Monday, October 11, 2010

‘Rescuing Ambition’ by Dave Harvey – Book Review and Giveaway

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I can personally attest to the fact that, as a Christian, I have been taught that ambition is a bad thing. In ‘Rescuing Ambition,’ Dave Harvey makes the case that ambition, properly applied, can be a godly virtue.

Here is the description of this interesting book:

This pioneering book rescues ambition from suspicion by putting it to work for the glory of God.
Many think of ambition as nothing more than the drive for personal honor or fame. As a result, ambition—the God-implanted drive to improve, produce, develop, and create—is neglected and well on its way to paralysis.
For some, dreams are numbed. For others, there are no dreams; life just happens. And for those who are dreaming, motives are often confused. One thing is certain: ambition needs help.
Dave Harvey is calling for a rescue. He wants to snatch ambition from the heap of failed motivations and put it to work for the glory of God. To understand our ambition, we must understand that we are on a quest for glory. And where we find glory determines the success of our quest.
Has your God-given ambition been starved and sedated for too long? Are you ambitious? It’s time to reach further and dream bigger for the glory of God.

Here is the biography of the author:

Dave Harvey (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is responsible for church planting, church care, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries, having served on the leadership team since 1995. He is the author of When Sinners Say I Do and a contributor to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.

Here is Dave Harvey explaining how we fight selfish ambition:

In the Foreword, C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries states that Pastor Harvey has helped him to change his mind on ambition:

          Humble ambition. Is such a thing even possible?
          If you asked me twenty years ago, I would have said, “I don’t think so.”
My friend Dave Harvey is one of the men who have helped me see otherwise. Humility doesn’t have to quench ambition. And ambition – the right kind – doesn’t have to trample humility. In fact, we honor the Savior by cultivating both. (p. 9)

In the Introduction, Pastor Harvey shares that our culture has distorted the concept of ambition:

You see, I believe that ambition – godly ambition, that is – is noble force for the glory of God. But let’s face it: ambition has mostly hovered outside respectability. For church leaders from Augustine to Jonathan Edwards, ambition was synonymous with the love of earthly honor, vainglory, fame-hunting – pretty slimy stuff.
Today’s cultural climate doesn’t help. The prevailing worldview in the West involves a distrust in big ideas and man’s ability to achieve them and the firm belief that objective truth doesn’t exist. But when we deny truth, we suffocate ambition.  Without truth as a foundation and ideas worth exploring, meandering replaces meaning, confusion trumps conviction, ambivalence swallows aspiration – nothing really matters all that much.
Ambition must also be rescued from a wrong understanding of humility. That may sound crazy, but I’m serious. I think this issue quenches a lot of evangelical fire. Humility, rightly understood, shouldn’t be a fabric softener on our aspirations. When we become too humble to act, we’ve ceased being biblically humble. True humility doesn’t kill our dreams; it provides a guardrail for them, ensuring that they remain on God’s road and move in the direction of his glory.
Ultimately, it’s we ourselves who hold ambition hostage. We’re sinners, we love ourselves, we aspire to bring glory to ourselves, and we’ll drop godly dreams if something more attractive shows up – and in the process, the right kind of dreams die.
So this book is my little attempt at a rescue operation. The idea is to save ambition – specifically, godly ambition – and return it to where it belongs. To do this, we must snatch ambition from the dust heap of failed motivations and put it to work for the glory of God. (pp. 14-15)

When we become a Christian, God wants to shape our ambition:

God has an agenda: it’s to bring us into the image of his Son. And one way he brings about this change is through our dreams and ambitions. God works in us through that to which we aspire.
Sometimes God brings our dreams to life; sometimes he doesn’t.  But how we respond to his work becomes an important intersection for change in our lives. As we cooperate with him, we discover that it’s not ultimately about nailing the promotion, or raising well-behaved kids, or winning the Daytona 500 – as good as all those things may be. It’s about something bigger: how I become like Christ while I pursue those dreams. (p. 70)

Sometimes God makes us wait for our ambitions:

Waiting is God’s backhoe in the excavation of our ambitions. Waiting unearths and brings to the surface what we really want.
Yet, waiting is a strange thing. God’s purposes are not a bus stop where we just sit, waiting for the right option to come by. No, we keep walking while we wait, and we wait while we walk. This may sound ironic, but it serves many purposes. (p. 72)

He then goes on to enumerate what waiting does for us:

1.   Waiting purifies our ambitions.
2.   Waiting cultivates patience.
3.   Waiting redefines our definition of productivity.  (pp. 72-73)

An interesting point that Pastor Harvey makes is that contentment requires divine power:

