I am currently reading To the Golden Shore, the story of Adoniram Judson.
You may not know who Adoniram is, but my theory is, that’s because he was too ambitious. If Adoniram had been less ambitious, you probably would have heard of him.
God is using the journey of Adoniram to continue to teach me about true ambition; the kind of ambition that longs for something so great that it digs down into a life spent seeking God’s glory instead of self-exaltation.
Adoniram was an ambitious guy long before he was a believer. He always longed do something great with his life.
He grew up in a time and place not unlike this one, where fame and worldly religion were not opposed; where it really was seemingly possible to get glory in this life and the next.
As a child, Adoniram became very sick. And as he lay there in bed, unsure if he would live or die, he contemplated his ambition.
‘Perhaps, he mused, he would like to become a famous minister in charge of a wealthy city church – a great Boston church, for example, where he could expound his sermons to a thousand or more fashionably dressed gentelemen and ladies who would hang on every word as he stood in the pulpit above them. He would have praise and fame, and not only in this world…
As he toyed with this pleasing prospect…he began to be aware of a feeling of uneasiness.”
His mind wandered to the thought of the country pastor, serving faithfully in the small things, seeking after the Kingdom of God alone with no thought or desire for worldly fame. He began to contemplate the eternity of this kind of man; the man who was willing to face obscurity as long as the will of the Lord was accomplished in His life.
The World was wrong about its heroes. The world was wrong in its judgements. The fame of the unknown country pastor was really the greater – so much greater that any worldly accomplishment shrank into insignificance. This was the only fame that triumphed over the grave.
Sudenly through his mind words rang out so powerfully that he all but heard them spoken :’not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy name be the glory.” And with the words such a dreadful shock of realization that he almost sat bolt upright in bed…
He had always wanted to be truly religious. He had been learning the lessons of religion since he first understood words. Yet how could he be religious and accomplish any ambition in this world?
There was a terrible contradiction here. For a moment, in a flash of inner anguish, he saw that he did not really want to be a Christian at all, for being a Christian stood in the way of his being a great man…
For that one brief moment the insight was so vivid and painful that he would remember it to the end of his life.”
Adoniram’s ambition did not die that day. Instead, God began the process of redeeming it. He gave Judson a greater ambition than worldly fame.
Make no mistake, Adoniram lived an ambitious life. He dreamed big, and he changed the face of the world, but it was the glory of God he sought, not his own fame.
On February 19, 1812 he and his wife left America. They were the first missionaries to go out from this country. They carried the gospel to Burma, absolutly ignorant of how large an impact their lives would have on the kingdom of God.
May God breathe into us ambition like Judson’s.