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Ambition

Senior UK politician Douglas Hurd - now Lord Hurd - has just had ‘Memoirs’ published.  The Times’ first excerpt (23.9.03) is about the 1990 Tory leadership contest.

Early in the sequence of events, Lord Hurd notes: “Of course, I would have liked to be Prime Minister.  That still seemed a remote possibility, though I was warmed by the encouragement of that handful of younger friends whom I knew to be wise as well as honourable.  They were now backed in their advice by some senior backbenchers.”

Then, reflecting after John Major had won, he goes on: “… [potential supporters] were far from certain that my heart was in the struggle. … I was not sure how to deal with the suspicion of half-heartedness.  It was true that I had not lain awake at night for years in advance plotting and pining for this hour.  It was also true that later, when the hour had passed without success, I lost no sleep in cursing my failure.  But during the competition itself I was entirely committed to my own cause.”

Meanwhile in our own lives, many of us have sought a Godly attitude towards ambition. When is it right to go for that position?  Should one, as some do, map out one's career decades in advance?  At the other extreme, when is “if it be thy will” little more than “que sera sera”?

Interestingly, the Bible speaks only against selfish ambition. For example, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit … Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …who … humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death … (Phil 2:3, 5, 8).  Jesus was single-minded in the pursuit of the goal - totally ambitious we might say!  But the goal was his Father's and he was “humble and obedient” to it.

That same obedience to God's agenda comes through in Solomon's accession to the throne of Israel (1 Kings 1-2) and in King David's pro-activity in ensuring that God's candidate got the job.  Necessary to thwart Adonijah, who, exalted himself, saying, “I will be king” … attempting to take the place by storm at his first attempt and by stealth at the second.

And I find much by way of contemporary exemplar in churchman Hurd's story.  Conscious of his motives and feelings, aware, it seems, of a bigger picture even than governing a country, open to the advice of wise and honourable, friendly and senior colleagues.  Willing to be promoted to high cabinet rank, but not to scheme for the top job; willing to enter the final race wholeheartedly but not mortified when he didn't win.

Yours in Christ

Peter Nicholls

Should one, as some do, map out one's career decades in advance?  At the other extreme, when is “if it be thy will” little more than “que sera sera”?

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