(Jesus said to his disciples) “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
Since we just reflected upon denying ourselves and dying to ourselves (see Are You A Follower? https://youtu.be/nYzRIsXVrjo), let us look at something else that Jesus spoke about in this passage: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose himself? To gain the world means to gain all that the world has to offer — money, fame, success, power, and all the other trappings. To lose oneself means to lose one’s soul — lose a relationship with Jesus Christ and heaven.
As a little boy, I remember my grandfather had a litany he used to say to everybody would care to listen. “Money lost, little lost; time lost, much lost; soul lost; all lost”. It sounded very profound to me until I heard a cynical uncle retort scornfully that this was rubbish. “Money lost, all lost,” he said, and as the years went by, I realized most people believed this to be true. There were very few people who placed any value on the soul at all, and these included those who professed to be believers.
Now, there is nothing wrong with gaining money — or fame, success, or power — if they are God’s will. God WOULD like his children to be blessed here on earth as much as we will be blessed in heaven. However, God does not want us to lose out on eternal blessings for the sake of temporal ones. To run after the things the world has to offer for the pleasure it can give us for a few years, instead of pursuing what heaven has to offer for all of eternity is folly. And yet that is what we do, is it not?
Ambition can be a good thing, if it is for the right reasons. While Paul warns against selfish ambition in his letter to the Galatians (see Galatians 5:19-21), elsewhere he exhorts us to be ambitious, but for the quiet life (see 1 Thessalonians 4:10). An ambition for the quiet life? Whoever heard of such a thing? And what is a quiet life anyway? Well, it is a life spent away from the spotlight, where we mind our own business, avoiding conflict and living in harmony with those around us.
“But,” you might say, “Paul lived in the spotlight.” Yes, but that wasn’t because he sought it; it came to him because God willed it. However, knowing Paul, he would have been fine even if he lived in total obscurity. He once said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”. And then he explains how he is able to do this. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (see Philippians 4:11-14).
So, let’s all be ambitious for the quiet life. Not only will it lead to more peace, it will ensure we don’t trade in heaven for the world.