Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's your ambition?

“What’s Your Ambition?” (Romans 15:14-33)
Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers

Max Lucado tells a humorous parable about reaching for four candles when the lights went out, only to have the candles make excuses why they could not come out of the closet and shine their light. One said he needed more preparation, one said he was busy meditating on the meaning of light (it was enlightening), another fat candle said he wasn't stable enough, and a candle with a female voice said that shining light was "not my gift," so instead she sang to inspire others to shine their light. Then she began to sing, "This little light of mine."

(Max Lucado, God Came Near, quoted in Max Lucado, ed., The Devotional Bible, p. 1383-1384.)

Many of Jesus’ followers are like those candles. Afraid to be light to the world and shine the light of Christ. But not the apostle Paul. In Romans 15:20 he writes to the Christians at Rome, whom he has never met, and says, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” Then he asks them to prepare to send him on a mission trip to Spain.

Paul had a great ambition to shine the light of Christ. How about you? What’s your ambition for Jesus? Let’s look at Paul’s ambition, and think about our own.

I. Paul’s ambition (15:14-21)

Motivational author Jim Collins coined the term “BHAG” (BEE-hag), or “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” to inspire businesses to have a great vision.

For example, the BHAG of Amazon.com is “Every book, ever printed in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”

The BHAG of Microsoft is “A computer on every desk in every home.”

The BHAG of Ford is “democratize the automobile.”

The apostle Paul had a BHAG, but his ambitious desires did not stand for “big, hairy, audacious goal.” Instead, it stood for “bold, holy, acceptable and God-driven.”

  1. Bold (v. 15)

Paul says in verse 15, “I have written you quite boldly on some points.” In Ephesians 6:19, he asks the Ephesians to pray for him to be a bold preacher.

Paul was a bold preacher. He boldly stood before Greek philosophers in Athens and proclaimed Jesus, and before cynical synagogues as well, in city after city.

We must be bold in our ambition for Christ. I remember the weekend in the spring of 1999 when I first came to Rincon to meet the people of this church, as a candidate to be your pastor. Steve Spence took me to a big concrete slab where you are now sitting. That’s all there was here: a concrete slab. He said, “We’re building a new worship center here.” I heard the story of how this church voted almost unanimously to step out on faith and to boldly build a worship center three times bigger than the one you had. God has blessed that.

  1. Holy (v. 16)

Paul says in verse 16 that he desires to be a minister of Christ Jesus whose preaching will lead people to be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” A young girl named Terrie was a student at Poplarville High School, and noticed that her school did not have any Christian organization, so she started one herself, called the CLOC club (Christians Living On Campus). By the time she was in her 30’s, Terrie had died of cancer, but she had made a lasting difference in a Christian club that continues to this day, because she had an ambition that was holy, to reach others for Jesus.

  1. Acceptable (v. 16)

Paul also says in verse 16 about his ministry, that he has a “priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God.”

This verse reminds us of Romans 12:1, where Paul urges Christians “to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.”

  1. God-driven (v. 17-19)

In the 1960s the heroic Christian leader Martin Niemoller came to America on a speaking tour. Knowing of his experience in the German resistance against Adolf Hitler, two newspaper reporters hurried to hear him, expecting sensational stories about Nazi Germany. After they heard him preach the gospel, the two reporters left, disappointed. One said to the other, “Six years in a Nazi prison camp, and all he has to talk about is Jesus Christ.” (James E. Hightower, Jr., Illustrating Paul’s Letter to the Romans, p. 113)

Paul emphases in verses 17-19 that this is all about God, not about himself. Many preachers love to bask in the glory. He says in verse 17, “I glory in Christ Jesus,” not himself. Many preachers love to get on a soapbox and preach on their pet peeves and favorite themes. Paul says in verse 18, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…” Many preachers depend on their ability to write clever sermons with catchy titles and captivating illustrations, or depend on the power of their booming voices. Paul said in verse 19 his was “by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.”

When Apple Computer fell on hard times a while back, Apple’s young chairman, Steven Jobs, traveled to New York City to convince Pepsico’s John Sculley to move west and run his struggling company.Jobs issued a challenge to Sculley: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?” Sculley says that Job’s challenge “knocked the wind out of me.” He decided to put his life in perspective and went to Apple Computers. (Craig Brian Larson, Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching from Leadership Journal, p. 278.) After all, not many people get to change the world.

But as Christians, we can change the world! Paul knew it, and that is why he had a great ambition for Christ. How about you? Do you have a BHAG (Bold, Holy, Acceptable, God-driven) ambition for Jesus?

Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers

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