There is a purpose to which God has called each one of us, and if we do not learn to fight against the contrary winds, to overcome the difficulties, whatever they might be in our lives, we are on a course to make shipwreck of our lives. One way the devil tries to get us to make shipwreck is given in Acts 27:5–7: “And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Aim Ambition Myra, [a city] of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone.”These passages may just look like a story, but there are lessons for us in this story—and in each passage and each verse of the Bible. Paul was continuing on his journey to Rome, his journey to stand before Caesar.As he continued, we are told in verse 7 that the ship sailed slowly for many days. On this journey, an alternate course had been taken because the winds were contrary. When an alternate course is taken, it can possibly get you behind schedule. Sometimes you may take a “shortcut” that you think is going to be faster, but it ends up taking twice as long. That was the situation in which Paul found himself. Verse 9 continues the saga: “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished [them].” It was not time to be sailing slowly, because the Day of Atonement was past, and the ancients regarded this as a dangerous time to navigate the Mediterranean. It would have been the time of the autumnal equinox, when severe storms usually occurred. But even though the ship on which Paul was traveling was late, even though it was dangerous to set sail, they were sailing slowly along.
Application to Our Lives
How do we equate this to our lives? If you are in a boat and you are just slowly moving along with the current of the water, what does that usually indicate? Generally you are relaxed, just sitting there enjoying the time. You are going along with the flow. It is possible to just go along with the flow, to just sail slowly for many days. The world thinks that youth is a time to sail slowly for many days. The highest ambition for many young people is to just have fun, but is that what God has called us to do? There is nothing necessarily wrong with having fun, but that is not to be our sole purpose or our aim in life. If it is, we are headed toward shipwreck. A number of youth are like butterflies, flitting from one pretty flower to another; they are going from one thing to another, one pretty thing to another, one fun thing to another, without purpose or aim.
Jesus told a parable about this. In Luke 15:12, 13, we read: “And the younger of them said to [his] father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to [me].’ So he divided to them [his] livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” This is the parable of the prodigal son. He wanted to spend his money, to be reckless and have fun. He wanted to enjoy life, to enjoy his youth. So, to enjoy his life and his youth, he went to a far country with no definite aim or purpose; he was just having fun. He ended up feeding pigs. Not only did he feed pigs, but he ate the pigs’ food! What was the cause of this? He did not have an aim and a purpose in his life. He did not have a plan. He just wanted to have fun. He was just going along with the flow, floating along and taking life as it comes. Going along, taking life as it comes does not always end up in the most enviable situations. The prodigal son wasted everything he had. In order to escape shipwreck, we are to have ambition, and we need to have plans and goals. Without those, especially for our life work and frequently for eternity, we will end up being shipwrecked.
Be a Blessing
The highest goal of which we should never lose sight is to get to heaven. Another ambition we are to have, Ellen White tells us, is to be a blessing. She does not say our ambition is to try to enjoy life as much as we can, but to be a blessing as much as we can. The world has it backwards. “Are you sowing to your flesh? Are you thinking only of your pleasure, your convenience? Sowing to pride and vanity and ambition? ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ [Galatians 6:7.] If you are sowing faith, rendering obedience to Christ, you will reap faith and power for future obedience. If you are seeking to be a blessing to others, God will bless you. We should bring all the good possible into our lives, that we may glorify God, and be a blessing to humanity.” Review and Herald, May 5, 1891.
The entire world is focused in pleasure-seeking today, from the youth all the way up to the elderly. But that does not give true happiness; that is not true joy. When the pleasures are over, the things in the world that you think are going to be fun, that you think are going to bring you joy, leave you feeling empty. Heaven’s plan is that when you seek to be a blessing to others it increases the happiness you experience.
In Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there is] no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” Solomon means everything we do. We are to do the best we can at whatever we try to do. The Amish people in the United States are traced back to the Reformation. Generally, they are of German or higher European descent. There are different sects and factions, but the strict adherents avoid the modern conveniences of the 21st century. They do everything the way it was basically done 200 years ago. They wear very plain clothes and drive horse-drawn buggies. Although they have their unique ideas about not using modern technology, they have a reputation. I once talked with an Amish man who told me that if I wanted someone to build a good house, to call on the Amish. They themselves do not own modern tools, but they have a reputation for whatever they do. They do it really good. They also specialize in moving houses. They will lift up an entire house and move it without the modern conveniences available; at times, I am told, without cracking one wall. God wants you to have a reputation that whatever you do, you do it with all your might. Regardless what type of work you may do, people should be able to say, “He (or she) is a Seventh-day Adventist. They will do a good job.” Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Mrs. White wrote: “Dear youth, what is the aim and purpose of your life? Are you ambitious for education that you may have a name and position in the world? Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 82.
