rest of his life in service to Jesus — teaching others about the love of Christ.

A Shame Filled Nobody Changed 

A woman from Samaria came to draw water in the middle of the heat-filled day. She lived the kind of life that led to such shame that she would not go for water in the morning or evening when it was cool like other people did. No, she did not want to run into other people at the well. 

Despite her hiding, the woman at the well had a divine appointment on this day. She met Jesus and He noticed her and talked to her — even though it was improper to talk with her due to her status and religious beliefs. Jesus asked her for water and restored her dignity in such a way that gave her confidence. Jesus offered her “living water” and explained to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:13-14

Jesus loved her and gave her such dignity and purpose that she left the well — and her water jar — and immediately told others all about Jesus. Her new ambition was to tell everyone about her old life and all that she had done and all that Jesus had done for her, because she knew that He could do the same for them. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” - John 4:29 

A Selfish Promoter Changed 

Scott Harrison grew up in a Christian home. Scott was a good kid and even took good care of his very sick mother. When Scott became an adult, he decided to live a radically different life. Scott started constantly partying and eventually became a highly successful club promoter. 

As the partying raged on, Scott became emptier and emptier as his life became darker and darker. One day, Scott began to wonder what he would be remembered for, and Scott realized his life was in shambles. “I had the grand piano in my New York City apartment – all of these markings, all these things I thought would make me happy – and I realized instead of being happy, I was the most deeply unhappy person that I knew. I was emotionally bankrupt. I was spiritually bankrupt, and if I continued down this path, the legacy that I was leaving was not only a meaningless one, but you could argue a destructive one.”

Scott wanted his life to be defined by the exact opposite things (selflessness) that defined his life (selfishness). “I started to imagine what it would look like to live a life 180 degrees in the opposite direction of how I was living. And, 6 months later, I sold everything I owned.” Scott decided to go to Liberia and document the lives of thousands of people who were being treated by selfless doctors on a medical ship. Those doctors also helped Scott understand the life Jesus was offering Scott. 

Now, filled with new purpose, Scott saw the overwhelming need for clean water. 

So, Scott used his connections and people skills that made him a successful club promoter to found a charity called Charity Water.

It is clear that God changed Scott and his ambition. Now, the object of Scott's ambition is the alleviation of suffering caused by lack of water. “I believe now, more than ever, water changes everything. It is one of the most transformative things on planet Earth. If you really want to impact people's lives, if you want to lift them out of extreme poverty, water is the best way.”

A Self-Ambitious Leader Changed 

Like Scott Harrison, I grew up in a Christian home. Although my dad died when I was seven, my mother selflessly gave her life to raise me and my two sisters, and my mother made it her ambition for her children to know the Lord, even placing a plaque above the front door. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). 

God provided for our family and gave me incredible exposure to a good education and, most importantly, God provided His truth and His people. I always had outstanding role models in addition to my mom. Being confident that God loved me, I cluelessly began a self-absorbed slide starting in high school and continuing through college and the early part of my career — even though much of this time I was participating and even leading Bible studies. 

My career thrived even during market catastrophes (financial crisis of 1998, internet bust, 2001, and 2008) and some poor decision making on my part. My tolerance for risk was as high as my selfishness. I believed that Jesus died for sinners like me, that God chose me before He made the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), but did not have a Christ centered ambition for all the gifts God gave me. 

In the meantime, God kept giving me more and more of His truth and more and more examples of how to live out this truth. Finally, in reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I understood that I was living a life of “cheap grace” — making a mockery out of what Jesus had done for me on the cross. I realized my life was not my own, that I had been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Shortly thereafter, I joined a discipleship group and we read Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper.

Through these books, countless prayers of others, many testimonies, mentors, great Gospel preaching and teaching by Sandy Wilson, and trips to Argentina, God continued to show me that all of life was from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). He also showed me these verses from Romans that opened the eyes of my heart to the rest of the Bible.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:1-2 

In 2009, as I started a new business, I officially made it my ambition to make disciples in and through my work, throughout Memphis, wherever my business took me, and to make disciples throughout the world as God gave me opportunities to go (Mathew 28:20). While my efforts have been inconsistent, there has been fruit, people are coming to know Jesus better. At the same time, God has continually drawn me to Himself and shown me that I am a work in progress made in His image to do works that He has prepared in advance (Ephesians 2:10). 

What about you? Will you allow God to lead you to be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) as you give your life, work and every ambition for the glory of God? The Apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to encourage us this way. 

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3:7-11

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Howard Graham
Howard Graham
Executive Director

Powerful religious zealots, willing to slander, persecute, and even kill people to insure nothing threatens the religious order that has them on top — can change. 

Followers of Jesus, desiring to be the best, overconfident in their own abilities, and who fail miserably and repeatedly — can change.

Lonely people, looking for love in all the wrong places, and finding themselves empty and full of shame — can change. 

Successful party and music promoters, seeking power, influence, and pleasure in the most success driven culture in the world — can change.

Ambitious, self-directed leaders in the workplace who trust Jesus with their lives, but misuse their assurance for selfish gain — can change.

No matter your background, circumstances, or ambitions, you — can change.

The Goal Of Life 

“The Goal of life is not accomplishment, it’s formation into the image of Jesus.” – Jon Tyson. This statement goes against everything the world – especially the business world – tells us about life, yet the truth is undeniable. Now, let's see how God changes, hearts, minds, and our ambition. 

A Religious Zealot Changed 

Saul, also known as Paul, had an unusual combination of power. As a Roman citizen, he had protection and status. As a Jew, taught by one of the most influential religious teachers of the day, he had the very best religious education. Paul had high esteem and honor as a Pharisee. He used these gifts and his zealous ambition to protect the religious order that gave him special recognition. Paul misused his gifts and ambition until he was knocked off of his horse and met Jesus face to face. 

