There is nothing like ambition to kill the work of the Spirit in a person and in a church. Actually, that is not entirely correct because ambition is only the fruit of a wrong attitude and perspective. Perhaps you have sat back and chuckled over the antics of a few people who jockey for a closer position to the pastor. These are the ones who want to be on a first name basis, buddy buddy with what is perceived as the most powerful person in the church. They are probably like this at work as well. There are also the people who try to become the most important person in the church, winning favor with people by acts of kindnesses similar to politicians vying for votes. This may seem comical but it is dangerous and something Jesus had to deal with in his disciples.
There are a few times we see this ugly thing reveal itself as the disciples squabbled over who was the greatest among them. James and John even had their mother put in a good word for them, to be given honoured positions in the Kingdom. Perhaps it was their mom's idea but then we can understand how such a thing was birthed in them. They failed to understand, just like people today continue to fail to understand, that things work much differently in the Kingdom. Perspective and attitude mean everything.
To teach them a lesson Jesus has a child stand in front of them and begins to teach them:
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4)
It is not difficult to understand this point. Children have no authority of their own. They may have to run some errands, bring a message to someone, purchase something but it is always because they were sent and it is in the authority of their parents. Children are in the position of a student with much to learn. A child is not born with all the knowledge and skills that are necessary for life. They come under the authority of their parents and any adult their parents may choose, to be taught how to walk, talk, eat, get dressed, cross the street, to read, to write, to treat others and the list goes on. A child must have a teachable heart, must recognize they need to be taught and submit themselves to be taught. Jesus is not talking about simplicity of faith but the attitude of humility.
To be of any worth to God we must understand the truth of the relationship. We know nothing of any worth. We have nothing to offer. We must submit ourselves in the humbleness of a child, recognizing that we have much to learn, much to be taught, and most of what we do know needs to be corrected. When we align our hearts with our Father's in this manner, with such a humble attitude, then he is able to equip us for his work. We are able to understand his will and have a willingness to carry it out. We won't argue with him, because as a child we know that we do not know enough to understand yet. It is a position where we must trust. Children must trust their parents, that what they do is for their good. Children lose all confidence in their parents when they realize that their parents are not interested in them but only in using them for their own comfort and gain. Praise the Lord, our Father is not like that. He uses everything for our good, to prosper us spiritually so we are able to grow into maturity.
Ambition demonstrates the opposite attitude. It is a work of the flesh that overwhelms our spirit. It does not allow for humility because it must prove that it is always better than everyone else. It will do whatever needs to be done to promote itself above others. It comes into direct conflict with "love your neighbours". It cannot be taught because it cannot put itself under anyone; that is a position of weakness. It gets offended any time someone else is lifted up and it gets put aside for a season. False humility is no better and sometimes is even worse because a person cannot even recognize their condition thinking they are okay.
"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
The question I am determined to ask myself each morning now is: Are you submitted to the Spirit today or are you doing your own thing? We should not want anything for ourselves because the Father is looking after all of those things. Our life should be centered on Jesus Christ and the things of the Kingdom. The things of the Kingdom are people and we are here to serve in humility and grace. We also need to understand that we are taught by the Spirit as we serve. It is a great position to be in. So, are you submitted to the Spirit as a child is submitted to a parent, or are you doing your own thing today?