She is here asking the questions: What is your aim in life? What do you want to do? Most importantly, though, what is God calling you to do? Do you want to ascend to a height of intellectual greatness? Do you want to sit in legislative bodies? Then she says, “There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard.” You are to aim high. God wants to use you, but He does not want you to do a mediocre job. He does not want you to do just a decent job. He wants you to aim high, to have ambitions, plans, and goals. You might not make them all, but if you aim high, you are going to hit a higher mark than if you aim low! Aim high! Be content with no average attainment. God wants each of you to do the best that you can. Do not compare yourself with others. Others might aim higher than you do. There is nothing wrong with all the different vocations in life, but you need to aim high and to look and to set high goals. But too often it is easier to sail along slowly many days, to just go along with the flow and take what comes, have fun, and enjoy your youth, whatever it might be. One time in Africa, fellow workers and I were holding a training school for some of the local believers and hosting an evangelistic series in the evening. There were people that needed to be visited, flyers to distribute, and homework that we were giving to the participants. But I would walk out of the room and would see a number of people just sitting,—not a book in their hands, not talking, just sitting and looking—looking into nowhere. Now I do not want to be derogatory towards them; there are all sorts of things in the culture that needs to be overcome, but there was no ambition. There were no goals, no plans, and they were content after they had eaten to just sit. In contrast, a national hero in the Philippines by the name of José Rosales, was executed at a fairly young age. But during his short life he wrote books that had been instrumental in starting the independence campaign in the Philippines. He studied and became proficient in many different languages. He became a doctor and then an engineer. After that, he became an ophthalmologist. He kept progressing. He was a poet. He was a statesman. Why? Because he aimed high, because he had ambition, and because he had goals.
Use Your Talents
Matthew 25:24, 25 reads, “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, [there] you have [what is] yours.’ ” In the parable of the talents, why was the unfaithful steward condemned? Was it because of something that he did, or was it because of something that he did not do? It was because of something that he did not do. It was not because of anything that he did. The master did not come back and say, “You did this wrong and this wrong.” The master came back and said, “I am not condemning you; you are judged unworthy because of what you did not do, because you did not make use of what I gave to you.” Read the chapter in Christ’s Object Lessons (325–365) on talents. It is a very thought-provoking chapter. Ellen White says that the strictest account is going to be asked concerning the talent of time. No one has 30 hours in a day or 22 hours. We might not have the same amount of physical strength or mental vigor. Our minds might not all work in the same direction. All of that is fine, but every single one of us has the same amount of time. Yet many say, “Oh, I just do not have the time.” What does that really mean? It really means that individual did not prioritize his or her time to do the task. We all have the same amount of time; the important thing is the use we make of that time. We can sail along slowly many days; we can just go with the flow. We can just go from one thing to another having fun, or we can have ambition, goals, and plans, and work with all of our might to accomplish them. The devil wants to get us shipwrecked. He blows contrary winds at us, but he does more than that. He tries to get us to just go along with the flow, just to go along with what is easy, what is convenient and not make ambitions plans for our lives—with God’s leading of course. God wants us to become intellectual giants. You can become an intellectual giant by using the talents God gives you. It does not have to be in the academic line. But we are told not to be dwarfs, but to become intellectual giants. The only way that we can become intellectual giants, the only way we can be the best in whatever God calls us to do is by continually trying to improve, not being content with where we are.
Be a Daniel
There was a young man who was taken away from home, taken away from everything that made life familiar. He was given a full scholarship to the most prestigious university of that day in the courts of Babylon. As Daniel was there—a young man away from home, away from his parents, away from those that believed like he did to a great extent—he said, “Well, I am here. I will just put forth a little bit of effort and not worry about it too much.” Daniel excelled above his fellows ten times. Do you think Daniel became ten times better in all areas by putting forth just a little bit of effort? Do you think he became ten times better by just having fun, going from one pretty flower to another? No, he had ambition, plans, and goals, and he did all with all of his might. God is calling us to be Daniels today, and he is calling us to rise to that height. He is calling us to aim high and to spare no efforts to achieve that goal. Do you want to do it? Do you want to become a Daniel or a Danielle? That is what God is calling us to be. We might not be in a heathen court; we might not even be ten times better. But He wants us to have goals, plans, and ambition and to put forth the effort to do the best we can at whatever we do. Pray that the Lord will help us to be like Daniel was in Babylon—not just to go along with the flow, not just to follow wherever the breeze takes us, but to have a plan and to put forth every effort of getting there.
Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.