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Rescuing Ambition Paperback – April 14, 2010
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“In Rescuing Ambition, Dave Harvey distinguishes ambition for the glory of God, which is good, from ambition for the glory of self, which is bad. But godly ambition doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so Harvey helps us see how it is intertwined with humility, contentment, faith, and above all, the gospel. Dave Harvey is both an experienced pastor and a gifted writer, so you will find this book not only profitable but also hard to put down.”
—Jerry Bridges, author, The Pursuit of Holiness
“Thomas Watson said, ‘Selfish ambition is the mother of all schisms.’ But Dave Harvey shows us a better way in Rescuing Ambition. With wit and wisdom, Dave uncovers the truth in scripture to teach how God forms a gospel-driven ambition in us for use in his mission and for his glory. I hope every leader in the church today will read Rescuing Ambition.”
—Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“Dave Harvey thinks well, writes well, tells good stories, and cites people of substance and insight. I have long appreciated Dave’s integrity, wisdom and perspective. Were I not afraid of feeding his ambition for greatness, or my ambition to write a memorable endorsement, I would add that Rescuing Ambition is biblical, honest, witty, and sometimes amusing. I’m happy to recommend this fine book on an important and overlooked subject.”
—Randy Alcorn, author, Heaven; If God Is Good; and Hand in Hand
“Whether you’re on Main Street or Wall Street this book has something to say to you. No author has done a better job of helping me understand my heart, my motives, and my Savior. Harvey uses humor, Scripture, and real-life examples to help us balance our dreams and callings, while always reminding us that Jesus is the Christ.”
—Josh Deckard, Former Assistant Press Secretary to President Bush
“Ambition is war; a battle between the sin-driven pursuit of autonomy, self-sufficiency, and self-glory and a humble desire that everything you do would reflect the one thing that is excellent in every way, the glory of God. On every page, Harvey alerts us to this war and trains us to be good soldiers.”
—Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries; author, What Did You Expect?
“As the leader of an organization expressly dedicated to seeing the gospel deepen in our own lives as well as expand outward to the nations, I’m grateful for Dave Harvey’s recovery of the idea of ambition. Dave’s book is a powerful, plainspoken, Scripture-saturated reminder that when the gospel is the center of our identity and security, we can be freed from the petty dreams and small-minded motivations that often hamstring ministry. In the gospel, we find the freedom to be truly ambitious.”
—Bob Osborne, Executive Director, World Harvest Mission
“From page one, Dave’s writing style gripped me with his humor, humility, and down-to-earth, Bible-saturated style. I don’t think I have ever seen a book on ambition, but I have been trying to provoke men to find some ambition, borrow some, or if they were really ambitious, even steal some! Dave writes to those of us who aren’t ambitious enough to read (much less comprehend) a thick theological treatise, but are interested enough to read the words of someone who understands that we are often content to watch others with ambition as they ride up mountains, compose great music, and attempt the unthinkable—like homeschool three kids. This is not a self-help book that doesn’t really help; it is a wake-up alarm to rouse the good gifts specifically placed within us by God for his own glory.”
—Scott Thomas, Founder, Gospel Coach; coauthor, Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God
“I didn’t know that my ambition was defective and in need of rescuing until I read this book. Harvey writes with such compelling insight and clarity that you’re left thinking the lack of godly ambition ranks alongside pragmatism and theological flimsiness as ailments afflicting the church today. Yet, at root, this book isn’t about problem-hunting nearly as much as it is about the gospel, salvation, and embracing the ambitious agenda Jesus sets for our lives. Those who want to live with high and glorious purpose for the Savior must read this book. So do those who don’t, and those who never thought about what godly ambition really involves. Rescuing Ambition calls us to live large, bold lives by swiping as much glory for Jesus as possible.”
—Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor, Anacostia River Church, Washington, D.C.; author, What Is a Healthy Church Member?
“Dave Harvey teaches us that God wants ambition back in our understanding of godliness and spiritual health. As Christians, we are to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:13)—that is, ambitious for them. We are to be people who dream and do big things for the glory of God and the good of others. Let’s not be content with small dreams cloaked in a guise of humility. This is a critical book for the church today because it helps us recover the spirit of William Carey, who ambitiously said ‘Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.’”
—Matt Perman, Director of Marketing, Made to Flourish; author, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done
“Dave Harvey has delivered a compelling case for developing God-ward ambition in the lives of men and women alike. This insightful book carries a timely message in our ‘whatever’ culture: we all have ambition, but where it is aimed and how it is used is worth serious consideration. With self-effacing humor, Dave reveals how being wired for glory can either corrupt us or lead us to a divine agenda. Highly recommended!”
—Carolyn McCulley, filmmaker; speaker; author, The Measure of Success, Radical Womanhood, and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?
“Only an ambitious person would try to rescue ambition! Only an ambitious person would actually take the time to write a book on the topic. And only a humble person could accomplish the task! There is a vast difference between selfish ambition and godly ambition. If you want to know what sets them apart, read this book and discover the radical difference between self-glory and God’s glory. As in his book on marriage, When Sinners Say “I Do,” you will find Dave writing out of his own failures and growth in grace. Interestingly, ambition can be rescued but you won’t get there without bathing ambition in gospel virtues and life experiences like humility, service, contentment, failure, and community. And you won’t get there without a Redeemer. Dave makes certain that you meet this Redeemer, Jesus, throughout the pages of this book. If you struggle with selfish ambition or lack ambition altogether, this book will help you.”
