John Piper says he longs for "the light of discernment and the heat of ambition" which kept world-renowned Bible scholar John Stott focused on playing a key role in God's work globally until he died about nine months ago.
Towards the end of his ministry spanning over three decades as the pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., Piper is reading Alister Chapman's new biography of John Stott, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement, with "special interest," he writes on his blog on the Desiring God website.
Piper wrote the article to mark "Stott's first birthday in heaven" April 27. He says he was especially interested in learning how Stott finished at All Saints Anglican Church in London, where he became rector in 1950 until 1969, and how he shaped the rest of his life as he moved on.
Stott was still on the ministerial team at All Souls for another five years until 1975, when he wrote, "I find myself pulled and pushed in various directions these days, and need divine wisdom to know how to establish priorities," according to John Stott, A Biography: The Later Years.
Piper says it is remarkable how many good things there are to do. "And if one is ambitious to live an unwasted life for the glory of Christ, discernment is crucial. Sudden release from decades of familiar pastoral expectations can easily lead to sloth or superficial busy-ness. [But] Stott's discovery was that his calling was a remarkable global ministry."
Stott "was both a Christian seeking to honor God and a very talented man who believed he had key roles to play in God's work in the world and wanted to play them," Piper quotes from Chapman's book. "In short, he combined two things that might seem incongruous: godliness and ambition." With that double drive, "few did more than John Stott to shape global Christianity in the twentieth century."
Chapman quotes Stott as saying that ambitions for God, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. "There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?" Christians, Stott added, "should be eager to develop their gifts, widen their opportunities, extend their influence and be given promotion in their work - not now to boost their own ego or build their own empire, but rather through everything they do to bring glory to God."
The kind of holy fire that gives both "the light of discernment and the heat of ambition" is worth seeking "in the transitions of our lives… All of it for the glory of God."
"This is my deep longing as I face whatever future God gives," concludes Piper, who is stepping down soon from his church with his successor Jason Meyer expected to be approved May 20.