In Acts 8, we meet a man named Simon who told everyone in Samaria that he was great. He was a magician (some translations say sorcerer) who gained popularity through his craft. According to the text, Simon is inspired by the good news of Jesus, is baptized, and becomes a follower of Philip. He’s even amazed at the miracles Philip performs by the power of Holy Spirit. However, he sees this power not as a sign of increasing faith in Jesus, but more so an asset to give his magic career a bigger audience. Later, he offers Peter money so that he might receive the Holy Spirit’s power. Peter doesn’t hold back in calling him out and Simon walks away repentant. It’s a crazy story; and it speaks to an issue many of us secretly wrestle with: ambition.
Simon wants people to think he’s great. More than likely, many of you are like me in wanting the same thing. Fame, popularity, success, winning – these are the drivers that keep us pushing through school and working as hard as we can. We want to be great, and we want our greatness to be acknowledged by others. Some call this ambition. Ambition is rarely used in a positive sense. Simon is definitely ambitious, but that’s not the problem here. The problem is that Simon tries to shortcut the process of success by using God’s power versus submitting to it.
Contrary to what you might’ve been told, Jesus isn’t put off by your dreams, even your dreams to be great. Having influence and affluence can be an asset to the mission of Jesus. And the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to handle and steward greatness in such a way that it actually points to God. But friends – you cannot buy God’s support of your dreams. As Simon found out, the Holy Spirit is not for sale and the power of God cannot be purchased with money. If you want God’s support of your dreams, you have to be willing to surrender yourself to the power of God in your life.
Surrendering to God’s power looks different for all of us. But one thing is for sure – submitting to God’s power means dealing with the intentions of the heart. This is what Peter calls out in verse 22; Simon needs to repent of the “intent of his heart”. If the Holy Spirit comes after anything, it’s the secret intentions and motivations of the human heart. God did not have an issue with Simon’s desire to be great (i.e. ambition) ; it was the reason why he wanted to be great. It’s the same for each of us.
Do you wanna be great? Popular? Successful? Hear the Holy Spirit ask you ‘why?’ Allow the Holy Spirit access to the intents behind your ambitions. Surrender to the Holy Spirit’s power to refine your motivations so that you can be blessed with greatness and not overcome by it. God’s Spirit can be trusted. The truth is, God is more invested in your future than you’ll ever be. May we learn from Simon, submitting to the work of the Spirit, so that we can have ambitions that are supported by Jesus.