II Corinthians 5:9


  • Meaning of “ambition.” 1) A strong desire to gain a certain objective. 2) The drive to succeed (to gain fame, power, or wealth).
  • Paul’s nature to be extreme, he was ambitious.
  • The word “ambitious” means … 1) full of ambition, 2) greatly desirous (of something) eager for, 3) demanding great effort, skill, or enterprise. 
  • Greeks thought that ambitiousness was a noble thing.
  • Ambition can be bad or good, healthy or unhealthy.
  • Ambition is usually attributed to but not limited to young people.
  • Old and young people can be ambitious.
  • No matter the age, the race, the weight/size, or the religion of a person, they need to be careful of their ambitions in life as it can make you or break you.

I. Two Kinds of Ambition

A) Spiritual and sinful ambition 

  • Driven to please the Lord is a Spiritual ambition.
  • Enoch had a spiritual ambitionGenesis 5:24…And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. His ambition was to walk with God for 365 years. Enoch had a high ambition.
  • Lucifer (Satan) had a sinful ambitionIsaiah 14:13…For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: His ambition was to be above God, to “…be like the most High”
  • David had both spiritual and sinful ambitions… His spiritual ambition was to get rid of those who defied God…1 Samuel 17:45… Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
    But David’s sinful ambition was to have a woman that did not belong to Him…II Samuel 11:3… And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? She was married to Uriah.
  • Whatever drives your ambition should be Godly based
  • II Corinthians 5:9…Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

B) Ambition is dangerous

  • Ambition can blind people from the truth.
  • Thomas Brooks was an English Puritan preacher of the 1600’s who wrote many books said this of the word “ambition”… “Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague. Ambition is the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy. Ambition is the original vice. It was ambition that got Satan and his agreeable angels thrown out of heaven. It was ambition that got Adam and Eve thrown out of the Garden. It was ambition that got Judas thrown into hell. Ambition is the destroyer of virtue, the blinder of hearts, turning medicine into malady (sickness) and remedy into disease,”
  • John McArthur said that Ambition can cause a person to sell their soul, compromise their conviction, violate their beliefs, sacrifice their character and use everybody in their way.
  • Ambition can be associated with pride, evil aggression, and self centeredness.
  • Ambition can make people insensitive to others, and careless.

C) Ambition in its Latin form

  • Our word “ambition” comes from the Latin word “ambire” meaning… going both ways, double minded,  saying one thing while meaning something else, pretending to have one objective while actually having another one.
  • The word “ambile/ambition” was applied to someone who had no convictions, or applied to a person who would do or say anything to attain a selfish goal.
  • These kinds of people never really reveal the truth but try to convince you that they are going one way, when in fact they are going another way.
  • Ambire/ambitious was a word used to describe the Roman politicians. These politicians would say or do anything to get other people to vote for them.
  • Ambitious people want power, position, social visibility, popularity, approval, money, recognition, and they want authority.
  •  In essence, the word ambition can mean … hypocrisy, lying, falsehood, false witness, deceitful, and selfish. 
  • Ambition can be dangerous and it can be a blessing. It’s up to the person being ambitious.

II. Is Ambition Really Sinful?

A) Seeking for self

  • Look at Jeremiah talking to Baruch, the son of Neriah trying to encourage him in …Jeremiah 45:5…And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
  • Note especially the first part of the verse “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not:”
  • Ambition is like climbing a ladder. The question is… WHY are you climbing the ladder?  Some people should not be climbing a ladder, Some people start climbing a ladder and only get so high realizing that they are afraid of heights.
  • I remember as a young man working at a fine dining restaurant Mr. Steak. I started out as a bus boy (cleaning of the tables getting things for others), and then moved up to “ware washer (dishwasher).” It wasn’t enough, I then had a desire or ambition to be a cook in the galley. I had watched another man and his wife Ron and Dee do all the food preparations and he used to take the knives and sharpen them on a sharpening rod. The way he did it was a cool feat that caught my attention. Now I wanted to do that so others would think I am cool too. It was a “WRONG” ambition.
  • It is not wrong to try and improve your knowledge or self. It is wrong when it becomes sinful as I did…pride and selfishness.
  • NO, ambition is not sinful. If it is Godly based, or for God’s sake.

