The Anatomy of Ambition

Quick!  Without thinking too much, what comes to mind when you hear the word “ambition”?

Greed?  Selfishness?  Climbing the “career ladder”?  The Apprentice?   It’s true that “ambition” can be less than noble, and, in a hierarchical culture like healthcare, it’s not hard to find examples of ambition gone wrong.

But what exactly is it, anyway?   To think about it biblically, we need to define it first.

Pastor Dave Harvey helps us pin ambition down in his new book “Rescuing Ambition“.  He describes its anatomy like this:

  • we perceive something – we notice it
  • we prize that something – we move beyond mere perception to assigning some sort of value to what we perceive
  • we pursue it if we prize what we perceive, we pursue it.

So, perceiving + prizing + pursuing = ambition.  When you look at it that way, everyone is ambitious.  It’s not a question of whether I have ambition; it’s a question of where I will direct the ambition that I have.  What you’re pursuing shows what you prize.

Sometimes, what we actually value is different from what we say we value.  For example, several months ago I said I was excited to memorize Romans 8 when our senior pastor challenged us to.  Six months later, though, I still had not made it past verse 8 (there are 39 in the chapter)!  I had to admit I didn’t really prize memorizing God’s Word.

Well, what about you?  If someone looked at your life objectively, what would they say you’re ambitious for, passionate about?   Do your passions match well with God’s?

Next time, we’ll see that ambition is not necessarily wrong.  In fact, God commands the right kind of ambition.  Stay tuned!


About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (, I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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