Bible Study Lessons

  • Listen, Build, and Listen Again

    John D. Barry

    More often than not, what we want is not what God wants. We desire wealth, notoriety, or influence. In our ambition, we can lose sight of the very God who created us.

    In the story of Noah and the flood, we see the same dichotomy: the world wants one thing and God desires another. The two aren’t congruent. In this case, selfishness has led to catastrophic levels of evil: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence … all flesh had corrupted their way on earth” (Gen 6:11–12). So God tells Noah that He is through—He’s going to end it all. But Noah and his family will be spared if they’re obedient to God’s will.

    Noah listens; he builds the ark. And God honors His work by closing the door (Gen 7:16). He’s there at the end, sealing the deal. Being faithful means getting an opportunity to witness the power of God.

    When our ambitions aren’t guided by God’s will and His goals, the result can mean corruption or corrupting others. We might wonder how we got there, but in reality, we know how it happened: selfishness is to blame.

    Instead of doing things our way, we must listen, build what God wants, and then listen again. We have a choice: we can seek our own ambitions—like wisdom or knowledge—or we can choose Christ’s way, realizing that “in much wisdom is much vexation, and [that the one] who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccl 1:18).

    Ambition alone does not offer a happy ending. The only ending that results in joy is the one that focuses on God’s kingdom and His desires. Rather than justify our current desires, we should acknowledge the dichotomy and the problem. Individual ambition may result in selfish desires, but a focus on Christ will result in blessings: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9).

    What ambitions need to be set aside in your life? In what ways do you need to refocus your life on Christ’s goals?

    This article was originally published in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.