B) Over Ambitious

  • In every job, task, talent, skill or duty that I have performed, I have always strived to do my best. Nothing wrong with that. But there were times that I was like Paul the apostle…over ambitious.
  • Paul you remember was so ambitious on setting people straight and getting them to believe as he believed that he hurt people. Paul was seeking Christ followers and capturing them to be killed and thought himself to be an ambassador for God getting rid of these people who were following a this false prophet called Jesus. But that is when Christ had to meet Paul on the Damascus road and blind him for 3 days.
  • Paul meant to do well and do the right thing, but he was going about it all wrong. He was “over ambitious” or headstrong. God had to redirect his thinking, his ambition.
  • Paul was hurting people not helping them.
  • We have to go back to Jeremiah 45:5…And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not:  which in essence is saying… “If you are seeking to do great things for yourself, don’t waste your effort in doing it.”
  • It’s not that you want to improve yourself, but because of the fact that you want to be somebody that people will look up to or admire or even the fact that you may want to boost your self confidence.
  • Jeremiah is trying to show us here that selfishness will lead to sinfulness, corruption, and ruination.
  • Look at I Timothy 3:1…This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
  •  Paul here is talking of a person who desires the office of leadership or pastor of the church.
  • Note that Paul said it is a good/noble work.
  • Paul had a three dimensional ambition…
  • HIGH –  II Cor. 5:9…Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. That we may what? “Be accepted” or that it is “pleasing to him (God).” Not accepted or pleasing to ourselves. This separates “spiritual” ambition from “sinful” ambition.
            Paul also said in I Corinthians 4:3…But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4) For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. I am like Paul here in that there are many Christians who think it is their duty to hold people accountable for what they do or have done. Paul is saying here that my accountability is not to you, but to a higher court. The Judgment Seat of Christ!  Paul’s ambition was focused on how a Higher Court was going to judge him not a human court.   
  • WIDE – II Cor. 5:9…Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, What does Paul mean…“present or absent?” To answer that question we must read farther down into II Corinthians 5: 8…We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.  Note Paul using the word “labor” in verse 9 because Paul also mentions that in verse 1…For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved (weakening), Paul also mentions in verse 4 that “we groan” and are “burdened.”  
    The older you get the more you appreciate and entertain the thoughts of heaven! Paul’s ambition was wide because it covered time and eternity!
  • DEEP – By the word “Deep” we mean… what drove Paul’s ambition. We will find what drove Paul’s ambition in II Corinthians 5:10…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. This is what motivated Paul! It was His ambition to be pleasing to the Lord in everything that he did. The world offered nothing.     Paul advises the Corinthians some advice through his life’s experiences as to what it offered II Corinthians 6:4…But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, Now Paul is telling them if you want to be a minister of God, it is going to come at your expense…
  • in much patience,
  • in afflictions,
  • in necessities,
  • in distresses,
  • 5) In stripes,
  • in imprisonments,
  • in tumults,
  • in labours,
  • in watchings,
  • in fastings;  

III. Ambition in Judgment

A) At the Bema Seat

  • We should be as driven with ambition as Paul was.
  • We must realize that when you have committed a crime, you must stand before a judge. You are at the mercy of the court.
  • All lies are ended. All hypocrisy is over. No more false witness. No more hiding the truth. You are before Christ! You await the verdict!
  • AND, know this one thing “…the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)”
  • Hebrews 4:13…Neither is there any creature that is not manifest (truth clearly seen) in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him (God) with whom we have to do. 
  • The word naked here means stripped of all pretense, stripped all lies, stripped of all deceit, stripped of all hypocrisy…NAKED!
  • The word Bēma to the Corinthians was a popular word because there was one and there still is one on the main street. When you kind of go around the circle of the old city of Corinth, they take you to a place known as the Bema. 
  • The word Bēma used in the Septuagint back in Nehemiah 8, refers to an elevated place with steps.
  • In ancient Greek culture it was a platform where athletes were rewarded for their talents. It was much like our Olympics today who receive the gold, bronze or silver medals.
  • Moving to the word “Bema” I the New Testament, we see it mentioned a couple of times for Pilate’s judgment seat. This was a place of criminal judgment.
  • Now then, for us as Christians, the “Bema seat” is a place of rewards, since Jesus already paid the price for all our sins.
  • I Corinthians 3:13… Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14) If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15) If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
  • Wood, hay and stubble must be recognized as “useful stuff” it is NOT SIN!
  • Wood is useful to build, and carve etc. Hay is used for feeding, insulation, mulch and etc. Stubble is useful for feeding and fertilizing.
  • Wood, hay and stubble is the stuff that don’t really matter like being honored, being recognized, being lifted up. It doesn’t matter
  • It is the gold, silver and precious stones that matter to God. The things that are eternal in heaven. The souls we have led to the Lord, the things we did in his name, for His glory, etc. Those are the right ambitions that will lead to good rewards.
  • This is a sanctified ambition. Paul had a sanctified ambition.
  • What is your ambition today? Is it a spiritual or sinful ambition?

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