Text: 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 

The world encourages us to have ambitions. Dream big. Aim high. Climb the corporate ladder. Earn big bucks and be recognised in society. What an endless list of dreams and aspirations!

The question then is – Can a Christian have ambitions?

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:9-10 KJV)

The term “labour” in verse 9 is not the usual word for “labour”. This term (philotimeomai) refers to having an ambition and aspiring to something (BDAG). Thus, Paul is saying in verses 9 and 10 that his one ambition in life is to stand approved of God in whatever he does.

This same term is also employed by Paul in Romans 15:20. “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.” (Rom. 15:20) In this verse, Paul talks specifically about his call as an Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. His divinely appointed duty was to go to places which have not heard of Christ to preach the gospel and plant churches. He will therefore aspire to fulfil whatsoever the Lord desired for him to do.

Can a Christian pilgrim therefore have ambitions? Yes, he can! His ambition is only one, that is to please the Lord. Whenever he goes, he is serving the Lord. It is never for his own fame, power and fortune.

Herein is a test – should your bonus this year be reduced, will you complain? If your one ambition in life is to serve the Lord, then we must be contented with what with have.

May Christ be our one ambition in life!

Yours lovingly,
Pastor Clement Chew

(Rev Dr Timothy Tow’s Comment on 2 Kings 5:1-27, Abridged)

Elisha’s refusal to take from Naaman’s hand is reciprocally exemplary. lt is not that God’s servant cannot accept anything from grateful people whom they have helped. Elisha, in the passage of Scripture immediately preceding Naaman’s story, accepted twenty barley loaves from a man from Baalshalisha for his pupils. What reason then was it that he did not take up Naaman’s offer? There is a parallel in Abraham’s not taking even a shoe string from the king of Sodom “lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:23). Naaman, though a grateful man, was a Gentile. Elisha told Gehazi his servant this was not the oc-casion to make oneself rich. Naaman might give of a cheerful heart, but how would the Syrians, lsrael’s enemy/ react?

ln this matter, Edersheim remarks, “But in the present instance, it was of the utmost importance to show in contradistinction to heathen soothsayers – that, as the prophet of God did not work miracles in his own power, not by his own will, so he did it not for reward, and that the gift of God could not be purchased with money. lndeed we can scarcely exaggerate the impression which the refusal of Elisha must have made both on the followers of Naaman and generally in lsrael. One of the Fathers has here marked in the prophet’s conduct the same principle which underlay the direction of our Lord when He sent His disciples with this injunction: “Freely ye have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8)

Money, says Wang Ming Tao, is a first temptation to every man of God. And see how the great American televangelists have fallen, one by one. Nor can we accept every offer that is made by the Church or Church members. Be very careful about money! The story is told of John Sung, how he rejected a sum of money presented to him by an unsaved admirer in Bogor, Indonesia (read “Flame for God” by Leslie Lyall, p. 126, and “John Sung My Teacher” p. 226). Why?

All these injunctions against graft, Gehazi has heard from Elisha’s mouth umpteen times, but now, with all the glittering gems before him, he fell to the temptation. So he caught up with Naaman who was now heading home to demand a gift for two new students that had come to join Elisha’s College. Covetousness leads to lying. For yielding to temptation, Gehazi justly deserves contracting Naaman’s disease which affects his children to many generations. A pastor who serves the Lord with his belly and not with hís heart (Rom. 16:18) and “whose religion is his kitchen” (says Calvin) has never had enough to satiate his appe-tite. And because he calculates his income alongside the secular, he will remain forever a servant, and in Gehazi’s case, a Naamite leper.