Tuesday 21 September 2021




James 3  verses 13-18

This is the Epistle for the coming Sunday, and one which relates to selfish ambition.  James is referring to intellectual ability, but also to spiritual conduct.

Ambition in itself is quite an honourable aim, but so often leads to worry which causes all manner of illness, loss of hair and in some extreme cases early death. There is also a side effect of losing friends, and disappointment.

James considers ambitious and jealous hearts, which are so different from humility and gentleness which are advocated by Jesus. James sought honour and the loyalty of his people.  When someone has selfish ambition, they are often moved to be vindictive to any competitor, which in turn causes divisive atmosphere.

He views worldly behaviour as that which goes from bad to worse, and is more sensual than spiritual.  The answer and consequence is disorder, vile practices and instability. The correct practice is to turn to godly qualities, which are moved by the Holy Spirit.  Purity is the main one, followed by morality and a peaceful disposition, which is symptomatic of a true believer, which leads to a harvest of righteousness.

Considering this from a Church viewpoint, those seeking advancement within the Church, should be of gentle nature and graciousness. Sadly there still those with naked ambition, which carries with it jealousy and envy.  It has to be conceded there are men and women who are there largely for what they can get out of it.  This inevitably means that teaching of the gospel, which is the main function of ministry, becomes more of a side issue.

The question is often asked if it is right for a Christian to be ambitious. In some Christian circles ambition is frowned upon as it is considered contrary to being humble and meek, rather as being aggressive. There is however the danger of being passively aggressive by appearing to be humble whilst pursuing clearly defined goals. The Charles Dickens character Uriah Heep, for instance.

We also see such false humility by clergy within the Church. There are times when a new bishop has to be appointed, and there are some men and women who dearly want the post, but don’t want to be seen to be doing so. I have been surprised at how many have said how troubled they were when told they were going to be offered the post, that they had to go for a quiet walk and pray whether to accept, when everyone with intelligence knows they have ordered the new dress code.

Deep seated ambitions can be maintained below the surface no matter how humble a person may act, and this is true inside and outside the Church, with now women pretending and scheming as hard as men.

When a man/woman are learning a trade, they do so practising at a lower level, yet within the Church this does not always apply. I saw a letter once written to the press by a collection of bishops, about a subject which affected the parish community.  I studied their previous history and saw the majority had never served in an actual parish; they were ex College academics or in Offices.  An Archbishop some years ago stated, the greatest career a man could have was as a parish priest. I don’t know how he was qualified to say that when he had never been one.

The young want to be celebrities, footballers or footballer’s girl-friends, or winning the X factor competition. Bars around the country are filled with girls seeking a footballer. so as to become famous. Reality television has made stars of people out of relative obscurity.
Children have careers picked for them, not for suitable aptitude, but rather because it may lead to status and wealth and power. Envy and ambition can lead eventually to all kinds of wickedness. We see this in today’s society where people are pursuing their own goals irrespective of the effect they may make on others. Envy and jealousy lead to darkness and darkness and devilishness.

Good ambition is not built on envy and selfishness, it avoids pretence and hypocrisy with a lust for money and power. The biblical ambition encourages the use of talents as Jesus told in the parable of the talents, where the Master praised those who had increased the money entrusted to them and rebuked the one who had not.

Those who are sincere in ambition can be recognised by their trying to doing their best, making the most of their talent without seeking power or money. The Olympic ideal was once the honour and privilege of taking part, and the only goal was their own goal. Now the eye is often on a sponsorship deal, which is the accepted thing. It was noticeable when mainly American athletes, were seen and heard offering praise and thanks to God before and/or after, even appearing on national television doing the same; the media in this country gave at least little or scant report.

One of our leading football managers at a most famous club, was asked by a press reporter if there was any man he had been inspired by, and the manager  answered yes. When asked who the man was, the reply was ‘Jesus’, after which the conversation was ended.

Those seeking advancement should be of gentle nature and graciousness.  There are men and women within the Church who see themselves in a profession with a need for an impressive curriculum vitae, rather than following a calling. This is where the liberalism emanates from, and the gospel becomes a side issue.

At a young age I met real gentlemen who were Ministers, I admired them for their gentle nature and immaculate manners and dress.  They were in fact a very respected people publicly.  Times changed before I was eligible to enter ministry, where I saw a less admirable quality, to be also adopted by women.

It is difficult to be a teacher and remain humble. Members of the Church often pass complimentary remarks, and one has to accept graciously and just be thankful to have helped someone.

Jesus went to all manner of people, and travelled across the land, anxious to do the work God set down for Him.  In contrast, I was amazed to learn how quite a few in ministry are concerned if sent to serve in the Northern part of England ,which anomalously is where people are generally accepted to be more friendly and welcoming.

This passage of Scripture sets out the rights and wrongs of ambition and the way it can be fanatically aggressive, rather than of conviction and reward of merit. In itself, ambition if followed with dignity and hard endeavour, is a worthy cause to take, enabling oneself to benefit by commitment to labour, and excelling at the task set.

James sees arrogant wisdom different from true wisdom, as the former is earthy and the aim worldly and devilish. The purpose of wisdom in the Church is to proclaim the gospel, devoid of personal opinion and bias, and as passed down by the teaching of the Apostles, who were commanded by the Lord Jesus. Such is clearly not happening in the Church at large, with the consequence that the Church will fall apart quicker than it has so far.

People seek the Church when troubled, concerned about health and the future, marriage problems and bereavement.  They want to hear the teachings of Jesus, words of comfort, hope and support. They certainly do not want to hear sermons on climate change, political issues, and other worldly problems.  Nor do they want or need to hear being told not to take the Bible seriously.

We are in a perilous and dangerous situation at the present time, when modern technology and radio with television, spreading news widely.  This is exacerbated when an excess of preachers from the highest Offices of Churches and downwards, reveal they just don’t accept the supreme authority of the Bible and are (anxiously) ready to act against God’s Word.  Jesus warned a house divided among itself will collapse, and my goodness, how shamefully do we see Churches blatantly acting contrary to what the Bible states, in order to please and accommodate the agenda of anti-Christian activists.

Let me close with two comments. Firstly from Acts 2, v42 after a crowd of 3,000 listened to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost and were converted.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and awe came upon every soul and wonders were being done through the Apostles,and the Lord added to their number,

I cannot see the Lord adding to our number at the path the Church is taking.

Secondly to the words of the great preacher and Church leader John Wesley.

I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book!

From the greatest preacher in Christian history, Billy Graham

There are many things from God I do not understand or apprehend, but I accept the revelation of Himself by faith.  

Pray that your Church will faithfully accept the Bible as the supreme authority for all worship, and learning. Stand firm, and when the Bible is not followed in preference to modern culture, challenge the preacher.

May God bless you.


No comments:

Post a Comment