How to Develop Godly Ambition
How to Develop Godly Ambition
The story of Daniel is amazing. He strategically placed himself in a position to become the top advisor to the most powerful man on the planet. But he never seemed to be trying to promote himself. He was always more concerned about building God’s kingdom than his own kingdom.
The story of Daniel interpreting the king’s dream in Daniel 2 is a great picture of this. We can learn how to develop our own ambitions in whatever field God has called us, by watching Daniel and the way he works. Here’s how it happens:
1. Depend on God’s power.
When Daniel had a big challenge in front of him (like reading the mind of the king to tell him his dream) he went to God in prayer first. Maybe you say, “Well obviously he would do that. How else would he read the king’s mind? His job was very different from my job.”
Really? Lots of people today have jobs that aren’t so different. Maybe you’re a financial planner or a real-estate agent. If you’re going to succeed, you need to read the stock market’s mind, or the real-estate market’s mind, so you can tell clients when to buy or sell. Maybe you’re a teacher. If you’re going to make it, you need to read 6-year-old’s minds. You need to know that when they say one thing, they really mean the opposite: “I know you’re telling me you’re not going to puke, but let’s get the trash can anyway.”
Many of us need to be mind-readers, so we’re tempted to rely on the training, skills, and gut-level instincts we’ve built over the years And Daniel was no different. It says at the end of chapter 1 that Daniel was “ten times better than all the magicians and mediums in the entire kingdom.” He had serious skills. It would be easy for him to lean on that, but he leaned on God first.
And then he acknowledged God as the one who was empowering everything he did: “You have given me wisdom and power,” and that’s what I’m using to answer the king. Which leads to the second step:
2. Use your gifts.
God gave Daniel wisdom and power, and Daniel used those gifts to serve the king. If God gives you gifts, talents, skills, knowledge, or training? You gotta use them! Don’t let them go to waste. Don’t fall into the rut we all fall into sometimes, where you just do what’s easiest.
Keep pressing yourself to grow, mature, and develop the gifts God’s given you. Which means you probably stop trying to do things that God hasn’t gifted you for. Daniel’s friends didn’t have the same gifts of wisdom and power that Daniel was given, so you don’t see them trying to tell the king what his dream was. They knew you need to stay in your lane, and use your gifts.
3. Engage with the world.
Some of us have ambitions that are mostly about surviving. You go to work or school, and just survive life out in the world until you can get back into the nice, comfortable Christian bubble.
And Daniel had the same temptation. We know from Jeremiah that there were false prophets during this time who were telling the Jews in Babylon to just sit tight, and keep to themselves. They said God was going to destroy Babylon within two years. You can read about those false prophecies in Jeremiah 28, then you can see what God has to say about the false prophecies in Jeremiah 29:
This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. … Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
In other words, I took you out of your nice comfortable bubble in Judah and I sent you out into the world. And it wasn’t so you could build a new little bubble, separate from the world. It was so you could engage with the world. So you could pursue the well-being of the world! When it thrives? You thrive.
Daniel must have read that letter, and that’s why he’s been working so hard for this pagan nation. He’s been looking for ways to build bridges between their culture and his God. There was no way he was going to convince the king to read the Hebrew Bible. The Babylonians wouldn’t trust the Torah as divine revelation. Guess what the Babylonians did trust as divine revelation? Dreams! So Daniel engaged with their culture, using the king’s dreams as a way to point him toward the one true God.
We need to figure out how to be fully engaged with the world, without becoming conformed to the world. That’s really tough to do, so that’s why you need solid people around you, who
are always looking out for you:
4. Find a squad.
You need Christian community, like Daniel had with his squad. He always had his boys around him. Praying with him, praying for him, watching out for him. If you want to make sure your ambition is godly ambition, you need to have fellow believers to walk alongside you.
Form a prayer group in your office, on your job site, or on your campus. Join a community group at church so you can have people praying with you and looking out for you. You need a squad.
5. Seek God’s kingdom.
Seek God’s kingdom more than your own. There’s nothing wrong with building a kingdom, but whose kingdom are you seeking first? Jesus said, “Seek first God’s kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.” Seek God’s kingdom first, and he’ll take care of your kingdom.
That’s what you can see throughout Daniel 3. Daniel tells the king that God’s kingdom “will never be destroyed. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.” And amazingly, the king rewards him for this offensive message, elevating him to the highest position in the land.
We won’t always win in life the way Daniel was winning. But with godly ambition like his, we’ll see richer and deeper success than we could have dreamed possible.