noun: ambition

a strong desire to do or achieve something

: aspiration, intention, goal, aim, objective, object, purpose, intent, plan


I remember driving through North Carolina a couple of years ago while visiting the U.S. I was listening to Christian radio, a thing that you Americans do prolifically, and generally really well. The thing that is discordant for me at times, though, is how wise and credible the middle-aged guys on the shows sound, even when they’re talking nonsense. One such guy was talking about his daughter who was somewhere around nine. He asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, to which she replied: “A professional gymnast.” His disappointment was palpable as he told us that he had to spend time explaining to her that being a gymnast was fine, but being a mommy was an even greater ambition.

I was taken aback, and all the more so because the impact of his words belied the gentle, caring sound in his voice. I imagined his young daughter trying to digest the information her concerned daddy had spoken. And, I wondered why his prejudices didn’t allow him to connote that she could be a professional gymnast and a mommy.

One of my life Scriptures is Ephesians 2:10, where it tells us that God designed us specifically for roles, jobs, tasks, and functions that he already had in mind for us to do. I am fascinated by that because I’ve observed that some people quickly become astonishingly good at what they do with seemingly very little effort. Apparently, if you’re gifted in a certain sphere, it will take you a quarter of the amount of time to train in that area than it takes other students in the same arena. Just draw a comparison between those who effortlessly take to computers or design or languages or cooking or business or sports or music, while the rest of us slog away at our studies for months and years, burning the midnight oil trying to acquire those same skills.

After I became a Christian, I began to learn from the Church that many of my innate characteristics were out of order with the purposes of God, and that who I was needed to be subjugated to who my husband was. The problem was that not only did my husband not agree with that (and it’s hard to subjugate yourself to someone who doesn’t want you to; I mean, is it submission to submit by not submitting?) it was also obvious that my gifts included leadership, visionary insight, and high communication skills; gifts which, as time went on, showed themselves to be very effective in building not only the churches and organisations Rick and I led, but in a wider context, the Church in our region and nation, as well as internationally.

Herein lies the rub. If I am God’s workmanship, designed specifically according to his intention for the way in which my life fits with the world he plans, what do I do when my attributes don’t fit with the Church’s idea of what they should be?

Is this a God who says: I made you according to my specific plan, and I will hold you accountable if you bury those talents, but if you step out and begin to use them, you are in rebellion and I can’t use you?

It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? You’re d**mned if you do and d**mned if you don’t, as the saying goes.

Honestly, this was a real issue for me, as I’m sure it has been for many women and men over the generations. On the one hand, I know the two Scriptures which seem to strike fear into the heart of so many God-fearing persons, but I have also seen the way in which Paul, John, Luke and others relate with their female colleagues: Junia the apostle, Priscilla who taught Apollos, Phoebe the deacon, the Elect Lady, and myriad others. If I’m to read the whole Bible, (which I have, several times) I cannot help but see that Abigail was not rebuked for disobeying her husband as she went out to prevent David from murdering them all. I don’t read that Deborah was given her role because there was no man to take it on (Barak was a soldier, Deborah was a judge and prophet). I love that Sheerah built three cities, and I’m sure she didn’t do it with her own bare hands; she was the mighty visionary who led the citizens whom she envisioned, to build. And, what about the daughters of Zelophehad who defied convention, taking their problematic single female status to Moses, head of Israel, in front of the entire nation, such was their desire to be a part of what God would do in the Promised Land? The law governing single Jewish women was changed forever because of their ambition to be a part of what God was doing in the new season.

I love that despite those two thorn-in-the-side Scriptures, there are multiple times in which God has shown his approval of women who are ambitious to serve him and, in doing so, change the world.

Some people are called to become parents, some aren’t; but regardless of parental status, we all have the responsibility to fulfill the call of God in our lives. He wasn’t joking when he said through Jeremiah (29:11) that he has a good plan for our lives, nor was he messing with us when he said we were created and designed to fulfill that plan (Ephesians 2:10).

