Is it Godly to be Ambitious? // Ask an African Pastor

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Ndaba Mazabane unpacks what it looks like for Christians to be ambitious in a healthy way; honouring Christ and growing the kingdom of God.

“Well, as one thinks about the opportunities that are available today for young adults in the world of work, it’s amazing how it’s an opportunity for many to use their gifting.

Being Salt & Light where He Placed us

I think for me the greatest ambition that anyone, whether young adult or otherwise, the greatest ambition is to be like Christ. You see we are called to be witnesses. All of us. We are called to be representatives and ambassadors of Christ wherever we are placed. And I think the greatest challenge, obviously, is how do I live out my life in the situation where God has placed me? The ambitious life, as I see it, is to be salt and light where God has placed me. The light: to show off the love of Christ. To lighten where there is darkness in the way that you live out your Christian life.

Everywhere God has placed you, you are a missionary. You are a Pastor. You are a Christian.

How pleasant it is when in the world of work we find young adults, young people, who are committed to the claims of Christ! Just holy and totally following his precepts. That they live out their life and they shine Christ in a world that is rotten. I mean, there are challenges that face many adults today. Be it moral issues, integrity issues. Now imagine if God has called you as a young adult and you’ve been skilled. You have a good education, a job that you have. And then you now have a responsibility, as a young adult in that kind of a situation, to live out the claims of Christ.

You Don’t Need to be a Minister to Live for Christ

You know, when I grew up it used to be that if you are zealous, and if you want to follow Christ, the only option that seemed to have been… the one that was open for many, was for you to sense God’s call, to Bible College for example, and to be the minister. I think that we’ve passed that stage in saying that everywhere God has placed you, you are a missionary. You are a Pastor. You are a Christian, to shine out the claims of Christ. Now, my appeal would be, whatever ambition in life that you have, use it then to be a witness. Use it to be a springboard for the Gospel message to others.

When Being Ambitious Becomes Unhealthy

We do need to be aware, of course, there is what I call good ambition and also there is… the side effect of it is unhealthy. The unhealthy ambition is the one that says, “Oh, you know what, I just want to amass all the wealth and material things in this world to the best I can.” The unhealthy one is the one that says “I want to go to the top. You know, if I am accountant, I want to get right up there regardless of the cost that is involved.” And I think that is probably unhealthy.

It’s very easy to drift into what the world desires, more that what God wants

But I think as a Christian young adult who has been entrusted with these wonderful skills that we have today – education – whatever it may be, I think it is good then to harness that ambition and say “God helping me, with all the skills that I have, I am going to be the ambassador of Christ. I am going to be the representative of Christ. Using all the skills, the knowledge, the know-how, the wisdom to represent Christ.

But How can I be Ambitious in a Healthy Way?

So, one needs then to be very careful in how you manage your ambition. Is it a healthy one? Well, to make it healthy, obviously, there are several things that you need to put into place.


First, you really need a prayer life that is solely dedicated to God. So, in your prayers, what are you praying for? I mean in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus Christ says the first thing that we call for is His kingdom must come. So if God has placed me in a situation, my ambition is to make sure that it is about Him. The kingdom has a king. So the king is the one that we focus on. What is it that God wants? What is it that He desires to do – for me and through me?


I think the second thing is a habit of being committed to scriptures. You know scripture then puts us and helps us to know the boundaries. As you reflect on scripture, as you get in and have your quiet times – that would be on an individual basis. As you join others in community where you read together the Bible – could be a Bible Study or Cell Group or whatever it is. You create a habit of being in the word. Because the word is going to guide you. It will help you, once you see that your ambition is getting out of hand.

Create a habit of being in the word. Because the word is going to guide you. It will help you, once you see that your ambition is getting out of hand.


I think the third thing also is living in community. When you live in community you… it’s what scripture talks about when it says “iron sharpens iron.” You’ll have other people surrounding you who you can ask for advice sometimes. You can just say “well look, am I doing the right thing here? Am I being too forceful or to ambitious if I’m looking for this particular position?” Because it’s very easy to drift into what the world desires, more that what God wants. So, if you are committed and if your life is driven by your prayer life, is driven by scripture – or at least guarded and directed by scripture. If you are surrounded by peers that are on fire for the Lord, you are likely then to be able to manage your ambition.

So ask yourself! What is it that drives you? What is it that motivates you? Out of that you’ll begin to realise “am I here to do God’s will – with all what God has given to me?” And if it’s outside His will, obviously, it’s unhealthy.