Seeking Glory: 9 Quotes on Ambition, Honor and Praise

“We grow small trying to be great.”

E. Stanley Jones

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by persistence in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 
Romans 2:7
My Facebook posting had hit a new low. I posted mushrooms. 

The few acres of forest are a fungus treasure trove. Toadstools and puffballs and sulfur shelf. So after the boys and I went on a mushroom hunt, I shared some of our rich reward. God’s hidden, creative grandeur was placed in the public eye. 

The next day a friend introduced a worship song that I’d suggested we sing over a year ago. Its rich lyrics and rousing refrain were well-received. They led many to worship. Without a shred of credit to the one who discovered it.

It’s no surprise that Rescuing Ambition nearly jumped off a friend’s countertop into my arms that same week. Dave Harvey, as in Davebitious, wrote the book. Dave assumes his family would work much better if they all majored in Daveology, and that his friendships would work best if they had a Davetistic bent. Life’s problems, he figures, would be cleared up with some Daveological insights and that, “the world would be a better place if we could just celebrate an annual Davetoberfest.” 

I’d never heard of Dave or his book before Thursday. And while I differ slightly on the name of the annual fest- Abtober might be more catchy-I do recognize a kindred, praise-loving, sin-fighting soul when I read one. This Type-A, Tiger Mom battles to keep ambition in its proper place. So my friend lent me her book. 

Maybe your ambition, your desire and determination to achieve something, is not tied to Facebook fame or more followers. Maybe it’s more money or more ministry or more muscle or more nearly perfect children. 

Do you wonder what Paul by saying that those who seek glory, honor and immortality are given eternal life? If you’ve ever wondered humility can co-exist with ambition, join the club. If you’ve wondered if your drive for distinction is gauged just right, you’re not alone. Or maybe you know your ambition engine is off kilter: you resent the one who gets credit for your clever idea and you burn when your good deeds go unnoticed. 

Some of these quotes are from Dave’s book. All of them orient my ambitious, glory-seeking soul to seek God’s praise. They proclaim the utter folly of taking up anything short of it, of exchanging the glory of the eternal God for any small glory of my own.

9 Calibrating Quotes

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
Proverbs 25:27

1. “I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” 
-John Chrystostom, quoted in Rescuing Ambition (p. 35)

2. “Wickedness can in no other form become more intense, nor its plans more vast, nor its obstinacy more enduring, nor its destruction more extensive, or more dreadful than the love of distinction…Selfishness is in its nature little and base. But no passion and no pursuits are more absolutely selfish than the love of distinction.”
-Timothy Dwight, quoted in Rescuing Ambition (p. 42)

3. “There is a holy ambition which is at the bottom of all practical religion. This is seeking the kingdom of God, looking in our desires and aims as high as heaven, and resolved to take up with nothing short of it. Those that seek for the vain glory and honor of this world…are disappointed, but those that seek for immortal glory and honor shall have them.” 
-Matthew Henry, Commentary on Romans 2:7 

4. “It is well to be seeking to do more for the Lord Jesus Christ, but I would earnestly discourage you from seeking…a higher position merely for the sake of occupying it. Be not ambitious in this sense; for, after all, what is human greatness? Have you ever met with a really great man who would have given a penny for his own greatness? Do you not also know that the way to be really great is to be little?
-C.H. Spurgeon, Anxiety, Ambition, And Indecision

5. “We need an ambition that won’t rest until more people are reached, more churches planted, more marriages helped, more art created, more enterprises started, more disciples made. We need an ambition that lives joyfully today but wants more for God and more from God tomorrow...So desire great things. Get out there and get to work. The world is in need of people ambitious for God’s glory and willing to do something about it.” 
-Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition

6. “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.” 
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

7. “What we learn from John the Baptist is that the greatest glories in this life are not in receiving attention or fame, but in funneling it all to Jesus. The biggest, longest lasting statement John could make to the world was not in the number of his followers, but in how he responded when his followers fled to Jesus (John 3:25-29).”
-Marshall Segal, The Joy of  Living in Jesus’ Shadow, posted 10/16/15 

