In a society rife with materialism, negativity, and distractions, Bob Goff is on a mission to help Christians rediscover and live out their God-given dreams and ambitions.
“We’re living in a very difficult time period,” Goff, a New York Times bestselling author and popular Christian speaker, said in an interview with The Christian Post. “We’re thinking in terms of immediacy of some really urgent matters. While those things are important, it’s also a time to say, ‘What are some ambitions I had?’ The urgency of the things that are happening right now shouldn’t extinguish our ambition.”
“Many Christians have some beautiful, beautiful ambitions. But sometimes we get distracted by our insecurities, by what other people think about our visions, or we’re trying to get validation from others. That’s not a disqualifier, but I want us to put that under the microscope for a second and say, 'I wonder why we're looking for the approval of others before we move forward with something God already said He wanted us to do.'"
The 61-year-old thought leader knows a thing or two about pursuing ambition. A recognized lawyer for over 25 years, he left all that behind to become the Hon. Consul to Uganda. In 2001, he founded Love Does, an international nonprofit that pursues justice for children in high-conflict areas such as Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India.
“In the Christian community, we can sometimes be embarrassed of our ambition, as if it would be selfish to dream big, that we should be denying ourselves the opportunity to do that,” Goff said. “What I'm saying is, let's spread out all your ambitions on the table. Just look at them, and then just ask for each one: ‘How come? Is this an ambition that's going to outlast me?’ And then, do something about it.”
In his new book, Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You're Going to Do about It, Goff draws from personal experience to offer practical, biblically-minded ways Christians can live out their ambitions. According to the popular speaker and author, any ambitions outlined in Matthew 25 or James 1 — helping the poor, sick, widowed, and hungry — are “beautiful and lasting ambitions; things we’ll talk about in Heaven.”
“But if you have ambitions that aren’t on that list, I would say, ‘Let’s go through them.’ If your ambition surrounds the idea of accumulation, such as accumulating more money, then that isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but just get real with it. Put it through the sieve and say, ‘Why do I want more money? Is it because I need to make rent next week? Or is it because I’m afraid I’ll run out?’ Drill down on it a bit. Sort them into piles. You can have some small, medium and large ambitions, whether it’s learning how to pay to the bagpipes or traveling the world.”
When it comes to uncovering the root of one’s ambition, humility and self-awareness are key, Goff stressed. He cited Acts 5:4, which reads, in part: “You have not lied just to human beings but to God."
“Those are chilly words,” he said. “Without any judgment, ask yourself, ‘What's my ambition and what are the things underneath my ambition?’”
“Sometimes what you'll find is that there are things underneath your ambition that aren't the lasting things. That maybe you're actually just responding to some fear or trauma in your past, and you're really not responding to the beautiful work God's doing right now in your life. When we approach our ambition with mindfulness, humility, and self-awareness, God’s got somebody to work with.”
These principles of being present and living mindfully can be applied to any social issue today, Goff said, from racism to the fear surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
“Take any social issue today and then start blowing the foam off the top to say, ‘How do you interact with that?’” he said. “Once you uncover what’s underneath that, dig a little deeper and check it with Scripture. Do your beliefs square with what God says?”
“You can go through that with any social issue and it will be really helpful. The goal isn't just self-awareness, it's action. I can't think of one time that Jesus just asked His friends to agree with Him. He said, ‘Let's go do this thing.’ So once you understand what's going on, ask yourself: ‘What am I going to do about it? What’s my piece in that?’”
The call to action for each Christian will be different, Goff argued, explaining that “God is doing different things in different people's lives.”
“I want us to be patient with ourselves in the process, but not so patient that you never get around to something,” he stressed. “Make a move, whatever it is, but make a move that's courageous for you. God never compares what He creates. He's created something wonderfully different in you, with all the inputs you have, both good and bad, and the same for me. And so I'm just going to keep my eyes on my own paper.”
Comparison is a “punk that will rob you blind every time and destroy your ambitions,” Goff cautioned, adding, “Identify what your ambition is, figure out what the impediments are, and stop blaming other people for why you can't get your ambition. And then when you are that self-aware that humble before God, it’s catnip for opportunities.”
This mindset, the bestselling author contended, isn’t just “positive,” it’s “productive.”
“Distractions are what get us off message,” he said. “Whether it’s our iPhones or social media, they can distract us from really being present. If we had a little bit more clarity about why we're doing what we're doing, then we would find ourselves in a position to take action.”
Goff expressed dismay over the negativity prevalent on social media, noting, “You're not going to find me saying anything cynical; I just don't want to add more noise to a really noisy room. I want to add peace to a really noisy room.”
“The way we do that is by bringing Jesus into the room. We need to be self-aware enough, settled down enough, to keep our eyes fixed on Him so that when another distraction comes along, it doesn't rip us off from our ambition."