A Worthy Ambition

Our ambition should be to be acceptable to the Lord; to be simple, quiet, and consistent in ordinary Christian living. —Johnny Cash 

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. —I Thessalonians 2:4 NIV 

What do you want to be? The question is an invitation to reveal our deepest ambitions. I want to be a senior-level manager in five years. I want to be a better parent. I want to be thirty pounds lighter before my high-school reunion. But how many of us think in terms of our spiritual ambition? 

And what should be our spiritual ambition? To win one hundred souls for Christ? To read through the Bible in a year? To become the most popular Sunday school teacher in the whole church? 

Johnny Cash encourages us to aim higher, although it may not seem that way at first glance at his words. The three attitudes he calls us to seem as though they would come naturally to us. Or at the very least require a minimum amount of work. What could be easier than walking with Christ simply, quietly, and consistently? Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that there’s no naivete in Johnny Cash’s words. He understood well the challenge at the heart of his words. 

Leading a simple Christian life is challenging because our impulse is to make things as complicated as possible. We filter the truth of God’s message through our own preferences and prejudices. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Our first instinct is to draw up a list of exceptions and then try to narrow the definition of what constitutes “love.” The Bible says, “Flee immorality.” We invite it for an extended stay and then wonder why we can’t shake certain destructive habits. The simple approach to the Christian life is to find out exactly what the Lord wants from us—through prayer, Bible study, and time spent worshiping Him—and then do it to the utmost of our ability. 

Leading a quiet Christian life is challenging because our culture rewards attention-getting self-promotion. When it comes to service, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” has given way to “Do not forget to post pictures of or thoughts about your service on social media.” The feedback that comes from going public with our private relationship with Christ can be intoxicating. It can also distract us from our true purpose, which is to focus our attention on the Lord. 

Leading a consistent Christian life is challenging because at any given moment we have dozens, maybe even hundreds, of things looking to replace prayer, Bible study, and worship on our priority list. Most of those options have more surface appeal than our Christian responsibilities. They promise more fun and less work. 

The key to “ordinary Christian living,” as Johnny Cash puts it, is discipline. 

We can learn not to complicate our simple faith. We can learn not to invite noise into our quiet faith. We can learn not to get distracted from our consistent faith. The Holy Spirit stands ready to help us discover how extraordinary our ordinary faith can be. 

Heavenly Father, thank You for making me acceptable in Your sight through the sacrifice of Your Son. Thank You for the opportunity to grow closer to You. Give me the insight to recognize where I fall short and the discipline to maintain a simple, quiet, and consistent relationship with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

This is an excerpt from Walking the Line: 90 Devotions of Truth and Hope Based on the Faith of Johnny Cash a new devotional now available on DaySpring.com. Shop all books, journals, and devotions from DaySpring here.