How to Build Godly Ambition
Young people—you need this valuable character trait!

My son recently held a Winston Churchill summer book club at our Philadelphia Church of God campus in Edstone, England. The group discussed seven points from the life of the British prime minister on building real leadership, which I talked about in a sermon last year. (You young people ought to read all you can about Churchill. William Manchester wrote three dramatic, exciting biographies; Martin Gilbert’s biography provides much more of the factual information.)

“I cannot conceal from the reader of this truthful account that as I went to bed at about 3 a.m., I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last, I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene,” Churchill wrote after assembling a British War Cabinet in 1940 to fight the Nazis. Churchill wasn’t afraid of his new responsibility!

“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial,” he continued. God used Winston Churchill to save Western civilization! God did have a hand in Churchill’s life, and I think that has a lot to do with why he was such a great man. This man made and wrote about more history than any 10 men in the 20th century, providing almost endless leadership and insight.

When my son told me about the Churchill book club, he mentioned that some of our college students didn’t attend many of the meetings, probably because they weren’t really that interested in the subject. I was disappointed and upset by this. While our camps and schools continue to yield a higher and higher standard of godly young people, there is still a need for you to understand more about building godly ambition.

What can we accomplish without the right kind of ambition? No matter your age, you can have a real impact on God’s Work by dedicating yourself to Him. The teenager David proved that by slaying Goliath.

Adults in God’s Church also need more godly ambition. I realized this more than ever when writing The New Throne of David. Why do we now possess God’s throne? Why did we build God’s house? Why do you have the opportunity to attend God’s educational institutions?

Churchill came on the scene just before Britain rejoiced at the miraculous delivery of British soldiers from Nazi pursuit at Dunkirk. What could have been a massacre was instead a mass saving of lives. That’s worth praising God for. But Churchill said, You don’t win wars by retreating! He urged the military to go on the offensive.

As Manchester wrote, England was looking for a strong man at that time, and London just happened to have one. Like Churchill, God’s young people must seize every opportunity to grow godly motivation and godly ambition, or you won’t be motivated to do much of anything. Here are seven ways to build godly ambition:

1. Seek and follow ministerial counsel.

I have received counsel from many ministers of God throughout my life. Every one of them had a positive impact on me. Even when correction and direction wasn’t given perfectly, it really gave me something I needed to work on and some humility—and whatever else God was teaching me.

When I was in my early 20s, my life was a hopeless mess. God must have lowered me to that frustrated state. I met a man around this time who, despite never attending college, had read some of the most amazing books—books I couldn’t even understand. I decided to start taking nighttime classes at Washington University in St. Louis, eventually accumulating a little over a year’s worth of credits.

Shortly after that, God called me into the Worldwide Church of God. I wanted to continue my education. I dreamed of attending Ambassador College. It was one of the strongest passions I’ve ever had. I applied and was rejected.

One of my local ministers told me that there were a lot of ways I could serve God and His Work in Missouri, so I did my best for a year and then went to talk to Dr. Herman Hoeh, who supervised the students at Ambassador College. He basically asked me, “Why haven’t you done more with your life?”

This was hard correction to take—but also wonderful for my growth! He could have said, “Well, you have a year of college credits and a good job. Just keep it up, and you’ll be OK.” Instead, he told me the truth!

I prayed about Dr. Hoeh’s correction. There wasn’t opportunity for advancement at my company, so I couldn’t really improve in that area right away. Before long, the company was having problems and laying off some workers. I decided to accept a severance package to part ways with the company. That gave me enough money to start an advertising business, but it failed.

Because Dr. Hoeh made me face reality, I tried to do more with my life! Even though my business venture fell through, I was working hard to serve both inside and outside the Church. The ministry helped me a lot with this, and three years later, I was ordained a deacon.

After trying to start my own business, I worked in direct-mail advertising, learning more about advertising than at any time before or since. But if you don’t get results in direct mail, you’re a failure. It was a high-stakes job. Eventually, I got fired.

By then, I was already married to Barbara and had a six-month-old daughter, Laura. I heard that Ambassador College was beginning to accept married students. My minister told me to apply and see what happened. College admissions called him just five days before the academic year began and explained why they would have to reject me again. My minister suggested they accept me at the Big Sandy, Texas, campus, rather than the Pasadena, California, campus that I had been aiming for. He kept talking, and finally a college official relented and told him to send me out to California. Thankfully, I had prepared to move on short notice.

My physical father never taught me much, but he did instill the habit of submission to authority. I listened closely to Dr. Hoeh’s rebuke and even considered that God had allowed me to be fired a couple of times so I would have more humility at college. Although the trials were tough, God had made my dream of attending Ambassador College come true.

Young people, always remember that you need God’s help. Get it, and you will have an impact! God always keeps His promises—but you have to do your part.

2. Walk with the wise, and you shall become wise.

Proverbs 13:20 states: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Be careful whom you spend a lot of time with. At college, my wife and I quickly grew close to three or four other married couples. One of these men told me, essentially, “Look, you can forget about all that deacon history you have. That doesn’t really count anymore here.”

His comment disturbed me. What does God say about that? “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1Timothy 3:12-13). God pays His deacons a big compliment! Deacons step out in boldness and serve God’s people. They hold an honorable office!

The man who discredited my office as a deacon probably thought he would be ordained an evangelist in a matter of years. I later found out that my group of friends had been talking behind my back, asking themselves what Dr. Hoeh had asked me: “Why hasn’t he done more with his life?” God doesn’t agree with the way these people were talking. I decided not to hang around them very much anymore.

I knew that God had opened the door for me to attend His college, so I didn’t care what anybody said. I had needed to uproot my life to move across the country in five days. When I looked in the local paper, I found an ad asking for someone to drive a Lincoln Continental to Los Angeles. That’s how my family and I made it to nearby Pasadena. Just when I thought it was impossible, God answered my prayer to study at His institution of higher learning.

Anyone can sit back and criticize—we have to be very careful doing that. These people didn’t really know anything about my life or my service in the Church. Now, we want to listen to anybody who can help us, and I certainly tried to evaluate what people said because I really was trying to build godly ambition. But God says we must practice pure religion! “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Who fulfills this verse more than deacons and deaconesses in God’s Church?

My critics didn’t talk about this verse! It’s about pure giving—not expecting anything in return. Our vanity cries out for others to heap plaudits and praise upon us. God wants the exact opposite from us. He wants us to have pure religion and not try to get anything out of it, but to try to give in every way we can.

When I was a deacon, I frequently visited an elderly Church member who was dying of cancer. I felt that was my job. For a year or two, I visited her about once a week. She was in so much pain that she couldn’t keep her feet still. That’s real affliction. When there’s a need, God says: Well, now, you just fill it, and just look to me. Forget everything else, and do what I tell you to do, and practice what I tell you to practice, and make your religion as pure as you can, and try to get the vanity out of it. And that’s not easy to do.

When it’s time for you young people to start searching for a mate, what kind will you look for? It’s fine to marry a beautiful woman or a handsome man, but the Bible says beauty alone is vain! (Proverbs 31:30). If you really have godly ambition and want to build that, you ought to know what he or she thinks about pure religion—visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and trying to help. That’s the way God is.

But my circle of friends at Ambassador College didn’t talk that way. They didn’t think much of a deacon or a deaconess, but God certainly does. When we serve the suffering, we are really serving Jesus Christ! (Matthew 25:34-45). God is re-creating Himself in man. We can be a part of that process—and that’s the most exciting thing you will ever do! Each human being is a potential child of God. If you get a chance to serve the widows or the fatherless, take advantage. Many teenagers have turned away from God’s truth over the years because they didn’t have goals like that.

God wants us to live the most exciting life imaginable. We need His love—the same love that allowed Him to give His only Son to pay for our sins and give us an opportunity to be born into His Family. That’s the ultimate service!

Finding an attractive mate is fine, but make sure he or she helps you build godly ambition. Surround yourself with people who think and live the right way. One of my former college friends eventually became extremely bitter toward Herbert W. Armstrong, which is tantamount to having bitterness against God! Time proved that I was right to distance myself from that group of friends.

While I was a married student, some Church widows regularly babysat my daughter and my son, Stephen, who was born after I started attending. They even assisted my wife with auditing some of the college classes. Their service freed up a lot of time and made it easier for me to get through college. What tremendous sacrifice!

By serving each other, we are helping God re-create Himself in human beings. That’s where real happiness lies.

3. We must remember why we are called now.

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity [lawlessness]: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (Psalm 119:1-5). God wants to write His laws in our hearts and minds so that we live His way all the time!

“Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. … Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (verses 6, 9). Listen to God, not to critics.

The Prophet Jeremiah had some struggles as a young man, which is one indication that he wrote this psalm. “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:4-6).

Mr. Armstrong believed that God began working with Jeremiah when he was 17—just a teenager! “But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (verses 7-8).

God wouldn’t hear any excuses from Jeremiah. Any young person who dedicates his or her life to God will have an impact on the entire Church! God will reward you for your efforts, both today and in the World Tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at some of the powerful prophecies that God gave to the young Jeremiah. “And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land” (verses 13-14). This is the second vision that God gave him.

God asked Jeremiah, “What do you see?” Do we see the trouble building in “the north”—in Europe, specifically Germany—like a pot about to boil over?

United States President Donald Trump has had major disagreements with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (nato), especially Germany, which is building a natural gas pipeline, called the Nord Stream 2, that extends directly to Russia. He rebuked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for striking this gas deal that essentially holds all of Europe captive to Russia. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder now works for Russian gas giant Gazprom and acts as the middleman between the two countries.

Germany is paying billions of dollars to Russia for this pipeline, yet it won’t even pay the agreed-upon 2 percent of its gross domestic product to nato’s collective defense fund. America funds more than double what it is obligated to, so it’s not hard to understand why Mr. Trump would have a problem with Germany and the vast majority of nato member nations that won’t pay up.

nato was conceived to protect Europe from Russia—attack one European nation, and you’re going to have war with all of them. However, the new pipeline has the opposite effect: Russia could cut off the flow of natural gas at any time, hurting Germany. Russia has already crippled Ukraine by cutting off the gas. How can they be sure that Vladimir Putin won’t do the same thing to Germany? Germany, which redistributes this resource throughout Europe, could also cut off the supply to any European nation that won’t comply with Germany’s various demands.

The history between Russia and Germany indicates that they always work well together in between wars. They make peace with each other so they can achieve dominance in their respective regions, and then they turn against each other. Russian leader Joseph Stalin trusted Adolf Hitler, but then Hitler attacked Russia! Despite this striking history, Merkel and Schröder are trusting Russia today. The current lucrative relationship between Russia and Germany is a sign that another huge war is coming.

And Germany is no friend of America. You young people are set apart from the world, in the process of becoming converted members of God’s Church, so that you can help warn of the coming German betrayal of the Israelite nations—Manasseh (America), Ephraim (Britain) and Judah (the Jewish nation in the Middle East).

“For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord …. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me …” (verses 15-16). There’s another group besides Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah that God will punish: spiritual Israel, or God’s rebellious Church. Ninety-five percent of God’s people, including thousands of youths, are about to enter the Great Tribulation! The pot is boiling, but they don’t see it! Do you? Let God educate you.

Jeremiah went to ancient Judah, but his biblical book is addressed to Israel. His message is for the end time. The modern descendants of ancient Israel today are bitterly divided. In response to Mr. Trump’s July 2018 visit to London, hundreds of thousands of Brits protested in the streets. Divided America! Divided Britain! How do you think the Gentiles will react to our nations’ obvious divisions? What have they always done with power? That’s just the way it is with human nature.

“And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee” (verse 19). God’s people will win and be taken to a place of safety. God wants the entire Church—adults and young people—to back this urgent warning message. Do you want to say, “I’m just a child,” or do you want to have an impact on this Work? Develop godly ambition, and your efforts will make a difference.

4. We must remember who we are.

Here’s the first vision that God gave to the Prophet Jeremiah: “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:11-12). According to Bible dictionaries, “hasten” is referring to a piece of timber that lies beneath a door. Basically, God Himself is personally watching at the threshold of a door, observing what is happening in Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah. We need to know what is about to strike these nations.

“Hasten” also means “to guard, watch over.” Jeremiah 5:6 uses the phrase “watch over.” One Bible commentary says of this verse, “The calamity to befall Jerusalem [America, Britain and the Jewish nation] is like unto a leopard watching its prey and awaiting the opportune moment to leap.” Our nations are in trouble! Jeremiah warned about their coming punishment—a daunting job for anyone, not just for a young person.

In both visions, God asked Jeremiah what he saw. Do you see the boiling pot—the king of the north, or Germany? Do you have this vision in your mind?

