Our Lord never taught against the desire to achieve high goals, but He did teach that ambition centered on ourselves is wrong.
Our self-validation rests in our being valued by God, not in performance and accolades. Personal value is a gift from God, not something we earn by landing more impressive roles and titles. Recognizing that truth will allow us to view our present calling as a gift from God, not a stepping-stone to something else.
Striving for excellence and the challenge of reaching our potential is not necessarily sinful, but we must be constantly aware of the temptation to promote ourselves.
Proverbs 27:2 tells us to "let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." It's a funny thing. The harder we try to impress people, the less impressed they usually are. Most of us are drawn to people with a quiet confidence.
Philippians 2:3-4 teaches us to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Letting others receive the attention is tough for most of us. Let's develop the habit of lifting up the accomplishments of other people, especially those we are tempted to envy.
A good example is a story about Joshua in Exodus 17:9 where Moses said to Joshua, 'Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites, tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.' Joshua might have said to Moses, "Moses, are you telling me I'm assigned to the valley? It sure sounded to me like you said I was to go down in the valley and fight the Amalekites and you were going to stand on the mountain holding the rod." That is exactly what Moses had said.
So, the next day found Joshua down in the valley risking his neck, and dodging spears, while Moses was standing up there with his hands in the air. Which picture do you think made the morning paper the next day? Joshua in the trenches, or Moses on the mountain top?
When Moses was up on the hill, Joshua was confident and humble enough to fight down in the trenches, out of the spotlight.
Sometimes our compasses point to the valley, where we fight alongside Joshua while others stand up with Moses on the mountain. But that shouldn't bother us; there is a lot to be said for valley ministry. A lot of battles are won there. A lot of characters are shaped there. A lot of calls are refined there. So don't demand a reassignment if you find yourself in the valley. And don't spend too much time staring enviously at the one up on the mountainside. Call out to him and tell him he's doing a good job.
"It's amazing what can happen when no one cares who gets the credit."