Should Christians be Ambitious?

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When you live with unmet plans or goals, there’s a sense of restlessness or discontentment. But when you take a leap of faith and pursue outrageous goals, have you ever felt conflicted? The activity you’ve created begins to build momentum and work demands extreme focus. You may think, am I ambitious?



The world has given ambition a negative connotation. Clearly, the Bible warns us to avoid selfish ambition.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.”

Philippians 1:15-17 (New International Version)

Unfortunately, when Christians believe that ambition is sinful, it can create an apathetic culture. Potential forerunners could end up watching on the sidelines while a faithless world leads.



I recently questioned why ambition was perceived negative within the Christian culture. We’ve heard, “God has a plan for your life.” Shouldn’t we work our plan with enthusiasm and perseverance? I had to ask myself, am I too ambitious?

“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

The word “plan” is immersed in the thoughts of God and referenced as creating new ideas. In context, the Hebrew translation means “a series of steps to be carried out or goals to be accomplished” as found in the Word-By-Word Exegetical Guide.

When we follow God’s plan, ambition often fuels us. Not passion (emotion) or purpose (intention), but ambition (action). It’s time to redeem this faith-filled word.



Ambition is a beautiful word that is closely related to the aim. It comes from the Greek word, philotimeomai, which means “To be fond of honor, to be [motivated] by love.

The Greek word, philotimeomai, appears three times in the Bible and in context evokes study once, strive once, and labor once in the authorized version (AV).


Ambition: (study)

“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.”

1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 (NIV)

Ambition: (strive)

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.”

Romans 15:20 (NIV)

Ambition: (labor)

“So we make it our goal [ambition] to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

2 Co 5:9-10 (NIV)



The Apostle Paul’s ambition was to proclaim Christ. Paul experienced life fulfillment in the plans that led to abundance but also suffering. He discovered the secret that married faith and ambition—Christ.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

“To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

Colossians 1:29 (NIV)

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

When love fuels ambition, our priority isn’t found in the outcome; God determines the outcome. We just obey, yet, God has given us the gift of choice to set personal priorities within the framework of His plan.



What God-size plan is waiting for you? Are you conflicted by a world’s view of ambition? Perhaps, it’s time to redeem this beautiful faith-filled word. If God has called you to pursue an unimaginable path, remember He will equip you with the skills, tools, and resources needed to accomplish His plan.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but life is too short to live with regrets. Someday, may we all hear, “Well done.”


Marisa Shadrick

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“Aim – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed July 08, 2016.

Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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