Often the words PURPOSE and AMBITION are used interchangeably. This is a tragic error because these words don’t share the same meaning and they are derived from different origins.
PURPOSE: The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
AMBITION: An earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, & the willingness to strive for its attainment.
PURPOSE is born with us, it exists innately – being there before the time of conception. PURPOSE is why we were created. You have been uniquely designed and specifically made to complete a task only you were created for. (Jeremiah 1:5)
AMBITION is quite the opposite. We aren’t born with it, rather it develops as we grow. AMBITION isn’t to be confused with being motivation either, think of motivation as the push behind your will.
You can be motivated to be purposeful or motivated to be ambitious. Both PURPOSE and AMBITION can bring success, but only one is truly fulfilling.
We can see PURPOSE and AMBITION operating every day, even in our own lives! Have you ever heard the name Nimrod, sounds powerful huh?! Well, it is…the name means “VALIANT, STRONG or HE THAT RULES (All the Men of the Bible). Nimrod is described as a mighty warrior and he ruled over a host of ancient cities, among the most famous was Babylon (Genesis 10:8-9). There are so many stories that can be recounted about this city, but I’ll quickly talk about one.
THE TOWER OF BABEL
One story that made Babylon very famous is The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). The people that migrated there decided to build a “SKYSCRAPER,” a tower built so high that it would kiss heaven.
Okay, so what’s wrong with that? Cities are full of these seemingly endless buildings. So are tall buildings EVIL???No!!! However, the builder’s intentions weren’t so pure and that was the defining factor. They wanted to make a name for themselves, they thrived to be famous. Sounds similar to what you see and hear in our culture huh?
Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”
Genesis 11:4 New Living Translation
AMBITION forfeited their reliance on God and placed dependence on themselves. AMBITION drove them to build this tower to be famous, but as with anything built or birthed through SELFISH AMBITIONS, there is a cap or limit on it.
AMBITION HAS ITS LIMITS
When God saw what they were doing, realizing how detrimental it would be, He threw their plans (Genesis 11:7). God confused the people with different languages, restricting their ability to work together and putting a ✋to their AMBITION.
THE REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM’S WALLS
Nehemiah was burdened by the news that the walls of Jerusalem hadn’t been rebuilt after the Israelites returned from their third exile. He returned to Jerusalem from Persia with one objective…to rebuild the walls. This PURPOSE was placed in his heart by God alone and unlike ambition wasn’t motivated by a tangible reward (Nehemiah 2:12). It actually brought the opposite, Nehemiah was greeted with opposition and with heavenly wisdom overcame obstacles during the entire process. Halfway through the process, laborers held their tools in one hand to work and weapons in the other to fight (Nehemiah 4:17-18). Nehemiah worked as governor of Judea for 12 years, during this time he didn’t accept the accommodations other nobles had burdened the people with, proving his reward was satisfaction knowing the work had been accomplished.
An instructor of a Nouthetic Counseling course I took said something that has always stuck with me, he asked what could I see myself doing for a living and as a career without pay. He didn’t give me time to respond, his eyes lit up, his cheeks raised as he smiled and he spoke the following: “When you discover that, you discover your PURPOSE.”
Ambition is motivated by an intended reward, but rewards always follow PURPOSE, so it’s something you don’t have to chase. AMBITION CHASES THE REWARD, WHILE REWARDS CHASE PURPOSE. AMBITION follows a vision, while PURPOSE births vision. Rewards and gains drive AMBITION. PURPOSE is driven by nothing other than simple enjoyment and fulfillment in the work being accomplished.
THOU SHALT NOT WANT SOMEBODY ELSE’S STUFF
“You must not want to take your neighbor’s house. You must not want his wife. And you must not want his men and women servants or his cattle or his donkeys. You must not want to take anything that belongs to another person.”
Exodus 20:17 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Ambition isn’t something that you’re born with, it comes from an earnest desire to achieve something. But where does that “something” come from? It comes from what you see and desire…an image, an ideal…it’s that 200k Bentley Truck idolized in music. It’s the perfect bodies you see on TV or photoshopped online. Ambition comes from a place of wanting what someone else has. Ambition can be seemingly innocent too! If I admire the position my senior leader holds and aim to achieve the same, my ambition isn’t ruthless like “I’m a take your job,” but it is still coveting. Whatever the origin, it is destructive. Do you really want to share this characteristic with Satan – God’s greatest enemy?
“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’
Isaiah 14:12-14 NLT
Interesting…Satan’s destructive nature was born from a desire for somebody else’s stuff…He wanted to be like El Elyon – God Most High. He longed to obtain God’s majesty and that AMBITION is his demise.
What drives you…purpose or ambition? Is it the pride of life?
Here’s a portion of an interesting book in my library:
An ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; desire to achieve a particular end.
Ambition is rooted in the Luciferian spirit. If left unchecked, the spirit of ambition will open the door for the curse of proskairos or getting ahead of the timing of God, therefore placing the individual outside the will of God. The Bible says that promotion does not come from the east, the west, or from the south, but from the secret place (Ps. 75:6; Isa. 45:3). Just because we have the ability in the natural to advance doesn’t mean that we are ready to advance in the spirit. People who have mighty calls on their lives need to get under real apostolic leadership. Lucifer was once the anointed cherub. The Hebrew word for “anointed” is mimshach, and it literally means “to expand.” Lucifer is the only angel who was designated with two offices-he was the cherub that covered, and he was anointed with the ability to expand or increase. God intended for Lucifer to expand, but only according to His will and His timing. The AMBITION that drove Lucifer was rooted in selfishness and pride. He was not satisfied with his current position and lusted for power, coveting the very throne of the One who created him. Ambition will cause someone to think more of himself than he ought to. Once ambition has run its course, ruin, destruction, and separation are the inheritance of the individual.
(Daniels, 2013, p. 3-4)
- Check your motivation, is it driven by purpose or ambition?
- Decide to get purposeful and don’t chase after success. Once you commit yourself to purpose success will follow you.
- Your personal success isn’t based on what you see in others or even what others see in you. God determines your personal success.
I listened to an awesome teaching by Dr. Myles Munroe in which he recounted an experience from his childhood. Young Myles Munroe took a test in school and made a very low grade – a 48, but he was happy because his score was the highest in class. He went home proudly bragging to his mother about how he made the highest score in his class, to his surprise he was quickly scolded!
The lesson in this is you can’t base your success off of where others are, what they’ve done or what they are doing. This is where AMBITION creeps in. Remember to measure your success based on your PURPOSE, which is something uniquely crafted to you and determined by God. Only when you do this can you see how successful you truly are.