During last Lord’s Day Service, we learnt about The Christian’s Ambition from 2 Corinthians 5:9 – “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” The word labour is translated from the Greek word φιλοτιμούμεθα (philotimoumetha), which has the idea of having something as one’s ambition. The Christian thus has the ambition of pleasing Christ in everything he does and will spare no effort to achieve this goal.

I was then reminded by a brother in Christ, of the origin of the motto of Hokkaido University. In 1876, William S Clark, an American missionary, was invited by the government of Japan to establish Sapporo Agricultural College, which later became Hokkaido University. The Lord used Clark to do a good work for Christ. Interestingly, even though the teaching of the Bible was supposedly banned by the Japanese government in schools, Clark managed to obtain approval to use the Bible during certain lessons on Ethics. 31 students later converted to Christianity.

As Clark departed from Sapporo Agricultural College after having completed his work, he was reported to say to the students, “Boys, be ambitious! Be ambitious not for money or for selfish aggrandizement, not for that evanescent thing which men call fame. Be ambitious for the attainment of all that a man ought to be.” These words are found in a painting of Clark’s departure in the Prefectural Capitol Building in Sapporo. Others insist that Clark said, “Boys, be ambitious, like this old man!” and “Boys, be ambitious for Christ!” What is clear was William’s desire that his students will finally embrace Christ and be ambitious for Him. These words left such an impression on Sapporo Agricultural College that the expression, “Boys, Be Ambitious” became the motto of Hokkaido University till today.

Statute of William S Clark in Sapporo, Hokkaido

Statue of William S Clark in Sapporo, Hokkaido

Alas, we know that many are drunk with selfish ambitions and the pursuits of the world, of which the Scriptures exhort, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Our sole ambition in life must be Christ. Now to those who are of a divided heart, God’s Word says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) Christ, must be the Christian’s sole ambition.

Moreover, let us remember that the time will come when we must give an account of the things we have done in this life. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) What shall we say to God if we are apathetic to the things of Christ?

Therefore, for this New Year, let us take the motto of Hokkaido University in the right spirit as taught in the Scriptures. What has Christ called you to do? Be ambitious for Christ in His call for you.



King Saul is set in deep contrast with King David in the Holy Scriptures. If David is known to be the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), Saul must then be the man that is after his own heart.

The life of King Saul is an absorbing study of the picture of a self-absorbed man. One of the characteristics of such a man is that of impatience and impulsiveness. He is not one who will wait upon God to direct his way.

Let us look at two such incidences from the Scripture. The first is found in 1 Samuel 13, when the children of Israel were facing a critical battle against the Philistines. In the midst of a tense situation, God commanded Saul to wait for seven days at Gilgal for Samuel to arrive to offer sacrifices unto the LORD. However, at the end of seven days, Samuel came not to Gilgal and the people were scattered before Saul.

What did Saul do? He told the men to bring a burnt offering to him together with peace offerings and he offered the offerings unto the Lord. He did not enquire of the Lord concerning Samuel’s absence and proceeded to offer the sacrifices which only those of the priesthood could do.

“And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.” Did Saul admit to his mistake? In no way! Instead, Saul excused himself, saying, “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.” (1 Samuel 13:11-12). He blamed Samuel and the people for his sin, portraying himself to be a victim who was “forced” into doing something which he did not want to do.

The Lord did not take kindly to Saul’s words. The kingdom will be taken away from Saul and given to a man who is after God’s own heart.

Nevertheless, Saul refused to repent and his impatience reared its ugly head again in the next chapter. In 1 Samuel 14, we read of how the Lord used Jonathan, Saul’s son, and his armour bearer, to confront the Philistine camp. Further panic ensued when God sent a great earthquake in the midst of the enemy camp.

All this while, Saul was unaware that Jonathan had gone forth to confront the Philistines. It was only after the panic in the enemy camp that Saul commanded the people to be numbered to see who was not in the midst of Israel’s army. It was only then that he knew of the courageous deed of his son with his armourbearer.

What followed was a puzzling sequence of events. Saul first commanded Ahiah, the priest, to bring the ark of God so that he may enquire of the LORD (1 Samuel 14:18). However, as Saul talked with the priest, the noise of panic in the enemy camp increased. Believing that this was an opportunity to wreck greater damage to the Philistines, Saul immediately called for the priest to withdraw his hand (1 Samuel 14:19). Saul had called to seek the Lord’s counsel but he did not have the patience to wait for God’s answer. The seeking of God was just a formality. Saul was a practitioner of situational ethics and his decisions were dictated by circumstances rather than God’s Word.

Dear friends, as Christians, we must not be men after our own hearts but men after God’s own heart. This means that we must not be like Saul in his self-centered ways. Impatience when seeking God’s will, is a sign that we rather trust in the arm of flesh than follow the Lord. Do not make any decisions without seeking God in His Word and prayer. Do not move unless God will show the way. Be patient and wait upon the Lord. This principle applies in every situation of life, whether it be a student deciding on which courses to take, a Christian seeking a life partner or a believer pondering on a change of job. Be patient in the Lord with every changing scene of life.

On the other hand, when God reveals His will, we must plunge in with our might and be ambitious for Christ. When we are patient with the Lord, He will give us His very best.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew