Monday, July 12, 2010

REVIEW: Rescuing Ambition (Dave Harvey)

Dave Harvey is a leader within Sovereign Grace Ministries and the author of When Sinners Say I Do, which is an excellent book on marriage. A rare example of seriousness about sin and abundance of grace. Last week I spent 24 hours at the Sovereign Grace Ministries church planting conference in South Wales. Dave Harvey was the guest speaker and delivered some of the content of this book. The book was a conference freebie.

Ambition has a bad reputation but Harvey distinguishes between selfish-ambition and gospel-ambition. The former is clearly bad, but the gospel frees us to pursue the glory of God. We prefer the glory that comes from man, but God has shown us his glory in the person of the Lord Jesus (see John 12 for more on that). Hearing Harvey preach this material was a piercing experience, knowing Jesus expose the subtle tendency I have to draw attention to myself, to steal glory from God and advance my own name.

Harvey teaches out of his own wrestle with the application of the gospel in this area. He is a self-confessed Daveaholic, a lover of Daveology and I can really sympathise with that! And yet the gospel calls me on to pursue Jesus, and Harvey is a welcome help along the way. I highly recommend this book. It's scriptural and it's marked by a clear gospel-centredness that I see evident in the lives of others in Harvey's church family, and from his own preaching. I will benefit from giving it a slow re-read. Not spotless but unmasked and open to show weakness and inviting challenge from others.
"the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:17)
In Harvey and those around him I see people who do not take themselves seriously though they take the gospel very seriously - the polar opposite of selfish-ambition which results in a lack of concern for the gospel and a high view of self. Rescued ambition is the opposite of haughtiness and the embodiment of humility. Such people are determined to see the church built and the gospel advanced, and to play whatever role in that God would have them take.
"[Isaiah] saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." (John 12:41-43)
This book sits well alongside CJ Mahaney's books Living the cross centred life and Humility as an example of how to carefully apply the gospel. It'll be a bit uncomfortable but you'll know yourself taken deeper into the grace of God, with a focus on the life and work of Jesus and the overwhelming priority of character change.

See: and Co-mission conference - audio/video to follow. Sermons from Dave Harvey's church on ambition: Part 1Part 2Part 3


  1. It was certainly an uncomfortable read. I have found this a very useful read and would recommend it to anyone but especially those who find themselves working in a self-ambition driven culture. This book has been an excellent tool as I prepare to start work in such a culture.

    Cultivating a fear of God above a fear of man or a fear of failure is huge. (Psalm 111:10, Prov 1:7, 9:10)

  2. It's great to have my heart exposed by the gospel. Law would diagnose my sin and destroy me, but books like this cut me open and provide the true comfort I need. A must read for the London-bound graduate I'm sure, and for the rest of us.