I began to picture cobwebs growing in the corners of my email inbox, and my impatience was rivaled only by my disappointment.
After two years of watching my speaking ministry grow, suddenly the invitations had stopped coming.
Of course, I kept all my fraught feelings to myself.
How could I share this particular sadness without appearing to be overly ambitious? I was certain that any mention of my longing to be used by God in this particular way would be misconstrued as a pushy over-reach.
This caused me to think carefully about aspirations and the role of ambition in my life and ministry.
Was it wrong for me to long for more opportunities for service—wrong for me to long for a broader reach?Ambition, in cooperation with God, is a gift to be offered back to Him.
Two Questions for the Ambitious Christian Woman
Holding tightly to God’s hand, I interrogated my ambition with some probing questions that I invite you to ask yourself as well.
What are the motives behind your ambition?
“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
I had to ask myself what was behind my desire to teach and speak to groups of women.
Was it a matter of pride or a need to be special? On the one hand, ambition can become a dark cloud of never-quite-there and never-measuring-up as we make an idol of our ceaseless striving.
On the other hand, it’s good to have aspirations for a life that brings more glory to God.
In our spiritual formation, it’s a sign of health to say, “Here’s how I want my life to look,” and then to be convicted by the Spirit when we fall short.
Is your identity wrapped up in your ambition?
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:19-20
When a global pandemic effectively deleted women’s conferences and special events and even canceled my little Sunday school class, I realized that, even if I never stood behind a podium ever again, I was still a teacher of God’s Word.
I prepared a weekly lesson for my students and shared it with them virtually. I read stories to my grandkids on Facebook every day during quarantine. I shared a Bible lesson via YouTube for a Christian camp that was trying to figure out how to do ministry remotely.
I poured thousands of words into the keyboard and asked God to use my writing ministry because it was the outlet He had sovereignly provided.
Even when everything around me changed, God did not. My identity will always be based on who He says I am—not on what I do for Him.My identity will always be based on who He says I am—not on what I do for Him.
Three Prayers for the Ambitious Christian Woman
After some deep soul searching, my heart found its way to three prayers that have come to define my understanding of ambition in the life of a Christian woman.
Prayer #1: “Lord, let my plans and ambitions cooperate with your eternal purposes.”
We may desire to serve God in a particular way, but the need of the moment for advancing God’s Kingdom may require a wholly different offering from us.
Are we willing to continue serving even when life doesn’t go as planned? If not, the real question, then, becomes, “Who do I think I am, defining the terms of my own discipleship?”
Isaiah 29:16 says, “You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, ‘He didn’t make me’? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, ‘He doesn’t understand what he’s doing’?”
When our church needed a teacher for the beginner’s Sunday school class, God made it clear that I was to lay down my much-loved women’s class and take on the glue, glitter, and Goldfish crackers for a season.
It was glorious beyond my wildest hopes, but a completely unexpected blessing— one that I would never have received if I had been unwilling to work in cooperation with God.
Prayer # 2: “God, please take and transform my desires.”
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
God is able to perform through our ambitions an utterly unique production of the fruit of the Spirit. His sovereign “no” may be the perfect catalyst for a yield of patience or humility in our hearts.
Conversely, when He chooses to say yes, new opportunities outside our comfort zones offer the testing ground for Spirit-granted peace and faithfulness.
The transformation process may not be, at least initially, to our liking. God may challenge us to rethink our ambitions and realign our goals to mesh with His divine authority.
We must not forget that working in concert with the Almighty is the greatest privilege of all.God may challenge us to rethink our ambitions and realign our goals to mesh with His divine authority.
Prayer #3: “Lord, give me strength to say, “Your will be done.”
It always becomes chillingly apparent to me when I pray, “Your kingdom come; your will be done (Mt 6:10,” that I am also praying “My list be undone.”
The question every ambitious Christian woman must ask and answer is, “Am I willing to cooperate with God’s eternal purposes, even if it means my ambitions must fall by the wayside?”
It is critical that we enthusiastically invest ourselves in God’s ambitions—even when they differ from our own.
Words of Encouragement for the Ambitious Christian Woman
Ambition, surrendered to the will of God, has a definite place in the life of a Christian woman.
Historically, women have been the backbone of overseas missionary efforts and the local church.It is critical that we enthusiastically invest ourselves in God’s ambitions—even when they differ from our own.
Betty Scott Stam, a missionary to a mountainous and impoverished region of China, was ultimately beheaded because of her faith. Still, the words of this prayer live on to challenge present-day believers:
“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.”
Ambition, in cooperation with God, is a gift to be offered back to Him.
May we all find grace to entrust to God our fondest dreams of service, our greatest hopes and ambitions, as we are transformed into His likeness for His glory.
Michele Morin is a reader, writer, speaker, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. Active in educational ministries with her local church, Michele delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” Connect with her by following her blog at Living Our Days or via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.