What are your ambitions? It is amazing how our ambitions change at different points in life. You can hardly imagine grandpa and grandson having the same ambitions. They may love each other deeply and thoroughly enjoy being together. But their ambitions will normally run in very different directions. It would be far more likely that the ambitions grandpa had when he was grandson’s age are the same or similar. In your own ambitions, do they tend to center on careers, companions, money and prestige? As we get older we tend to think we have either found our place in a career or that we have fulfilled our place in that area. We tend to feel that we have settled the companionship piece of the puzzle. Prestige means less and less to us as years go by, as a rule. Even our concerns over money will change drastically. In our older years it isn’t so much about how to make more all the time as it is how will I make what I have now and what I have coming in last until I have completed mine and my companions life on earth.
Is ambition good or bad, or is it neutral? It really depends on the ambition. If my ambition for money and prestige are so strong that I’m willing to do just about anything to achieve them, then ambition is a bad thing. If my ambition centers on doing right and pleasing God it is a good thing. Paul was certainly expressing his ambition when he told the Philippians, “This one thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind and straining toward the things that are before me, I press toward the mark of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This is a picture of one who is very ambitious in the right way and it leads him to stretch every muscle to try to reach the goal of God’s calling in his life.
One of the greatest statements ever made about ambition is found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians 4:9-12. “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Notice that the pond in which Paul was fishing was one of love for each other as fellow Christians. He declared that the Christians in Thessalonica were doing a good job of loving each other yet they should keep growing in that love, more and more all the time. One never has enough love, much less achieving too much love. Out of that pond he encourages us to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life.
As is often the case with Biblical writers and especially the Apostle Paul, he moves in a direction we would not have expected. Imagine a parent sitting down with his teenager to have a talk about his future. How often do you think you would hear such a parent say something to the effect, “Son, you have tremendous ability, beyond anything I ever had at your age. There aren’t many limits on what you can accomplish in the world. You can really make the world a better place if you are willing to work at it. I want to plead with you to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. Mind your own business. Work with your hands, just as we’ve told you all along?” Is that the lecture you have given to your teenager? Is it the one you plan to give them when they are about ready to leave home and start their efforts in the world? Is it your ambition?
What does it mean to be quiet anyway? It means to “be quiet, tranquil, in contrast to excited and unquiet bustle.” (Bullinger’s A Critical Lexicon and Concordance of the Greek New Testament). He defines the adjective form of the word as “Making no agitation or disturbance, exciting no disturbance in others; tranquility arising from within.” Paul uses the same word in 2 Thessalonians 3:12 when he was talking about the people who weren’t working and were spending their time as busybodies. He said, “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.” The word is here translated to “Settle down”. In I Timothy 2:2 Paul told Timothy to pray for kings and all who were in authority that we may lead a “Quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and holiness.” Peter used the word when he talked about the heart of a godly wife that she should have “gentle and quiet spirit that is very precious in the sight of God.” (I Peter 3:4) Some other words that might help is that it means to be calm and under control. It was a form of this word that Jesus used when he told the wind and waves to “Be quiet” and they settled down and were calm.
So we should be ambitious to live a quiet life that is characterized by minding our own business and working with out hands. It almost sounds strange to our modern ears. We want to agitate to push people to believe as we do. We like to march for what we believe. We like to hold up signs that declare to the world what we think. Yet God had Paul to write to us to be ambitious to be quiet, mind our own business and work with out hands. Notice he explained why that was important. “SO THAT your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and SO THAT you will not be dependent on anybody.” Think about that. If we want to win the respect of people who aren’t Christians we should be quiet, mind our own business and work with our hands and not be dependent on anybody.
I think this would be a great couple of verses to hang on the wall in your house and mine and let’s make it our ambition to live this way and thus gain the respect of those on the outside.