Jump Start # 2217
2 Corinthians 5:9 “Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
Ambition—that word often gets a negative taste in our mouths. We envision the greedy corporate newcomer who wants to climb the executive ladder in his career. He has drive. He has a goal. He wants to be on top. He works long hours to achieve what he is after. The image of a young athlete who wants to become a professional or make it to the Olympics also comes to our mind. He trains and trains and practices and practices until he’s one of the best. He has ambition.
However, we don’t think of this spiritually. We’ve heard sermons about greed. We listened to the preacher talk about contentment. We’ve seen Jesus as the humble servant. Put others first, we are told. So, personal ambition seems to go out the window for most Christians. We even struggle with the passage about elders, where it begins, “if any man aspires (or desires) the office of a bishop”. He needs to want it, but not too much. Too much desire and it’s wrong. Too little and it’s not enough. And, so our little spiritual boat just floats along with the tide. About the only spiritual desire or goal that seems acceptable is Heaven. You are supposed to want Heaven, but other spiritual ambitions are a “no-no.”
Then we come to our verse today. Home or absent, the apostle says our ambition is to please the Lord. Home, in this context, meant being out of our body or death. Absent meant absent from the Lord’s presence and here on planet earth. The context is desiring to leave this earthly tent and go home to God. In either way and in either place, the goal is to please God. Our ambition is to please God.
From that, here’s a few thoughts:
First, to accomplish any goal, that goal must be clear and before our eyes. Generic, vague goals are easy to lay aside and easy to miss. What drives that young athlete, what drives that business executive, is knowing exactly what they must do to reach the next level. It’s all before them.
Our ambition is to please the Lord. What does that mean? For some, just go to worship on Sunday. That’s it. God wants me in church and so I will do that. But what about the other days of the week? It doesn’t do much good to make God happy one day of the week and then ignore Him or, worse, anger Him, the rest of the week.
Walking by faith, found within the context of our passage is one way we do this. Faith drives us. Faith is what will please God. Faith in others is what made Jesus marvel. So, it’s thinking spiritually. It’s making choices that are based upon God. It’s thinking before we act, speak or do things. What would God want me to do?
Second, because of the word ambition, there is a drive and a determination with this. Here is a person who is living with a purpose. You won’t find that athlete who wants to be in the Olympics sitting around in a donut shop eating donuts until he is stuffed. He’s on a specific diet. He rows out of bed while it is still dark and runs. When it’s cold out and he really doesn’t want to run, he pushes himself. He has a drive. When is body aches and he feels like stopping, he keeps going. He knows if he stops, his goal will be unfinished. He will fail. His friends want to go out at night but he must tell them “No.” He has to get up in the morning and train. His ambition and his goal has shaped his life and made his choices for him. He knows that everyone back home watching the Olympics on TV would love to be in his shoes, but very few would want to go through what he has to be there. Every Sunday afternoon football junkie would love to be the quarterback on TV, but most lack the talent, and most would never want to pay what it took to get there.
Now, is it any different spiritually. Certainly everyone wants to go to Heaven. Sit through just about any funeral and you get the impression that anyone can go. You don’t have to love God at all and the way some preach funerals, you’ll still make it to Heaven. You can be as wicked and godless as you want, and you’ll still make it. Never been to church, no problem. Never cracked open a Bible, no problem. Heaven is easy. You don’t do anything. That’s the impression we get from the way some preach funerals. But we know better. We must make it our ambition to please God.
So, there will be times when you must say “No,” to a world that wants to say “Yes.” Movies that glorify sin, mock God, and are laced with profanity is no place for a child of God. Just as the future Olympian says no to donuts, we must say no to immorality, no matter what form it comes in. We must say “No,” to staying up late on Saturday nights. Why? Because Sunday is coming. We want to please God. Remember, our ambition? So, a good nights sleep on Saturday so we are more than just awake, we are passionate, in tune and ready to honor God. We must say “No,” to immodesty. It sends the wrong message and it doesn’t please God.
Likewise, we must say “Yes,” when the world says “No.” Yes to Bible classes. Do you have to go to Bible class to go to Heaven? Should we be asking that question? Someone who is driven to please God will be where God’s word is studied, taught and explained. Does the ballplayer who wants to make it to the majors have to run? If he wants to make it to the majors, he does. We must say “yes,” to worship. We must say “yes,” to connecting with God’s people. Filling our lives with living examples who will encourage us, show us and help us, is something that we must say “Yes” to. Should we be busy doing things for others? Jesus did. The apostles taught that. Having a spiritual ambition to please God will open my eyes to all kinds of good things that can be done.
Third, this ambition is not about being the best song leader, the best preacher, the best elder, but rather pleasing God. This ambition is not directed nor pointed towards us, but towards God. We want to please God. We want to do what God wants. Inherit in all of this is knowing what pleases God. When someone snaps at me, what would please God? For me to unload and chew someone out, or to do what Jesus did? When someone comes and apologies, what would please God? You know. Hug them. Forgive them. Never mention the subject again. When gossip flies through the church, what would please God? You stop it. You not participate in it. You notice someone seems discouraged. What would please God? You go out of your way to spend some time with that person. You invite them out to eat. You help them. You sing enthusiastically, why? Because that pleases God. You engage in worship, rather than sit there like you are bored to death. Why? Because that pleases God. At work, you let your light shine. Why? Because that pleases God. In the neighborhood, you set the example of being a true neighbor. Why? Because that pleases God. You are always thinking of ways to make things better. Why? Because that pleases God. You volunteer to help out at church. Why? That pleases God. You are involved in the spiritual direction of your family. Why? That pleases God.
God first. God always. It’s what we want more than anything else. It’s much more than simply wanting to go to Heaven when we die, it’s every day trying to please God. It’s resisting Satan and drawing near to God as James said. It’s praying without ceasing as the Thessalonians learned. It’s not being conformed to the world, but being transformed as the Romans were told.
A group of children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. One wanted to be a ball player. One wanted to be a nurse. One wanted to be a mommy. One child said, “When I grow up, I just want to be myself.” For us, when I grow up, I want to please God.
Have you noticed the expression of someone who is pleased? A smile comes on their face. I can be in a room full of people and when one of my sweet grandchildren spots me, a big smile comes on their face and they race towards me. That certainly fills the heart. What Paul is talking about is putting a smile on God’s face. To the five talent man, the master said, “Well done.”
Think about that. Your choices today can put a smile on the face of God. That’s what we are after!