The gifts God has placed in us are there to be used, whether they be leadership gifts, computer skills, gymnastics, developing amazing recipes, caring, encouragement, communication skills, or any of the other multiple possibilities with which we are endowed. When God called you to live for him, it follows that you will do that by using the unique set of gifts he’s bestowed on you for the accomplishment of his purposes. If you call that ambition, so be it, but to then taint that word with disapproval, as though God himself was tut tutting under his breath, is to lose sight of the greatness of the plan, the vastness of his purposes and the strategic empowerment he has brought to bear on how he has fashioned us.

Checking out some of the words that describe what ambition actually is takes all the steam out of whether it’s right or wrong for a woman to be ambitious. Do you have a “strong desire to do or achieve something”? Do you have an “aspiration, intention, goal, aim, objective, object, purpose, intent, plan” for your life?  

If the answer is yes to any of those, then be assured that God is glad that you’re ambitious for him. He’s glad you take him seriously enough to value the gifts he’s uniquely empowered you with for the purposes of the plan he’s put in motion.

The Scripture that finally brought resolution to me was something that Peter and John said in Acts 4:18-20 when they were being threatened by the religious leaders regarding whether they were qualified to speak of Jesus.

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

In the end, we’re answerable to God for the way we exercise the gifts and follow the plan he has for our lives. My ambition is to go to heaven empty, having done everything he has called me to do.

A senior church pastor for over 30 years, and an executive director of Christian Growth International, a church planting network in the UK, Bev is the author of two books - Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts:You Can Be God's Agent For Change. She is the founder of Liberti Magazine, a UK based magazine for women who have faith with attitude, and has also written for SheLovesMagazine and Gifted for Leadership. An international speaker with a Masters degree in Global Leadership from Fuller, she regularly speaks at churches and conferences. She is particularly passionate about issues to do with leaders and women, and blogs at She founded Cherish Uganda, a village for HIV+ children who have been abandoned. Bev now lives in her native Australia having retired from pastoring in order to concentrate on speaking and writing.


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  1. Thank you, Bev! I often think it takes the voices of women and men who’ve lived many years through these issues to speak wisely … My own primary life ambition (from about age 4, I think) was to hit age 80 when I believed I would finally be wise. Two decades to go!

  2. Bev, I love your heart and am grateful for your story.
    I think a lot of believing women who have been gifted for leadership or teaching have this same struggle to find their place and then to be confident that God has put them there.

    1. Michele, you’re always such an encouragement and I’m so grateful for you.. and yes, believing women seem to juggle this one so much… it’s such a shame because so many others miss out when someone doesn’t rise to their giftings

  3. Thank you, Bev. Beautifully written. I needed this today, and I will share it with my pastor and his female assistant. Our church is in minor conflict right now over women in the pulpit. I’ll be praying this will bring clarity for them as they move forward to allow women to serve where they feel called.

    1. Ingrid, thanks for telling me this. I do hope there is breakthrough.

      Father, in Jesus’ name, we ask for Your guiding hand to help this church work it’s way through these issues, and for the pastor and his assistant to have the courage to go ahead and do what You are saying. Amen.

  4. My husband and I grew up in a time when women were not pastors, or even participating in the church councils. Our role was with children and in the kitchen. We spent 45 years as missionaries in Japan, and I found myself fulfilling the traditional roles. I loved the work with women and children, and started the Sunday Schools in each church that we established. Single missionaries planted churches and were the first pastors. Christian women in Japan were becoming pastors. I saw the role of women changing. It took my husband a bit longer, until we were confronted with a need; a woman pastor in our denomination in our mega city got married and moved. Now we had two churches to care for temporarily. We took turns preaching in both churches Sundays. What a challenge. A God-given talent was liberated.

    1. Wow, that’s so exciting that your talent found room in the end, Mary… it’s amazing isn’t it, how needs must. God has His funny ways of getting done what He always wanted. Good on you.

  5. Bev, nailed it again Women had such a clear place in the early church. Yet so many suffered subsequently at the hands of ignorance and the need to control. Ideas and reflections like yours are such a motivator to take hold of all we were meant to do and be.

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