Mark Affleck

Where is God’s LINE Between CONTENTMENT and AMBITION?

April 29, 2024
Spiritual Growth

I spent some time this past weekend searching for the LINE between God’s CONTENTMENT and the world’s AMBITION through this piercing question:

Is it possible to separate a believer’s contentment from ambition and our goals to “achieve and succeed?”

While it was difficult for me to find a clear answer about a line ensconced in blurriness, God DID illuminate the subject—if not eliminate the blurred confusion–with his light and truth to live a “quiet life.”

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

So that became my starting point for this message–to live a quiet life living in peace with God. Contentment is being at peace with Christ’s sufficiency. I then turned to what God has to say about having goals/plans:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I quickly attached the caveat to that promise—we must INCLUDE GOD in our goals and plans:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

With that starting foundation built, I turned to processing my thoughts on CONTENTMENT and AMBITION.

Straight away I embraced ambition’s reality that it can be a powerful ally or a destructive enemy.

Ambition becomes a problem when it is driven by a lack of contentment.
If our ambition is misplaced and fueled by shallow wants, superficial desires, or sinful lust…we will be perpetually dissatisfied and ultimately lacking contentment.

Selfish ambition is focused on us and our wants and desires over others. It centers on what we can get from a person, thing, or situation.

Godly ambition, put simply, is animated by serving others ahead of yourself. Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3-4

If our purpose is to glorify God, then we obviously won’t be content if we focus on anything other than him. But does that mean we should NEVER try to achieve anything? NO. Let’s keep exploring.


Passivity and contentment are not the same thing. The answer to misplaced or inappropriate ambition is not passivity.

Paul was working toward a Godly goal when he talked about being content in all circumstances on that road.

God clearly wants us to keep moving forward on our goals for the future while remaining content no matter what circumstances show up along the way.

Two things put ambition in its proper, Godly context: 1) Making sure sinful urges and desires are NOT attached to it; and 2) Making sure there is some part of it that can/will glorify God.

The other part of the Contentment/Ambition calculus is remembering that we will NEVER be fully satisfied—even after our desire is met—if our ambition has selfish roots.

When we lose our contentment in Christ, it won’t be long before we start yearning for something else to satisfy our restive heart and worldly lust. That’s why contentment is a character issue.

Is life’s glass empty or half full? It does NOT matter. The content of that glass is God’s hope and love.

How would you assess your score on the “Contentment/Ambition Meter”?

“We may make our plans, but God has the last word. You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your motives.” Proverbs 16:1-2

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Hey, like this? Why not share it with a buddy?

Related Posts