The first vision flows from Jeremiah 1:10: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” This is talking about the three overturns of the throne of David—from Judah to Ireland, from Ireland to Scotland, and from Scotland to England.

Then, in verse 11, Jeremiah sees a barren branch—no almond buds. But today, that branch is blossoming! God has given the pcg the new throne of David! (Prove this new revelation for yourself by studying The New Throne of David.) Do you see this throne? Take a stand for God like Jeremiah—or like Churchill did for England. Determine to fight!

Now that we possess the new throne of David, God expects us to produce more fruits than ever before. We will turn this throne over to Jesus Christ, who will rule from it for all eternity! What kind of ambition do you have for this throne?

Mr. Armstrong had some of the most beautiful china in his home. When he hosted our Armstrong College senior dinner, one of my classmates said, “This is fit for a king!” He replied, “You are a king!” God puts us in regal environments like that, or the pyc Etiquette Night, or God’s house, to help us see who we really are!

We are royalty, but we have a big job to do before we receive our heavenly reward. The question to God’s young people is: What do you see? How strong is your spiritual vision? We’re preparing to rule the world! If you see that, you will be like David and slay every giant in your life. Biblical heroes like Isaiah and Paul saw the vision so clearly, they let enemies of the truth brutally murder them! They understood that their spiritual reward was more valuable than their physical life—by far.

God’s people will possess His throne in the place of safety (Isaiah 16:5). Master the truth in The New Throne of David. Soon, our little Church must confront Mr. Trump’s administration and explain that his achievements are entirely God’s doing. They will have the option to repent of their sins—or to die. They must understand that we are in the transition period before Jesus Christ returns to Earth to set up God’s government.

5. We must love God’s law and government.

Psalm 119 constantly mentions God’s law and government. Jeremiah said, Oh, how I love your law! It makes me wiser than all my teachers (verses 97, 99). That’s certainly been the case for me and many others. The ministers over me in the Worldwide Church of God taught me so much, but where are they now? Ninety-nine percent of them have abandoned God!

I tried to follow the ministers’ examples, and they helped me in so many ways. One of my critics said to me, “You would follow dung!” As it turns out, that’s what he was following. Love God’s law, and love the ministers who implement the law. Every time one of God’s ministers corrected me, I benefited. That helped me build more godly ambition. I need it just like you do.

6. God’s Word must light our path.

Psalm 119:105 reads: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

As Mr. Armstrong always explained, if a person goes off-track on one big point, they’re going to go off track on another and another and another. If you ever leave God’s lighted path, you won’t be able to see! In almost no time, you will become a different person. God’s rebellious people today believe some of the craziest things because they are in darkness.

God gives us that light to see! He’ll watch over us and give us every blessing, but He will also correct us sometimes. There is only one lighted path. You had better stay on it.

7. Thank God for His correction.

“… My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:5-6). God punishes His children. If you are receiving correction from Him, you are a son of God! Correction is necessary for qualification as Christ’s Bride.

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (verse 7). Who in this Church doesn’t receive correction from his physical father? Spiritually, the principle is the same: Either God corrects us, or we will turn away.

“But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (verse 8). If you continually reject correction, you will lose your Father!

“Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (verse 9). We respect our physical fathers. God deserves much more respect.

I recently made a list of five evangelists, three pastors, a preaching elder and a local elder who gave me hard correction in the wcg. I could have added more ministers to the list, but I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking I had caused a lot of trouble! I say that their correction was a blessing every time, and I’m not exaggerating. My track record of obeying the ministry is pretty solid. God taught me how to submit to His government. Of course we are to follow them only as they follow Christ. But thank God for His correction!

To build godly ambition, we must be corrected. Correction yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness (verse 11). Rejoice in your fiery trials.

“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (verses 12-13). Ask God for help! Seek correction if you’re really struggling. The ministers are here to help. They want to see you enter the Kingdom of God.

I can tell you from hard experience that God’s way works. I have applied His law in my life, although imperfectly. I still make mistakes I shouldn’t. Many times, I have been corrected due to my own stupidity.

We were all created for God to guide us into His Family. We now have the new throne of David, from which we will rule alongside Jesus Christ forever. Can you comprehend that—the very throne of God? See it! Don’t make any excuses like Jeremiah initially did. Set big goals like God does. Cling to this precious truth. How blessed we are to be the servants of the Almighty God—and to build godly ambition.