8. “Think about yourself in accord with the measure of faith God has assigned you. Make the measure of yourself the measure of seeing and savoring and treasuring Christ. If you want to have significance, embrace Christ as the One who is significant. If you want to have value, embrace Christ as the Once who is infinitely valuable. Our worth consists in treasuring the worth of Christ.”
-John Piper, The Mercies of God and the Transformed Christian Mind, (On Romans 12:3)

9. “Man is a fallen star till he is right with heaven: he is out of order with himself and all around him till he occupies his true place in relation to God. When he serves God, he has reached that point where he doth serve himself best, and enjoys himself most. It is man’s honour, it is man’s joy, it is man’s heaven, to live unto God.”
-C.H. Spurgeon, Humility and How to Get It

I just took a break from writing to fetch the mail. Ekballo– To Every Tribes quarterly magazine- came. In it, Debbie Ibanez, a missionary in Mexico, asks:

When Jesus spoke of us losing our lives, do we imagine he was meaning our lifestyle? He means our selves-our image of who we are and the importance we attach to that image. Because Self is the greatest competitor for the beauty of Jesus and because the human heart is, above all things, deceitful, we cannot afford to take our eyes off Jesus Christ. The work God does through us comes at the expense of Self, by crushing this idol.  

Yes. Trying to look great and glorious, original and wise will shrink you. You’ll look about as big and grown-up as the two year-old wearing his Daddy’s work boots. If any would be great, he must be small. As small as the servant of all. 

So, no-ambition is not sub-Christian. Far from it. And yes, ambition can co-exist in a humble heart. In fact, seeking glory, honor and immortality is not condemned, but commanded. Be eager, don’t amble. Be fervent, don’t drift. Follow hard, don’t coast. Be zealous for good works. Don’t be lazy with whatever measure of faith God assigned to you.

But, yes-pursue your praise from God, not man (Romans 2:29, John 12:42, 1 Corinthians 4:5). Seek your glory in Christ being exalted, not you (2 Corinthians 3:18, Matthew 23:12). 

Not so many friends were as smitten as I by God’s spongy, frilly low-dwelling beauties. Six meager likes on the mushroom post was just what the Good Lord ordered. And that song I suggested? It was far better, more crushing to the Self-idol, that it came through another. 

So long as I long for God’s glory to be seen, it’s no matter if it comes through Abaholic me. 

Give me one pure and holy passion

Give me one magnificent obsession

Give me one glorious ambition for my life

To know and follow hard after You

Candi Pearson, One Pure and Holy Passion



Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 15:13

The first jolting text came Sunday at noon. A dear young cousin had fallen in church and couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. She was flighted for life. Details trickled in all afternoon. Brain surgery soon. A possible stroke? By bedtime, Stable now. Still, please pray for Hope

Inside Out

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

What’s inside our cup comes out when we spill. If my mug’s full of coffee it’s coffee that splashes, not tea. If my cup full of water is shaken, then water, not milk’s what you’ll see. When the cup spills, its contents are exposed. 

I know spills. Coffee stains spot our living room carpet. Drowsy at dawn, I stepped on a right-side up Lego and stumbled and spilled. Last Monday four hours of work didn’t save and I spilled. The suddenness of the provocation, said Lewis, doesn’t create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. 

Whenever a heart is full, full to the brim of a thing- of pride and self, or hope and faith-it will show. Because when a full thing is shaken it will overflow. For better or worse, when we’re shaken up and jostled about, insides spill. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains this so well, how being full of one thing matters most.

We think, I’m not an angry person, until we get jostled, right? Then out come attitudes, and these words that come spewing out. We think, Ooh! Maybe I am an angry person. I didn’t realize it! When we get shaken, we find out what we’re full of, and what we’re filled with is what flows out in those crisis moments. 

It’s the Holy Spirit, and the fullness of the Spirit, that enabled Stephen to suffer for Christnot just to serve, not just to speak, but also to suffer. When Stephen was threatened, he didn’t retaliate. In Acts 7:54-55 we see: When they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Do You Bleed Bibline? 

Prick him anywhere-his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting it, for his very soul is full of the word of God.  -C.H. Spurgeon 

But it can’t pour out if it wasn’t put in. Even for Stephen, such fullness was a gift given with discipline. He did-we must-still get dressed each day. We must put off our old self and put on Christ’s new. We speak in Psalms, hymns and songs and giving thanks to God are filled. 

