Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ambition & Affection

I’ve been reading/studying through a great study by Beth Moore called, “The Beloved Disciple.” The subtitle is: (Following John to the Heart of Jesus). It is about the life of the Apostle John. I highly recommend it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading in chapter 28 and as Beth was summarizing the chapter she made a statement that I haven’t been able to get off my mind. Here it is:
John forsook ambition for affection. Love became his absolute center. As we continue our journey, we also will discover that he was a man who pursued obedience when no one was watching.

In her teaching, Moore points out that after the ascension of Jesus we don’t hear much about John. As the story moves into the book of Acts, and on into the New Testament, Peter, Paul and many of the other apostles move into the limelight. James the brother of John is martyred for his faith, and Peter becomes the “Rock.” Paul comes on the scene and shakes things up, but John, (The Beloved Disciple) fades, until the writing of his epistles. It is thought that he wrote his Gospel, both the epistles and Revelation much later in his life, likely after all the other apostles were martyred. It was also likely that John was very young when Jesus called he and James his brother, the sons of Zebedee. He was very likely a teenager when he left the security of home to follow Jesus.

At the cross, John records some of Jesus’ last words to him, ‘“Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that moment on the disciple took her into his home.’” It is highly likely that John spent much of his adult life with Mary, the mother of Jesus. John listened to Jesus, and very likely spent much of his time in and around Jerusalem, maybe he moved back to Bethsaida, or to Nazareth where Jesus had come from. I don’t think we know for sure, but we do know that we didn’t here from him much. His Gospel was also thought to have been written much later that the other three synoptic Gospels. Was he missing in action? What happened to him?

I agree with Beth Moore. I think his significance wasn’t measured by what he accomplished in those years we view as silent. He was very likely doing exactly as Jesus had instructed him to do. And in those years of quiet obedience, love flourished. He no doubt grew in wisdom and knowledge, but his obedience to His Lord birthed his ambition. I haven’t wrapped my mind around it totally, but I believe his ambition was to let the world know that God loves them. He sent his only begotten son for them. (John 3:16) It was birthed out of years and years of quiet obedience where a love greater than the world had ever known, (or ever will for that matter), saturated a man’s heart to the point of penning statements that change everything!

One of my favorite books of all time is “Wide Awake” by Erwin McManus. In that book he speak a lot of fulfilling your dreams and destiny. He also talks much about ambition and affection. He points out that ambition is a good thing. It compels us to dream big dreams and “live lives worthy of our calling.” However, when we confuse things by putting our ambitions before our affections, we risk running our dreams aground or chasing the wrong dreams. McMannus states, “God will never sacrifice who you are for what you can accomplish. We are in danger when “getting there” becomes the most important thing to us. Even when you have the right dream, you can make the wrong choices.” He also states, “I think that’s why community is so important.” One of the places that help shape our dreams is in a loving, and truthful community. (I mean a biblical based one) Be it a church, home group, whatever, it’s important to be in community and to be accountable to someone. People help shape our dreams. They’re the ones for whom Jesus came! I continue to learn that right ambition comes first from a love for God, then a love for others. It’s easy to get that twisted around, or backwards. "I" sometimes get in the way of my real self, the one God created me to be. The world is full of ambitious people (me included), who tend to look inward instead of outward.

So, where’s your focus? Are you ambitious? Where are your affections? Do you love when nobody’s looking? Lining up your affections will feed your dreams and ambitions. Loving when nobody’s watching is a true test of character, and is a large portion of the path to significance. I believe it’s the way God designed us to work.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus reached into His perfect understanding and said, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Put God first! Ambition flows best out of affection, especially out of affection for Him!

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