“…thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” (Romans 15:20-21)
When I lived in Japan, every Japanese school boy knew the expression, “Boys, be ambitious.” Often they could repeat it in English. The great American pioneer of higher education in Japan, William Smith Clark, as he left Japan, gave a farewell that somehow captured the spirit of Japan and it has become universally quoted, “Boys, be ambitious.” And those first students were ambitious. They became leaders in the modernization of Japan in the 19th century.
“Be ambitious!” Are you? If you are ambitious, what is your ambition? If you have no great, burning ambition, is it because you think there’s something unworthy about ambition, a little arrogant, or presumptuous? Paul was ambitious. He said so. Or perhaps you think it’s OK for others to be ambitious, but you’ll just rock along through life without driving hard to fulfill some goal or dream?
I was ambitious. When I was five years old I wanted to be a fireman or garbage man, at 11 years old a civil engineer. Once grown, my ambition moved in the direction of Paul’s ambition. “I have made it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named…but as it is written, ‘To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand.’“ (Romans 15: 20, 21) Paul’s ambition was to proclaim Christ where he was unknown. I began to make that my ambition. Decades before the expression was coined, I began to become a world Christian. Though I still didn’t know what God had in mind for me to do, I had a growing passion to make my life count to the maximum for what he was up to in this world. How could I best advance the Kingdom? And that is what Clark originally said as he left Japan, something NO Japanese school boy knows. They don’t know it because the full quotation is never given. What Clark actually said was, “Boys, be ambitious for Christ!”
Is there any place Christ has not been proclaimed? In about half the nations of the world if they wanted to find out they could. They have access to the gospel message. But the thing that must break God’s heart is that half the people on planet earth cannot hear the gospel because no one has ever gone to their people, their tribe, their place to tell them. It’s not just that they haven’t heard the good news of life in Christ, it’s that they can’t hear until someone gets Paul’s ambition to go there to tell them.
We had hoped to go to China as missionaries, but that door was closed, so the mission suggested we go to Japan. But Japan was not a ripe harvest field. The best of evangelists – native or foreign – did not have a great harvest. And there was an even greater problem: the attrition rate was higher than anywhere else. So we needed a special assurance from God. God gave us John 15:16. This is one of the most thrilling truths in my life. God chose me on purpose, set me apart for a specific task and invested me with his authority to accomplish it. What a promise!
The force of the word is “to send.” That reminds us of what Jesus told the disciples a few days later, the first night following his resurrection, right in this same upper room: “As the Father sent me so send I you.” (John 20:21). Not only are we chosen and appointed to a divine destiny, it is on the model of what the Father and Son did. The Father who so loved the world that he sent the Son on purpose to save. Now the Son sends us! With the same motive – love for the lost; with the same goal – the world. You did not choose me, but I chose you and commissioned you to go and produce a bumper crop of fruit, fruit that will remain..
“You did not choose me,” Jesus said. “I chose you.” So don’t give up, don’t be discouraged. God chose you. And he chose you on purpose. Fruit, lots of fruit. Fruit that remains. He keeps his promises!
Maybe you don’t know what God put you here on earth to do. But whatever it is, figure out how what you are doing can best advance his program of world evangelism. And maybe he would give some of you the high privilege of serving as Paul did, pioneering the gospel among people who are not only unevangelized today, but have no chance of hearing unless someone goes to them. What does God want you to do about them?
You may not know the role he wants you to play, you may not know the location to which he will send, but you can be sure that the One who called you did so on purpose. And you can be sure the role he designs for you will have a key part in world evangelization. Why not begin today to make that your life’s ambition?
My challenge to you is to commit your life to the cause of making Christ known to everyone on planet earth, to live for it, to die for it, if need be. And if you will, I have a wonderful gift for you, a promise that the great Promise Keeper gives, “You did not call me, I called you. And I appointed you as my personal representative to go and serve me effectively, to produce results that will last to eternity.” Boys, girls, men, and women; be ambitious. For Christ!