Ambition: It is a bane and it is a blessing. When it is ambition for personal advancement, especially where the ‘means justifies the end,’ then it can be harmful to the ambitious one and others. Yet, when ambition is directed towards a greater good, everyone benefits. As the adage says: “When you see someone reaching for authority, avoid him. He will hurt you. When you see someone reaching for responsibility, embrace him. He will bless you.”
The latter clearly applies to the apostle Paul. He was so single-minded in his devotion for God, sold out to fulfilling his call with joy (Acts 20), fighting the good fight of faith and winning the prize, that the entire world has been blessed for centuries because of him.
He is one of the most influential people who ever lived; a man who changed the world. How did he do it?
In our first part, we learned Principle One - Grace: Don’t let your natural gifts get in the way of God’s grace. Be willing to surrender them all to God in order to live by grace and truth (John 1:14,17).
Principle Two - Righteousness: Be found in Christ having His righteousness, not your own, in your life. Matthew 5:20 is a warning from Jesus you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. Considering they were very righteous by human standards, this could have disheartening for Jesus’ hearers. Yet, as we learn in Philippians 3:9, when you have Christ’s righteousness dwelling in your heart by faith, you can know ‘kingdom living.’
With these two things in mind, let’s look at the third principle of have to change the world.
Principle Three - Knowing Christ:
The basis of this is found in Philippians 3:10-11, where Paul writes: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Frankly, this comes across as a two-edged sword. The notion of ‘knowing Christ’ is indeed wonderful, yet this same the Son of David, Son of God, Messiah, Saviour and King, also is One who suffered and did so unspeakably for our sins. To know the One Who conquered sin, destroyed the works of the devil, triumphed over principalities and powers, and lives forevermore, is essential for being an agent of change in the world.
To know Him includes, among other things:
1. Understanding that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30);
2. He has overcome the world (John 16:33);
3. He is meek and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:29);
4. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Revelation 22:13);
5. He is high above all principality, power, might, dominion and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:21);
6. He is the king of glory (Psalm 24:8,10);
7. Ever gentle: a bruised reed he will not break and a smoking flax he will not quench (Matthew 12:20);
8. All authority is given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).
There is even more than what is described here. It takes a lifetime, even an eternity, to get to know the One who saves the soul (John 17:3). Yet within all this is the fellowship of His sufferings; definitely not a topic you can expect to hear from most pulpits.
‘Fellowship of His Suffering’:
In considering this Biblical phrase, remember that we are in a fallen world and until Christ returns, suffering happens to the unrighteous and the righteous. Yet, there is a silver lining. Suffering brings purity - the psalmist said that before he was afflicted, he went astray, but now - thanks to affliction - he takes heed to God’s Word (Psalm 119:67). Suffering helps us identify with Christ and others; we can be empathetic because we have stood in that place (II Corinthians 1:4-6).
During one of our holy land trips my luggage and that of half of the pilgrims was held up and we did not see them again for 5 days. People were amazingly distraught at being separated from their possessions, even for a day. It was good that I, too, awaited my luggage, otherwise I would have been told ‘You don’t understand!’ That fact is I did understand because my bags were held up like the others.
Suffering is also like growing pains; it shows that we are headed for enlargement. The psalmist says that God enlarged Him when he was in distress (Psalm 4:1). This suffering that Paul writes about speaks of being made conformable to Christ’s death. Again, this is a topic that is avoided, but remember it is fundamental to victorious Christian living. As Christ died for us, we die in Him (Romans 6). As Christ rose, we rise in Him. No death, no resurrection power - it is a simple as that.
Power of His Resurrection:
This is also a key to victory and world change. Death represents the ultimate of weakness. I often say that the weakest living person is mightier than the strongest dead person. Death means weakness. Resurrection represents the ultimate of power over the ultimate weakness. It takes power to raise the dead and that power comes from God. The same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead will quicken your mortal body and eventually trade it in for a glorified body that can never ever die. That’s power in action.
If Philippians 3:9-10 still seems to be a bit much, always remember that you are not walking this pathway alone - you are walking with God. His grace and truth will enable, equip, and edify you. You are also walking in the fellowship of the saints, who are going through the same situation.
So if we are going to be an agent of world-change, remember that knowing Christ in all His fullness is an indispensable key.
By Sharon L. Reidenbach
Is September, not January, our jumping off point for a “New Year?” Like after the summer, and the old song reminds us it’s time: “To Get Back In The Saddle,” did we wonder during our R&R if the “old saddle” is worn out, and needs replacing?
For a long time we’ve said: Today I’ll do better, I’ll keep it together. I’ll make this work. But the first grouchy person we encounter, or our “perfect” plans go awry, negative darts penetrate our emotional psychic. And we think if I don’t leave this place, I’m going to scream! And it’s not 10 a.m.!
To ask these questions in January though, is like a firefighter turning over a new leaf in the middle of a blaze: “I’m not happy here,” and abruptly leaves. September, however offers us new possibilities before vacating our “blaze,” like, reevaluating new programs, reassessing our job options, or rethinking about a different part of the country.
But before replacing the saddle, let’s ask: what’s contributing to us feeling dissatisfied, unsettled, or unhappy? Will a new shiny saddle change our irritability, and disgruntled attitudes? Is the real issue a faltering relationship with Christ, and not the circumstances, or place? And will those prickly, irritations, and disgruntled attitudes resurface elsewhere?
In the demanding, confrontational world Christ lived in, He never allowed man to upset Him, nor change his day, for he knew their earthly nature (John 22:24-25, NKJV). Yet, His compassion, tender and, thoughtful spirit never wavered, loving to the point of death.
Running away from the “blaze,” won’t change the root problems. But we’re promised if we: “Commit your [our] works to the Lord, and your [our] thoughts will be established” (Proverbs 16:3). Then God asks us to trust Him with these works. As He’s the One who sees the big picture for our life: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Committing, trusting, following Christ’s example, and taking hold of God’s promises, will replace our anxieties about the future, and wondering if our “saddle “ is worn out.
September, our New Year, might find us turning over a new leaf with a move, or staying. Wherever we work or live however, isn’t important. It’s placing our life in His hands, and living each day with:
A Mind, through, which Christ thinks,
A Heart, through, which Christ loves,
A Voice, through, which Christ speaks,
A Hand, through, which Christ helps. (Anonymous)