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To the Overachiever: Are You Pleasing God With the Work of Your Hands? 

Growing up, I wasn’t the girl with the pretty looks. I was tall, skinny, knuckle-boned, and had as much common sense as Anne in Anne of Green Gables. I was also bullied as a young girl, but I had one advantage: I was gifted. I could draw. I could write. I could sing. I built things. I fixed things. I had grit, wit, and every other it there was to have in between. 

So with all my achievements, I convinced myself that boys and good looks didn’t really matter and instead consumed my time with much doing. I did. I did. And I did some more. I was a chronic overachiever and very proud of it. 

I didn’t realise then the idol I was making of my ambition. Young me was very much lacking in God-sense and humility. I thought, and sinfully so: 

‘God, I thank you that I am not as other girls are; sluggards, low-lives, underachievers, failures. I work all through the week. I give no time for a little sleep, a little slumber, or even a little folding of my hands to rest. Poverty is as far from me as the North Pole is from the South Pole!’

To The Overachiever, ambition

If only I knew how God values humility far above achievements! 

Don’t get me wrong; ambition can be a good thing, especially if you are a goal-oriented person like me. Truthfully, very few ambitions are bad on the surface, but if any ambition is self-pleasing and not God-pleasing, it is rotten at the core no matter how good it looks on the exterior. 

But how can we see whether self or God is at the very core of our ambitions? Here are five important questions to ask when fact-checking your ambitions.

1. Why do I want to achieve this?

Can you describe your motive in one sentence? It can sound something like this: ‘I want to write this book because…’ or ‘I’d love to win this competition because…’ or ‘I’d love to make this person notice me because…’ Etc.

Describing your motive for wanting to achieve something is an easy way to see if your ambition is God-centred or self-centred. 

Don’t beat yourself up if your sentence doesn’t seem too God-glorifying at first glance. After all, Paul says that even natural desires, like the desire to eat or to drink, can be done to the glory of God! 

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (KJV)

Similarly also, your ambition to gain a greater following or to have a best-selling book etc., can still be God-pleasing if God is at the very centre of it, and if He gets all the glory when all is said and done. 

As you muse over the motive of your most recent ambition, ask yourself these additional questions: What is my end goal and how am I seeking to achieve it? Must I do anything against my conscience or God’s Word in order to achieve my goal? Is God at the very centre of my goal or is He merely an afterthought? 

2. Is the goal I have in mind a result of the ‘I can prove them wrong’ syndrome?

I suffered a lot from this syndrome until about two years ago. My achievements were weapons against the bullying I had received. 

Yes, I’d tell myself, let the other girls get the boys. Let them all laugh at me. But I’ll have the last laugh, they’ll see! I can, I will, and I must prove them all wrong. I must achieve much more than all of them!

As you might have guessed, this syndrome soon turned my world to revolve around ‘me-me-me!’ God could have my Sundays and He could have my second-bests, but vengeance was mine, and I knew just how to repay it! 

Oh, I knew my ambitions were purely self-pleasing but if anyone tried to call my attention to this, I’d stop them in their tracks. My retorts would hit them like brick stones as a thousand defences rose up in my heart. I convinced myself that if only they were in my shoes, they would understand why I loved to do, do, do. 

Thank God that He saved me from that toxic syndrome!

I’d be the first to admit that the ‘I can prove them wrong’ syndrome can be a great motivation. But it is usually driven by selfishness and a desire to please people. Such shouldn’t be said of us as Christian women. If we are pursuing anything, we should do it because God has laid it in our hearts to do so, and we must have full assurance that He will receive all the glory since, as the Bible says, it is better to please God rather than men. 

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Galatians 1: 10 (KJV) (See also Acts 5:29)

Besides, there is a better, more biblical way to approach any negative comment thrown at us that we might be tempted to prove wrong. This approach says: “I am content with whatever I have and whoever I am, as long as God is by my side!” (see Phillipians 4:12-13)

In contrast to the other, this approach rightly puts God on the pedestal instead of our sinful selfishness and pride. It takes courage in the fact that no matter what fault others might see in us (after all, people look only at the outward man that perishes, but God looks at the heart), as long as the beauty of the Lord shines upon us and through our actions and deeds to bring others to Him, we are satisfied. It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for us! 

