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Posts Tagged ‘selfish ambition’

Recently, I spent some hours promoting my books at our closest Koorong bookstore. The time flew by, with many enjoyable, fruitful conversations. Yet at one stage, I decided to sit down at my book table for a while and have a brief break from connecting with customers. Earlier, I had eaten a hurried lunch and had also tried to buy a coffee, but the café was so busy I had given up. Now, however, more than anything else, I wanted that nice hot cup of coffee to keep me going.

Soon after, I noticed a middle-aged couple browsing nearby. For a moment, I thought of getting up and chatting with them but decided against it. I was too tired—and besides, they did not look like the sort of people who might be interested in my books. The man seemed quite serious and already had a pile of other books under his arm, while the lady appeared somewhat vague to me and … well, just a little quaint.

But then they came closer—and eventually ended up right in front of my book table. I explained a few things about my books to them as politely as I could, and then the gentleman looked straight at me and said in his rather loud voice, ‘Do you need anything? What can I get you?’

‘Oh nothing! I’m fine,’ I lied. ‘I wouldn’t want to bother you anyway, but thank you!’

‘No, no!’ the man insisted. ‘It would be our privilege to serve you. What would you like? Some water perhaps? Or a soda—or coffee?’

I could not resist at that point.

‘Well, to be honest,’ I admitted, ‘I would truly love a coffee. I’ve tried to buy some twice today, but the staff were too busy, and I had to get back here to my book table.’

‘Our pleasure! What sort of coffee? Milk? Sugar?’

Feeling so humbled and more than a little embarrassed, I gave them my order and off they went.

Not long after, they returned, coffee in hand. And I almost burst into tears.

‘Wow, you are such lifesavers!’ I told them—and I truly meant it.

We chatted for a while then—and, in the end, the man’s wife happily bought one of my novels, which humbled me even more.

Afterwards as I sat sipping my wonderful, hot coffee, I sensed God whispering gently, ‘See, Jo-Anne? They wanted to do that for you. There is no shame in acknowledging your need—and it gave them joy too. But … don’t judge so quickly next time, will you?’

As I watched this lovely couple leave the store, I saw them afresh with God’s eyes and thanked God for their soft, servant hearts. They had treated me, a complete stranger, in exactly the way Paul urges us to treat others:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

And in the process, unbeknown to them, they had taught me important, key lessons about humbly acknowledging my needs to God and others—and especially about being far less judgmental all round.

I want to be more like that couple who served me that day, don’t you?

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I wonder how you feel when you hear or see the word ‘ambition’. Is your response positive or negative? Whichever is your answer, can you figure out why that is the case?

Recently I read an excellent blog and also a two part article that both touch on the topic of women and ambition—in particular, Christian women and ambition. I am not about to attempt to emulate or repeat the excellent material in these writings, but if you are interested in reading them, please check out the following links:

http://rachelheldevans.com/is-ambition-sin

http://www.giftedforleadership.com/2012/09/how_pride_destroys_leadership.html

http://www.giftedforleadership.com/2012/09/how_pride_destroys_leadership_1.html

Instead, I wanted to share with you something of the dilemma I myself face at times in the process of trying to promote both my novels and my newly released non-fiction book, Soul Friend. Earlier in my writing journey, I found it hard to contact places where I might be able to speak and hopefully sell my books—I still do, to some extent. To put it bluntly, at times I felt I had tickets on myself and was being far too pushy for my own comfort. Where was the humility in what I was doing? How come I thought I had the right to be heard by the people, churches or groups I was approaching?

At the same time, I felt God was with me as I wrote those emails and made those calls. I still do. Even as I write this, I can sense God’s Spirit saying, ‘It’s okay to put yourself out there, Jo-Anne! I gifted you to write and speak. I have given you things to say and write. This is part of the task I have entrusted to you—to find those places where you can pass on the things I have given you and to reach those people who need to hear what you have to say!

It stands to reason too that if I believe in my books and in the strong Christian faith themes contained in them, why would I not want to follow through and share them with the world out there? What sort of an author—and Christian—would I be if I spent months and even years writing my books, only to let them sit there because I couldn’t be bothered or couldn’t find the courage to get out there and try to promote them?

I have come to the conclusion that there are two different sorts of ambition—godly ambition and selfish ambition. If I am ambitious to live fully for God, to do the best I can to use my gifts, to write the things that honour God and to want to speak about these to people as well, then I feel I am going about things with the right attitude. But if I am doing it all to fulfil some need in me, to boost my own ego and bolster my pride, then I don’t want to be a part of it at all. This to me is indeed ambition with attitude—the wrong attitude. As John says (1 John 2:16-17 The Message version):

Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

I have an ambition to do what God wants. Do you have that ambition too?

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