So what comes out of your when you’re pricked or shaken and spill? Do words sill out that show we trust God is still good? Do we grateful words like Thomas Watson’s flow? Do we spill faithful words like Job’s? If we have not what we desire, yet we have more than we deserve. The Lord gives and the Lord takes and blessed be the name of the Lord.

It’s absolutely unnatural to be filled like that. Such gracious words don’t bubble out from a muddy fountain. We can’t just drill up this kind of faith, these words of hope, when we get shaken and spill. 

No, the kind of full happens daily, as we work out while He works in. We bop the sinful self every time it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, for our whole lives long, Lewis said. We count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. We know we’ve been crucified with Christ and no longer live and that Christ, our hope of glory, is alive inside.  

Then, filled like that with His fullness, hope will overflow.

Hope Overflows

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and hope in believing that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:4

With this quake, this awful shake, we glimpsed our dear cousin’s heart. A few days after the jolt, her older sister sent this note:

The last couple of days have been a bit of a blur to us. Thank you for those of you who have been praying for my sister. Hope had a stroke and is hospitalized in Madison.  

We are grateful that she is able to converse with us, albeit slowly at times. She is very weak…

Thank you for your prayer covering for the family. As Hope has whispered to us many times over the last three days, “God is good.”

Hope’s whisper shouts. Her sacrifice of praise puts it all in perspective: Life is hard and God is goodHope’s whisper stirs my selfish soul, and reminds me of these truths we know: 

That we will be shaken and jostled,
That we all will be spilled;
That precious words of praise tip out,
When with the God of hope we’re filled. 

*   *   *   *   * 

But this I recall to mind and therefore I have hope. 
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. His mercies never fail.

They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. 
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in him.’

Lamentations 3:21-24

10/17/15-As I write, I know Hope’s is grateful for your prayers for her doctors and her recovery and for comfort and strength for her husband, children and family. 

*Spoken of John Bunyan in Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892, p. 268.


“God loves inequality…

In terms of gifts, talents, abilities, opportunities, blessings, God is unequally lavishat least according to our standards, and that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” 

Joe Rigney, Desiring God Theology Refresh Podcast, 10/4/13

Why Differences Are Good

Differences mean inequality. And while some would have you think otherwise, the inequality inherent in our differences is actually a good thing.

In stature and smarts, in wealth and where we’re born, we’re all different. But that’s okay. It’s not a design flaw. God made us and his wide world to work this way and since He doeth all things well. Including the scattered way he hands out gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made (Psalm 145:17). Since God gave his gifts this unequal way, and He’s always loving and righteous, unequal must not be bad. The opposite must be true. In God’s economy unequal equals good.

Sure, we’re equal in the sense of being God’s image bearers, fearfully and wonderfully made. But since differences were arranged by Creator-He clearly dispenses his gifts in diverse and disproportionate ways, He must love inequality.

The body analogy helps us if we stall out here. The body shows us unequal does not mean unimportant.

And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1 Corinthians 12:16-18).

God scatters grace and mercy as he wishes on whom he wills. He is lavishly, unequally loving toward all he has made.What do you with this truth?

What do you do when you brush right up against God’s gifts and blessings to others?

Do you say, It’s so unfair and envy? Or, As you wish, Lord, and DIGLI?

The Great Leveler

Inequality doesn’t need a fix. We don’t need to level the playing field. Five is not equal to three and that doesn’t make either digit a more necessary number. The world would not be better off with just fours.

Dorothy Sayers said, Envy is the great leveler. And that it always levels down. Envy and the resentment would have us lower the blessing bar to the lowest common denominator. If I can’t make a six-figure income, you can’t either. If my kid can’t be a champ, yours can’t be either.

The world does not dig our DIGLI. They don’t get our happy dance and would ban the chance to dance it if they could. Wealth we redistribute to make it more even and our fair women push to be combat-ready rangers. We used to have a valedictorian. Then came two and a few, and a dozen. Now we scrap the whole thing. And forget the solitary youth league MVP. Let’s give all the kids a trophy.

Whatever happened to the love of the game and enjoyment of excellence and savor the beauty? What when he got game, and it’s others’ excellence, and her beauty. Can we love inequality then?

If we believe the world’s lie, that unequal needs a fix, we can’t. But if we have eyes to see unequal as God’s gift, we can and will DIGLI.