Paul tells his amazing story to a group of powerful royalty and rulers of the day. 

I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord's people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. 

On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord? 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'” - Acts 26:9-18

Jesus loved Paul so much that He confronted Paul with his sin and recommissioned him at the same time! Paul would later say, “My ambition is to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20).

A Confident Coward Changed 

Peter, a confident yet naive follower of Jesus, claimed he would never deny Jesus — even after Jesus himself predicted the disciples would “all fall away” (Mathew 26:31). Peter responds with a resounding, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35). Yet, Peter did deny Jesus three times, and then, in humiliation, wept bitterly. 

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, when Peter and the other disciples, in their confusion, had gone back to their old job, fishing, Jesus appeared to them, prepared a meal for them, and when they had finished eating, Jesus spoke with Peter. 

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” - John 21:15-17

Jesus restores Peter and commissions him at the same time. Soon after this, on the day the Holy Spirit descended on the believers in Jerusalem, Peter stood up and proclaimed the truth and love of Jesus in front of thousands of people, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off---for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). Peter spent the rest of his life in service to Jesus — teaching others about the love of Christ.

A Shame Filled Nobody Changed 

A woman from Samaria came to draw water in the middle of the heat-filled day. She lived the kind of life that led to such shame that she would not go for water in the morning or evening when it was cool like other people did. No, she did not want to run into other people at the well. 

Despite her hiding, the woman at the well had a divine appointment on this day. She met Jesus and He noticed her and talked to her — even though it was improper to talk with her due to her status and religious beliefs. Jesus asked her for water and restored her dignity in such a way that gave her confidence. Jesus offered her “living water” and explained to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:13-14

Jesus loved her and gave her such dignity and purpose that she left the well — and her water jar — and immediately told others all about Jesus. Her new ambition was to tell everyone about her old life and all that she had done and all that Jesus had done for her, because she knew that He could do the same for them. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” - John 4:29 

A Selfish Promoter Changed 

Scott Harrison grew up in a Christian home. Scott was a good kid and even took good care of his very sick mother. When Scott became an adult, he decided to live a radically different life. Scott started constantly partying and eventually became a highly successful club promoter. 

As the partying raged on, Scott became emptier and emptier as his life became darker and darker. One day, Scott began to wonder what he would be remembered for, and Scott realized his life was in shambles. “I had the grand piano in my New York City apartment – all of these markings, all these things I thought would make me happy – and I realized instead of being happy, I was the most deeply unhappy person that I knew. I was emotionally bankrupt. I was spiritually bankrupt, and if I continued down this path, the legacy that I was leaving was not only a meaningless one, but you could argue a destructive one.”

Scott wanted his life to be defined by the exact opposite things (selflessness) that defined his life (selfishness). “I started to imagine what it would look like to live a life 180 degrees in the opposite direction of how I was living. And, 6 months later, I sold everything I owned.” Scott decided to go to Liberia and document the lives of thousands of people who were being treated by selfless doctors on a medical ship. Those doctors also helped Scott understand the life Jesus was offering Scott. 

Now, filled with new purpose, Scott saw the overwhelming need for clean water. 

So, Scott used his connections and people skills that made him a successful club promoter to found a charity called Charity Water.

It is clear that God changed Scott and his ambition. Now, the object of Scott's ambition is the alleviation of suffering caused by lack of water. “I believe now, more than ever, water changes everything. It is one of the most transformative things on planet Earth. If you really want to impact people's lives, if you want to lift them out of extreme poverty, water is the best way.”

A Self-Ambitious Leader Changed 

Like Scott Harrison, I grew up in a Christian home. Although my dad died when I was seven, my mother selflessly gave her life to raise me and my two sisters, and my mother made it her ambition for her children to know the Lord, even placing a plaque above the front door. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). 

God provided for our family and gave me incredible exposure to a good education and, most importantly, God provided His truth and His people. I always had outstanding role models in addition to my mom. Being confident that God loved me, I cluelessly began a self-absorbed slide starting in high school and continuing through college and the early part of my career — even though much of this time I was participating and even leading Bible studies. 

My career thrived even during market catastrophes (financial crisis of 1998, internet bust, 2001, and 2008) and some poor decision making on my part. My tolerance for risk was as high as my selfishness. I believed that Jesus died for sinners like me, that God chose me before He made the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), but did not have a Christ centered ambition for all the gifts God gave me. 

In the meantime, God kept giving me more and more of His truth and more and more examples of how to live out this truth. Finally, in reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I understood that I was living a life of “cheap grace” — making a mockery out of what Jesus had done for me on the cross. I realized my life was not my own, that I had been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Shortly thereafter, I joined a discipleship group and we read Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper.

Through these books, countless prayers of others, many testimonies, mentors, great Gospel preaching and teaching by Sandy Wilson, and trips to Argentina, God continued to show me that all of life was from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). He also showed me these verses from Romans that opened the eyes of my heart to the rest of the Bible.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:1-2 

In 2009, as I started a new business, I officially made it my ambition to make disciples in and through my work, throughout Memphis, wherever my business took me, and to make disciples throughout the world as God gave me opportunities to go (Mathew 28:20). While my efforts have been inconsistent, there has been fruit, people are coming to know Jesus better. At the same time, God has continually drawn me to Himself and shown me that I am a work in progress made in His image to do works that He has prepared in advance (Ephesians 2:10). 

What about you? Will you allow God to lead you to be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) as you give your life, work and every ambition for the glory of God? The Apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to encourage us this way. 

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3:7-11

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