rebelling against low expectations

John Piper: A Challenge For Young People


In a sermon delivered on Sunday, August 27, 2006, entitled Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named, John Piper briefly turns his attention to the children in the audience. In a culture of extended adolescence and spiritual immaturity, his words bear particular relevance to us all.

At 7 minutes, 45 seconds, this video is already longer than the attention span of your average, TV-addicted American teenager. But we want you all to watch it. In fact, we would like you to share it with your family. Whether you’re young or old, you will be blessed and challenged by its message.

Note: For those who cannot view the video or would like to see the message in its entirety—and we encourage you to do so—the full video, text and audio are available by clicking here. A transcript of this excerpt is available below.

Transcript from

Little children, listen to me carefully, for a moment. I know the words, “holy ambition,” are unusual and you don’t use them every day. “Holy ambition” means something you really want to do that God wants you to do. Something you want to do so much that doing it keeps you from doing other things that you also really like to do. Paul really wanted to go to Rome for years. But he didn’t go because he wanted something else more. He wanted to preach the gospel in Asia and Greece where people didn’t know about Jesus. He really, really, really wanted to do this. We call that kind of desire an “ambition.” And we call it “holy ambition” when it is something God wants you to do.

Do you have one? Probably not yet. You’re only a child. That’s what you’re supposed to be. But some day you won’t be a child any more. And one of the differences between being a child and growing up is that growing up as a Christian means you get a holy ambition. Most little girls, my Talitha included, really want to have and play with dolls. That’s a good thing. But the day is going to come, little girls, when you will put away the fun of playing with dolls and grow up into the even bigger, better joy of caring for real babies in the nursery. And maybe you will even lead a ministry someday of caring for hungry babies far away, or lonely babies who have no mommy or daddy. And for some of you this will become a holy ambition. For others your holy ambition will be something else.

And boys, listen. If you are like I was, what you really want is a ball, a truck, and gun and somebody to play with. I’ve never had real gun (except a pellet rifle). But I shot a lot of bad guys with my Matt Dillon pistol and my Lukas McCain-like, circle-handled rifle. I loved playing football with my friends and digging roads across the street for my trucks and drawing my pistol so fast you couldn’t see it. It was fun. And that was good.

But some day you won’t be a little boy any more. And one of the differences between being a little boy and growing up is that growing up as a Christian means you get a holy ambition. And that means the fun of guns and trucks and balls gets small and the joy of fighting for justice and salvation gets big. Growing up means getting a holy ambition to wield the sword of the Spirit mightily and drive a truckload of love to the needy and kick Satan’s rear end in the name of Jesus.

Mom and Dad, single people, young and old, Christians should have a holy ambition. Something you really, really want to do for the glory of God. Something that controls you. It helps you decide not to go to Rome yet. It gives eternal focus and passion to your life.

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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • I’ve heard a lot of flak about how wicked John Piper is. But at the same time the guy I’ve heard most of those comments from thinks everyone is inherently wicked and screwed up except for him. But I haven’t studied it out and such, so I can’t vouch for or against. But I’m also one of those people who believe in “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” And that was one of the “meat” things that I’m sure Mr. Piper has said. I can relate to the doll analogy. I still have my favorite baby doll and (I’m not ashamed to say) I still sleep with her. But now, I have a holy ambition to let the Lord make me into the kind’ve woman that deserves a godly man and, if God wills it, I want to have real babies some day that I can love and teach. That is a great post. It gives you something to think on.

  • Wow, a holy ambition is something we all should have. Thanks so much for posting this video! For me personally, I believe my holy ambition is to help my generation to become passionate about our Lord and Savior. Too many youth today don’t know exactly what they believe or why they believe it. Even if they do, they don’t care to put it into practice in their lives. I want this to change.

    Using this passion in me, the Lord led me to start a blog a number of months ago, and He’s now leading me to write a book. It’s amazing what God has and is doing in my life, and though I don’t know what the future holds, I’m trusting Him to use me in whatever way He wants. Thanks again for posting this awesome video!

  • This was very good! and very true God has taken my childhood love for pretty ponies and turning it into a very useful tool to share his love and goodness with struggling young people. 🙂 This ‘Holy ambition’ is fueling my drive in life and what choices I make. And igniting a greater love and passion for our Awesome God!

  • I think this video is a great reminder that, as Christians, we should prioritize. We should focus on what God wants us to do, not on what we want to do. Following God’s will is something that requires great wisdom, but, at the same time, it is a requirement of Christians.

By Brett Harris
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →