Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 6, 2015


Is it possible to live without selfish ambition?


        Examine with me just one verse in the Bible – Philippians 2:3. This is the Apostle Paul writing to his friends in the little church in Philippi:  “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”

Can Paul really be serious asking his friends to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit”? Nothing? Surely that wise man must have known there is a little “selfish ambition” in the best of us.

But the more you study Paul’s teaching, the more you realize he really believed that Christians should have “the mind of Christ” and live above selfish desires. Yet I dare say even the most devout Christians consider this an almost impossible goal. Who among us would boast of having achieved “the mind of Christ”?

Nonetheless Paul does not equivocate. He insists that believers should follow the example of Jesus by caring more for others than they care for themselves.

Paul is unwilling to accept anything short of an attitude like that of Christ. He even insists that we should look out for the interests of others and not our own! And he knows this is quite impossible unless we make Christ our model in our attitude toward others.

We know, of course, that it is foolish to regard ourselves as better than others. Such an attitude destroys relationships and makes genuine friendship impossible.

Perhaps Paul wanted us to realize that by having the mind of Christ we may receive the blessing from God that Christ received. Because Christ was humbly obedient to the Father’s will, God exalted him. He gave him a name that is above every other name. When we are humbly obedient to God, he exalts us, giving us whatever glory he wishes for us to have. Our joy is in being content with whatever “name” God chooses to give us for our goal is not exaltation but humble obedience.

This is consistent with the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). The Pharisee found no favor with God because he thought he was better than the tax collector. The tax collector found favor with God because he realized his need for God’s mercy.

Mary Webster toured the world with E. Stanley Jones, giving her compelling testimony in his retreats. After Jones died, Mary continued speaking in Christian Ashrams (spiritual retreats) while lesser preachers filled Jones’ role as the evangelist.

Once in Ohio when I served as the ashram evangelist, Mary was there to give her witness daily. As a poor substitute for Stanley Jones I did my best but I was nothing compared to the captivating charisma of Sister Mary. She held every audience in the palm of her hand, capturing the heart of every listener. I was in awe of her powerful witness for her beloved Savior.

But Mary did more than speak. Every morning promptly at 5:30 she knocked on the door of my room to bring me a cup of coffee she had made herself. That was the real Mary, always looking for little ways to humble herself in the service of others. When Mary spoke you realized her secret. She knew Jesus. Jesus was in her and she was in Jesus. She talked to Jesus and he talked to her. She found her greatest joy in humbly obeying her Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is the secret of how to overcome selfish ambition. We cannot by effort become humble and have the mind of Christ. Humility is not an achievement. It is not a matter of struggling to overcome selfish pride by “acting like” Jesus.

Our only hope of becoming Christ-like is to surrender to Christ and let him take over our lives. Then, like Mary, we can talk to Jesus and Jesus can talk to us. When nothing matters more than Jesus, we will find our greatest joy in humbly seeking the best for others. + + +