THE CUP By Francis Frangipane
1. The Death of Ambition
2. Christ Living in Us
The Death of Ambition-
When I first came to Christ, the Lord gave me a dream about my future. I thought that everything the Lord said was supposed to occur immediately; I didn't know of the work of preparation and dying to self, of learning patience and maintaining vision through testing, that would occur before God's promise would find fulfillment. Consequently, I was filled with ambition. Ambition is the first motive that arises in the spiritually immature. I was like the disciples who, a few days after Jesus' resurrection, were already asking, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom?" (Acts 1:6).
Ambition is very deceptive. It can seem just like obedience, yet because we don't truly know the Lord, the voice we find ourselves obeying is not God's, but our own. Our vision can actually be from God, but our motive be self. Consequently, where there is ambition, James tells us there will soon emerge "disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16). Why? Because we begin thinking we can accomplish the will of God through the strength of man. We are seeking a breakthrough; God wants to give us brokenness.
The spiritually immature do not recognize their immaturity because they are immature. Thus, they become impatient, fearful and demanding. Because pride blinds the ambitious, we presume we are ready for greater assignments in God. In fact, we become a harder assignment for those who work with us, for our actions continually generate strife.
Ambition seeks to put to death what stands between it and spiritual fulfillment. Yet, it is ambition itself that must die to reach fulfillment. Webster's tells us that ambition is "an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as wealth or fame, and the willingness to strive for it." The word translated "ambition" in the NAS is rendered "strife" in the King James. Truly, ambition is a major cause for strife, church splits and conflicts within the church.
I thought having a promise from God was the same thing as receiving a commandment from God. I did not understand what I personally lacked in character or what I needed to attain concerning faithfulness, becoming a bond-servant, and possessing a grateful heart. These things needed to be worked in me before God would truly begin to fulfill His larger promises and opportunities. What I became for God was more important than what I did for Him.
Today, I am living in the spiritual substance of what was just a dream thirty-eight years ago. My ambitions have suffered greatly, yet my dreams are being fulfilled. While I have not yet arrived at the greatest aspects of my calling, I understand the difference between ambition and true leadership and it is this: Ministry is not a call to lead, but to die.
Every advance that I have made spiritually was preceded by an opportunity to die to self. The power in my life comes from where I have died to self and now live unto Christ.
Do you want to advance spiritually? The gateway to resurrection power is crucifixion. God will arrange opportunities for you to die to self. You must discern them. Dying to self and its ambition is the means of reaching true spiritual fulfillment. If you react to the opportunity to die with fleshly anger or resentment, you will fail to reach fulfillment. However, if you can maintain your vision even while your ambition dies, you will succeed.
Christ Living in Us-
Having a true vision is not the same thing as having a godly motive. A person could have a vision directly from God, yet be driven by self-promotion and ambition in seeking to fulfill it. Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This is vision. But He also taught: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross" (Matt. 16:24).
If we will follow Jesus, notice we each have been given our own unique cross: "let him take up his cross." God has a cross specifically designed to crucify our fleshly ambitions en route to reaching our vision.
Consider Joseph: God had given him a dream of his future, but rather than quietly ponder the divine experience, he exalted himself to his ten older brothers. He assured them that one day they would each bow, like stacks of wheat, in subservience before him. His fleshly immaturity awakened a fleshly, even diabolical plot among his brothers: they sought to kill him. Joseph's vision was from God, but his motives lacked character, and his actions nearly cost him his life (see Gen. 37).
Yet, God was with Joseph, even in his lack of spiritual knowledge. And, we should rejoice for God is with us as well, even in our immaturity and ambition. Yet we should also understand: A true vision will kill you before it will fulfill you. Joseph had to learn to trust God in whatever circumstance or injustice he found himself; he had to become patient, serving others until the time arrived when his dream bloomed into reality.
"Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him" (Ps. 105:19).
Consider: the Almighty could have certainly brought Joseph to Egypt by a less threatening route. Joseph could have grown to maturity among his family without being sold into slavery. Since he was given the gift of dreams and interpretation, the Holy Spirit could have simply given him a dream and told him to move to Egypt (as He did another Joseph centuries later). Once safely there, Joseph's fame at dream interpretation would have reached the ears of Pharaoh at precisely the right time, say the morning after the king's night of ominous dreams. Joseph, the "dream merchant," would have been positioned in the right place at exactly the right time.
Instead, God brought him to Egypt thirteen years earlier than needed. The young man had to face and overcome repeated experiences with an inward dying to self. He faced betrayal and abandonment; he was enslaved, tempted sexually, slandered and imprisoned. How hopeless could his situation be? Yet, he then faced the challenges of being forgotten. In spite of all these things, Joseph trusted God and grew in both wisdom and spiritual integrity.
God didn't merely want a man to interpret dreams, but a man who could rule his heart when it suffered abandonment, injustice, slander and rejection and betrayal, and still remain the man of God regardless.
Joseph kept his heart free from the bitterness that overwhelms the soul. He was a man who wept when he finally saw his brothers. These were the men who laughed while he cried to them from the pit, then would have left him to die a long, agonizingly slow death had not a caravan passed by and Joseph been sold to traders. Joseph could have had his revenge – off with their heads! But the scriptures record that five times Joseph turned away and wept in the discourses with his family; once he "wept so loudly that the Eyptians heard, and the household of Pharaoh heard" (Gen. 45:2).
Joseph was a man of character, a man whose ambitions died but whose vision lived. He drank the cup given him by God, and his dream became a reality. Jesus drank the cup given Him, and we experienced salvation. But each of us has a cup to drink en route to our destiny. There will be no shortcuts to power. We will swallow the full dregs and though it kills us, we shall live. Yet, it shall not be us, but Christ living in us.