—Timothy S. Lane, Executive Director, The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation
“Proud people will benefit from reading this book and learning to bend their ambition towards God's will. Those who are falsely humble will benefit even more by growing the godly ambition to pursue him with their whole life.”
—Mike Anderson, Managing Director, BAJI
“Dave Harvey isn’t satisfied to live a mediocre life and he isn’t satisfied to see the followers of Jesus live that way either. In his down-to-earth style, Dave takes the concept of ambition from the ‘reject’ pile of Christian vocabulary and reminds us that it is desirable, no, it is a gospel imperative to be ambitious for the right reasons and the right goals. His arguments are not psycho-babble, either, but grounded in scripture, theologically sound, and intensely practical.”
—Timothy Z. Witmer, professor of practical theology, Westminster Theological Seminary; pastor, St. Stephen Reformed Church, New Holland, Pennsylvania; author, The Shepherd Leader and The Shepherd Leader at Home
"Dave Harvey brilliantly and accessibly answers the question, ‘Can Christians be humble and ambitious at the same time?’ He explains why and how we can, always rooting his pre- sentation in Scripture. This is a book that has needed to be written. You will not be disappointed.”
—Jim Tebbe, Former Vice President of Missions and Director, Urbana Missions Conference, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship
About the Author
Dave Harvey (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the teaching pastor at Summit Church in Naples, Florida. Dave has over 25 years of pastoral experience and has traveled nationally and internationally teaching Christians, equipping pastors, and training church planters. He is the executive director of Sojourn Network, founder of AmICalled.com, and serves on the board of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). Dave is the author of Am I Called?, Rescuing Ambition, and When Sinners Say I Do, as well as a contributing author to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.
C. J. Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books, including Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Don't Waste Your Sports; and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of three married daughters and one son, and the happy grandparents to twelve grandchildren.
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Path: Through personal stories, Biblical examples, and humorous comparisons, Harvey walks the reader through the minefield of ambition. On the one hand we have self-focused, pride driven movement, and on the other hand we have apathetic lethargy. Harvey sets up a case for a biblical ambition which seeks to display our great God for more to see.
Sources: Stories, illustrations, famous pastors from today and ages past.
Agreement: I appreciated the message of the book. Often we are told to feel guilty for desiring to do great things. That is just the mantra of the unambitious so they don’t feel guilty for never doing anything. Instead, Harvey encourages us to seek God’s glory by God’s means. and this depends on humility.
This book is very conversational in tone. If you appreciate blunt, humorous, and personal conversation, this book will be very easy to read.
Personal App: Am I seeking my own glory or God’s glory?
Favorite Quote: “We grow small trying to be great.”
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.
Harvey adds, "The Bible teaches that people are created by God to desire - and to go after those desires with single-minded determination. It's this capacity to desire and strive that can generate remarkable good or stupefying evil. Whether it's to conquer nations or control the remote, we're hardwired to be ambition for what we want." The general tenor of the book explores these themes are subjects this ambition to the scrutiny of Scripture.
In one of the more poignant moments in the book, Harvey writes, "Don't focus on what you're to do; focus on what God has done for you. He is faithful, and he'll show his faithfulness to you." Sounds like ambition has been rescued! This kind of ambition has been stripped of carnality and selfishness (i.e. selfish ambition) and is consumed with honoring and glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ!
Dave Harvey writes with the typical God-centered, gospel-rejoicing, Holy Spirit infused zest that we have grown to love over the years from the Sovereign Grace family. Rescuing Ambition is a welcome addition to the growing number of resources that will only serve to strengthen and edify the church.
"Godly ambition is gospel ambition. We dream because God rescued our corrupted, selfish ambitions and gave us the capacity to desire, dream, and work for his glory." - Dave Harvey
The book proved to be a great read, but didn't answer all of the questions. A lot of what Harvey says about ambition is connected to his own personal ambition for ministry, for the Gospel and for the Church. The book is valuable and insightful because of his pastoral experiences. But, the book also lacks something. Since the author is a vocational minister, it lacks specific guidance about ambition in the secular workplace. I applaud the author for writing this book. The Faith and Work genre is sorely lacking good, meaningful material. If you are struggling with personal ambition, this book is a great place to start. But, there is plenty more to say on this topic. Perhaps Crossway Press will consider offering a companion to this book written by a CEO.
His book relates to church planters as he is involved in church planting under the Sovereign Grace Ministries. C. J. Mahaney, another leader in this church planting ministry states about the author, Dave Harvey. "He had a holy drive to advance the gospel through church planting" (9).
In eleven chapters, Harvey moves from "Ambition Conceived" to "Ambition Paid Forward."
In his book he explains that there is a "holy ambition" and states "Godly ambition is gospel ambition. We dream because God rescued our corrupted, selfish ambitions and gave us the capacity to desire, dream, and work for his glory" (210).
If you have ever wondered what the difference was between selfish ambition (even in church planting) and holy ambition, this book will be of help to you.