At the heart of discontent lies this conviction: “I don’t have what I deserve.” The gospel answers with this cheery news: “You’re absolutely right. And you can thank God for that!” The gospel turns our complaint on its head and reminds us that regardless of our state – high or low, plenty or hunger, abundance or need – we live infinitely above what we really deserve. (p. 129)

In the Afterword, Pastor Harvey explains why he wrote this book:

I wrote it because I don’t want the past to rob us of the future. I don’t want the people I love and the people you love to be conformed to the world’s way of thinking about today or tomorrow.
As Christians, there’s much in the past that we love, but we’re also called to the future. It’s a future secured by the cross and commissioned by the Savior. A future both given and grabbed, protected and pursued. It’s our future if we dare to believe God’s promises.
The future is too important to put off until tomorrow. We must dream about it today.
I believe God wants ambition back in our understanding of godliness and spiritual health. Sure, let’s not fail to evaluate our motives and strive for humility – that’s essential. But let’s not be paralyzed by self-analysis.
God calls us to “run with endurance the race set before us” (Heb 12:1). He calls us to run it in such a way that we win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24), to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead (Phil 3:13), to invest our talents wisely (Matt. 25:14-30), and to be people “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Those are biblical ways to exclaim, “Keep the pistons of ambition pumping for God!”
Let’s not just kick-start a conversation. Let’s move into the future expecting that God can use us to make a difference.
That’s why I wrote this book. (pp. 215-216)

I have to admit that I have difficulty with selfishness and discontent. I guess that makes me human; I am not unique from others. I appreciate how Dave shows us that God wants us to be ambitious – but ambitious for Him! There is nothing wrong with that – that’s how He wired us. That is a relief to me!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Crossway Publishers and provided by them for review and giveaway purposes.

I have one copy of this insightful book that I would love to send along to one of you! 

There are several ways to gain entry:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog, telling me what you think of this book. Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.

2) Follow me on Twitter; I will more than likely follow you back!  If you are already a Twitter follower, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

3) Follow me as a Google Friend on this blog; if you are already a Friend, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

4) Become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

5) Follow this blog as a NetWorked Blog Follower after you’ve become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

So there are five chances to enter!  Please limit one entry per option.

This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.  The deadline for entry is Monday, October 25, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 and will be contacted via email.  The best to all of you!


barbjan10 said...

Pastor Harvey has written about a subject that has bothered me from time to time. I feel an ambition to "work for God." I like the explanation I've seen thus far and hope to read the entire book. It's ok to be ambitious for God. I am relieved! Thanks for this giveaway and the chance to win this good book. I hope I do win.

Sharing God's Love,
Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

barbjan10 said...

I have been a long time follower of Andrea on Twitter.

Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

barbjan10 said...

I am a follower of GFC on this blog.

Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

barbjan10 said...

Andrea and I are Facebook friends.

Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

barbjan10 said...

I am a NetWorked Blog follower on this blog.

Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

Jan Cline said...

This is a subject I have been debating for a while. I love this premise and it looks to be a thourough look at the issue. Would love to get this one.

Steve said...

You might find the following blogs of interest about C.J. Mahaney and the group he leads, Sovereign Grace Ministries:

They tell another side. Hope this helps.

Linda said...

We used to sing a song in our church: Dream big dreams for God. It always bothered my. For me, I would sing: Dream big dreams with God. That's what this book seems to speak to me.
Please enter me.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I'm a GFC follower.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I follow you on Twitter.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I'm a friend on FB.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I think I'm a follower on Networked blogs on FB.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...


desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Mrs. David Hankins said...

We have this book and have also enjoyed his former book "When Sinners Say 'I Do'". I'm glad that you enjoyed this one!

I'm sad to see that SGM Survivors are starting to follow people around and slander Sovereign Grace Ministries. While there is no perfect church and leaders do make mistakes, as a whole Sovereign Grace is a great ministry with a passion to bring glory and honor to God. It is evident when one reads the accounts on the links above, that they are largely from folks who did not receive Biblical church discipline. Personally, I would not recommend the web sites listed in Steve's comment as they do not serve to build up, but rather tear down and are divisive.

Anyway, Andrea, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book! My husband is really enjoying it, and I look forward to reading it when he's finished with it. (I like to interact with the books that I read so I usually let him read them first so he doesn't have to wade through my markings. ;)

Ann Lee Miller said...

This book sounds timely for me. I am a follower.

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this book...i'm interested :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Steve Capell said...

I feel ambition isn't bad in and of itself. It all depends on what your ambition is about and more importantly is it God's plan for your life. I would really like to read this book. Thanks for the opportunity.


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