Ambition, Fame and Our Obsession With Numbers

Let not the allure of recognition distract us from the things God rewards: diligence, humility, faithfulness, etc.

When we’re talking or meeting with people, are we always the ones imparting wisdom? Do we have mentors in our lives, or are we always the ones mentoring others? Do we really believe we need leadership and grace just as much as those we’re leading?

When I became a senior in college, and was doubting the impact of anything I had done on campus, a wise friend reminded me: “Adrian, if God used your four years of college to change just one person—and that person is you—don’t forget that is a great work of God.” 

I will never forget those words. How easy is it for us to become intoxicated by measurements of the influence we desire! But God doesn’t just use us for His work … His ongoing work is us.

4. Ambition in itself is not bad, but stewarding it well requires more from us than we are told in today’s culture.

No bones about it … I am an ambitious person. I’m not ashamed of that. I want to make the most of my education, skills and opportunities that I’ve been granted. I want to do something good in this world, just as countless people have invested and poured their wisdom and time into helping me to grow.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to make a difference and “mark” on the world — which some might call our “legacy.”

But with ambition must come great integrity and humility to check our motives at the door constantly, and to sacrifice and serve even when the culture around us is telling us “we’ve earned it,” “we deserve it” and “we are different.” 

No … no matter how big our church or ministry is, no matter how much we are respected, we are never “above” God’s words that remind us that “the first shall be last” and that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” If anybody was deserving, it was Jesus, but He chose humility, sacrifice and death for those He loved.

I want to that to be my model — to be faithful to a life of sacrificial love and service, regardless of the “results.” That’s not for me or any other minister to determine or decide.

That’s what I’d want my legacy to be — not a personal and “striving” ambition, but an ambition to follow God to wherever He calls, whether to a public arena or a place of shadows where nobody will notice.

May our ambition not be to serve ourselves, but to give our lives in service to others. May our legacy be measured not as much in what we have accomplished as in how much we have loved. That’s my prayer.

What are your observations about our culture and how it can come into tension with certain values and principles? What experiences have you wrestled with in yourself, and what you have seen in others? 

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Adrian Pei
Adrian Pei works as Director of Creative Arts and Resources at Epic Movement, the Asian American ministry of Cru. He earned degrees from Stanford University and Fuller Seminary, and is passionate about writing and developing culturally-aware leadership. You can find him on his blog at, or on Twitter at @adrianpei.