Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dreams & Ambitions

The best book I've read in the past year is "Lost in the Middle", Paul Tripp's newest book on the challenges of mid-life. You can read a review of the book here

One of the more interesting chapters of the book is Chapter 5 - "Towers to the Sky" where Paul Tripp discusses the power of our dreams and imagination. He reminds us that the ability to dream and imagine is a unique gift from God:

"A dream is imagination coupled with desire and projected into the future...Imagination and the ability to dream future dreams are vital gifts from God so that, though we cannot see, hear or touch him, we can still have a relationship with him".

However, our dreams (and ambition) can also be dangerous to our souls when they take hold of us.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

"Before long the dream is not just a faint and distant hope for the future. It becomes a prized possession. I become convinced that life without the dream would be unthinkable and unlivable. My sense of identity, purpose, well-being, contentment, and satisfaction becomes directly connected to the realization of the dream."

"...in the pursuit of my essential dream, I have been slowly building my own personal tower to my personal heaven. It has me. It defines me. It motivates me. It guides and directs me. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to press on."

Paul Tripps writings are always insightful and this is no exception. A couple of thoughts as I read through the chapter -

First, this is not a problem confined to mid-life...the towers of our dreams are often exposed in mid-life but they're constructed throughout our adult life. So his gracious exhortations are applicable whatever your age.

Second, it seemed to me that our dreams are actualized and often take form as ambition in our lives. Ambition is the drive to actualize our dreams - where dreams are passive, ambition is active. Yet, ambition often carries a negative connotation for a Christian. It leads me to ask -
Is ambition typically wrong or selfish? Or is there a right form and place for ambition in our lives?

In practical terms, is it right for a Christian to directly pursue a position of influence in politics, media or business? It made me wonder what godly ambition looks like for a Christian in the marketplace - what are its essential attributes? Related to the last question about the nature of godly ambition in the marketplace, here are my thoughts on what that looks like. May these only serve as a starting point for fruitful discussion.

1. Christian ambition in the marketplace should be motivated by our ultimate desire to know Christ and to make him known. Our aspirations for a specific position or area of work, should serve as an expression of our over-arching ambition as Christians to know, experience and love God more deeply.

2. Christian ambition is the marketplace should be characterized by God-centered humility, marked by a trust in God who brings about success or failure. We should look humbly to the one who raises the poor from the dust (Psalm 113) ... and brings princes to naught (Isaiah 40). We should make lots of room for the sovereign hand of God, leanin upon his Providence, recognizing the many things that only God can control and we cannot. On this point, I confess I often find myself striving when I should be resting. I often wonder if my striving at times isn't a desire for autonomy when God has designed me for dependency. Psalm 127:1 reminds us that "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain".

3. Christian ambition is about serving those around us. This is an ethic well understood if not always practiced in the church but in the marketplace it is seldom espoused, much less practiced. Yet, this distinctive is to mark Christians even when they operate in the realm of business. For the Christian, any aspiration for leading or management - any ambition to lead projects, build companies or make sense of disorganization is motivated a desire to serve others .

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20: 26-28)

What are your thoughts on the topic of dreams and ambition? How do you navigate through your ambition, yet keep God foremost on your mind and heart?

5 comments:

jacksons said...

Good stuff, welcome to Agora brother. Kuyper's every square inch is also my motto in life.

Meng said...

I am half way digesting this book. Tripp has a great way of articulating his points and bringing the gospel to everyday struggles. My perspective of "mid life" is now half way reformed to being "grace filled".

I now see that its often my own personal towers of ambitions and goals that get me down the spiral of what many call "mid life crises".

Thanks Andre for the summary...by the way this great guy IS MY BROTHER!! (flesh and blood!)

Dave said...

Andre, Good reflections on the motivations we should have in pursuing ambition...

"In practical terms, is it right for a Christian to directly pursue a position of influence in politics, media or business?"

Having a heart to glorify God, humble trust in His sovereignty and desire to SERVE others, another thing I'd like to tell young people is then go (let that motive drive ur action) and unashamedly pursue influence in the marketplace :D

y2k said...

Andre, David recommended me to this posting - thanks for your review of the book. Looks like it should make the list of essential reading for all Christians in the workplace.

I especially identify with your point no.3. I truly believe that if we're motivated by a desire to serve others, to lay down our lives for our neighbours, to be a blessing to all people(s), then we will likely be humble in all that we do knowing that it's God's work that we do (loving others). When that happens, and if enough Christians live this way, people will take notice and God will get the glory.

And it's no side "benefit" either that when we live like that our organisations work better & society improves. It's integral to "His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven".

God bless.
Yew Khuen

Dave said...

amen, yew khuen.. the marketplace is not only a mission field, it IS integral mission :)