As you ponder on whether you are most motivated by the desire to prove others wrong, ask yourselves these additional questions: Am I trying to prove a point with the goal I have in mind? Is my current ambition a result of me trying to get back at some restriction placed on my path or some demeaning words spoken to me? 

3. Am I taking time to rest?

Any God-driven goal is interposed by periods of rest. God Himself modelled this principle. After creating the world in six days, He rested on the seventh, leaving us an example to follow. 

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Genesis 2:1-3 (KJV; emphasis added)

Did you catch that? God blessed and sanctified His day of rest! 

We have no record that God blessed any of the other days as He blessed the seventh day. This tells us how much God loves well-deserved rest. And since we are made in the similitude of God (James 3:9), we should also learn to rest as He did. 

To The Overachiever, ambition

When we do not heed the need to rest, we must stop and rethink our motives for pursuing a goal. God Himself commands us “to be still” (Psalm 46:10), because it is usually in our place of quiet rest and complete trust in God that we can really reflect and see God’s hands and grace in everything He has placed in our hearts to do. Even nature itself teaches us to rest, for after the harsh bitterness of winter comes the sweet rest of spring.

To the overachieving Rose who takes pride in working themselves to the point of exhaustion, I say this: God didn’t make you an automated machine. He made you a vulnerable being with emotions, a will, and a breaking point. Yes, a breaking point. And if you don’t heed your need to rest, you will very soon reach that breaking point and become burnt out. If you are already at that point, there is still hope. You can cry out as Elijah did when he ran away from Jezebel’s threats (1 Kings 19), and the Lord will sustain and revive you. 

Ask yourselves these additional questions: Do I feel uneasy when I take time off to rest? When last did I have a screen sabbath? Do I feel it’s necessary to work all week long? Do I take time to rest as the opportunity allows? 

4. What drives my joy as I pursue my goal? 

God-driven tasks bring joy not only in their completion but also as they are in the process of being achieved. This doesn’t mean that God-driven tasks never come with their own set of challenges, but it does mean that there is a peace that remains in spite of challenges when a goal is God-driven. Because we are assured of God’s blessing we will not fret when storms come and not even the toughest tempest will steal away our joy as we keep toiling on. 

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7 (KJV)

Ask yourself these additional questions: Is the joy I feel as I work towards completing this task self-made or is it God-ordained, flowing from the depths of my being even when hardships arise? Does my ambition pass the peace test – do I feel God’s peace as I press towards my goal?

5. Who gets the glory when all is said and done? 

God-driven ambitions are done for His glory. Selfish ambition seeks our own glory and our own purpose. The Bible warns us never to do anything with selfish ambition. The Lord hates such ambitions because they consume our time, make us very prideful, and reduce Him to an afterthought instead of making Him the very centre of our lives. The Bible says: 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV; emphasis added)

God calls us to leave our selfish ambitions and clothe ourselves rather with humility. Apostle Paul says further in 1 Thessalonians that we should ‘make it [our] ambition to live a quiet life’ (1 Thessalonians 4:11a). 

Oof! This is a hard call, especially if our ambitions have become the very centre of our beings and our whole motive of living, instead of God Himself. 

Ask yourself these additional questions: Will God receive all the glory with this ambition of mine? Will anything I have to do in order to fulfil my desire dishonour God?

May the Lord help us to seek to please Him with the work of our hands!

Comment below, Roses, and let’s uplift each other!

Article Written By

Joy Adewumi

Joy Adewumi is an avid dreamer and unapologetic Christian. As her name states, her one purpose in life is to spread joy wherever it is needed. If she isn’t imagining up a more peaceful life on the outskirts of the countryside with maybe a horse, or two, you’d probably find her dancing and singing aloud or talking to herself, in the sanctuary of her room, of course. In her spare time, she loves to read, write, and play the piano. Until her dreams come true, she understands that God’s peace is irrespective of setting, crowd, or clutter. It is an inward peace independent of one’s surroundings, and as she navigates this, she would like to share her experiences with you as well.

She joined The Wilting Rose Project in 2022, wanting to spread hope and encourage to young, Christian women.

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