Leadership Character: Ambition Vs. Arrogance

There’s a word many Christians are afraid of. It’s almost a bad word. If you have it, many people assume it means you’re self-serving. Power hungry. But most of all, arrogant.

I’m talking about ambition.

It’s almost like if you want to excel at something or do big things with your life or organization, then you must have a God-complex. An all too elevated sense of self-importance.

There’s no denying that that’s definitely true in the case of some people. But I also fear that our fear of ambition is severely limiting other people who have been called to do great things for God. Why should we put a cap on their potential because some people can’t put a cap on their pride?

I’ve seen too many pastors settle for reaching hundreds when God called them to reach thousands. I’ve seen too many talented businessmen stop short of the impact God had called them to make on their field. All because they feared being thought of as ambitious.

So let’s clear this up once and for all: nowhere in the Bible is ambition condemned. Selfish ambition is definitely warned against. But ambition for the sake of God’s glory is not only condoned, it’s commended. It’s a required asset for anyone wanting to rise above the mass of men and do something extraordinary.

Ambition led Noah to build the ark. David to expand the borders of Israel. Solomon to build the Temple. Nehemiah to rebuild the walls. Paul to spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

I wonder if people accused them of being arrogant? Maybe. But then again, if you’re never accused of being arrogant, it’s probably a sign that you’re not being ambitious enough. You’re dreaming too small. Your goals are too easily attainable.

Let me free you: it’s ok to want to be the best at what you do. It’s ok to want to achieve as much as you can with your life for the sake of the God who gave it to you. I sincerely doubt God is going to look at you at the end of your life and say, “You did too much for me.” But I do sincerely believe that God is going to look at many people and say, “You were too ‘humble’ for your own good and the good of countless people you could have impacted if you’d had a little more ambition.”

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that ambition is synonymous with arrogance. Godly ambition is what God uses to do incredible things in our world.

If that makes you look arrogant, don’t back down from what God has called you to do. Instead, mourn for the people who are living so far beneath their potential that anything greater must be arrogance. 

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Steven Furtick
Steven Furtick is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Elevation Church meets at eight locations in the Charlotte area, as well as one location in Toronto, Canada. The church has been named one of the Fastest-Growing Churches in America by Outreach Magazine for each of the past six years.

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