I love to get secondhand gifts. When God’s grace to others overflows to me, I’m not too proud to DIGLI.

I DIGLI when Stephanie’s piano and song sing me up like a saint and when gaze at how another friend Shari can paint.

Shari’s Sheep

I DIGLI when a service tech looks under the hood and can fix the clunk while I wait and when from Jen’s backyard pool I pause and look out on her Edenic estate.

I DIGLI when one son soaks up a poem and recites it so easily and when the other knows just who needs a hug and exactly how firm it should be.

I DIGLI when my fingers get red and my stomach grows full picking berries in my parents’ garden or lay lost in Middle-earth or Narnia, in Dumas or in Dickens.

I DIGLI when I belly laugh at Hawkins’ yoga pants and how to raise my hands and serious, too, when Platt and Piper preach it powerful and true.

So DIGLI I do. Do you? Do you Delight In God’s Lavish Inequality? You’ve got to have faith to love God’s scattered grace, to believe that the Word is true. Eyes of faith see his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he

When I Don’t DIGLI

Sometimes I don’t DIGLI. I don’t dance that happy dance when with view askew I compare God’s mercy to others with God’s (perceived) mercy to me. Sin is crouching at my door, and when I start playing judge and jury, resentment and envy will have me.

God’s lavish inequality is revealed not just in scattered gifts, but in how he administers mercy, too. The way God relents and forgives, how he just swoosh erases others’ duly deserved punishment, that inequality, is harder for the Pharisee me to DIGLI. Like these three:
  • No fair, Mom! Gabe bellowed. Why does Sam get dessert? You said if he didn’t finish his broccoli he wouldn’t get dessert and now you’re letting him have ice cream. That is not right!
  • I’m not so sure that’s how it should be, I reasoned. Why did the boss give her that promotion, when she was the one who lost that big account last year? That is so unfair.
  • Isn’t this what I said? That’s why I made haste to flee; I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful… relenting from disaster…Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.

It’s harder for me when God’s lavish inequality comes in the form of lavish and unequal mercy. Then in a hard-nosed, self-righteous huff, I sometimes choke on the inequality.

Gabe couldn’t lick his ice cream because Mom let Sam have his. I couldn’t see them giving her the job when I had served my time. Jonah couldn’t abide God’s mercy to Nineveh when he knew how wicked they’d been.

Yes, God, we do do well to be angry. This is not as we wish. We will not DIGLI. 

How to Dance the DIGLI

Then again we’re pricked, the brute beast in us knows: we’d be so much better off back on our happy feet. These three have helped me to delight in God’s lavish inequality.

  1. Own the body analogy. When I see someone with gifts and abilities and blessings, which might be God’s gracious pardon, do I see God’s hand in it? Do I give thanks to the Giver of all gifts, who arranges all the parts of the body as he sees fit? Do I delight in secondhand gifts?
  2. See yourself in the Bible stories. Are you Cain or Abel? Saul or Jonathan? Are you Jonah fuming under the shriveled vine. Do you cry, “Your mercy is too great. No fair. Why?” If you do, and I have, repent. Ask God to help you say with John, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
  3. Give thanks. Anger and envy can’t dwell in grateful hearts. So anchor yourself in God’s grace with gratitude, says Rigney. Be grateful for gifts God gave them, including his mercy. No wrong has been done because God blessed them. There’s plenty of grace to go around. God won’t run out.

As You Wish

You all remember the beginning of Princess Bride, right?

Nothing gave Buttercup as much pleasure as ordering Wesley around, Grandpa read.

Farm Boy, polish my horses’ saddle. Farm Boy, fill these with water. Please fetch that jar.

“As you wish,” was all Wesley ever said.  

Then one day Buttercup was amazed to discover that when he was saying,

 “As you wish,” he was really saying, “I love you.” 
It is that simple. Wesley’s words of true love and devotion should be ours, too. When we trust God, we DIGLI and say, As you wish, Lord. And then, we’re really saying, I love you.

So Lord, please help us to be glad in the ways you dispense your grace and mercy. Help us to say, and mean. ‘As you wish, Lord.’ Help us delight in your lavish inequality. 
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weened child with his mother;
like a weened child is my soul within me.
Psalm 131:2