Inner Drive vs. God's Call
John Telgren

I can't think of a better word for it. Gordon MacDonald calls it "drivenness." Many folks admire people that are driven. They get things done. They can often be found it key positions in successful organizations.

I used to think of drivenness as a positive thing. I remember reading a couple of books in the past with the word "driven" in the title, such as The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, both by Rick Warren. However, the way Rick Warren uses the word "driven" is not the type of driven I am thinking of here. What Warren calls "driven" I would refer to as "called," because what motivates us should come from God. So I don't use the word "driven" in the same way. Here are some characteristics of drivenness:

1. Often gratified only by accomplishment. Sees life only in terms of results. Doesn't appreciate the process, only the product.
2. PreOccupied with Symbols of Success. These include things such as a "title," office size, special privileges, and other indications of notoriety.
3. Caught in the Uncontrolled Pursuit of Expansion. He want to "climb the ladder." Doesn't appreciate achievements of the past and is never satisfied. Always wants more and will leave if what he is a part of is not growing fast enough.
4. Limited regard for integrity. Since the driven person is so preoccupied with success and achievement, he will succeed by any means possible. He will spend little time with the inner self. Ethics slide and he can become deceitful, even deceiving himself.
5. Tend to possess limited or undeveloped people skills. Projects and personal goals become more important than the people around him. People are valuable to the driven person for how they can help the driven person fulfill his goals.
6. Tend to be highly competitive. Each effort is a win-lose game. Other successful people are seen as competitors or enemies to be beaten.
7. Often has a volcanic force of anger. He cannot take questions, constructive criticism, disagreement, etc. His anger can come out in ways other than violence, such as verbal brutality, insults, put downs, and general vindictiveness.
8. Tend to be abnormally busy. The driven person is too busy pursue relationships with other people, much less with God. He never thinks he accomplishes enough and is always attempting to do more. Sometimes he tries to impress people with the fullness of his schedule and will even complain about. But he will never accept a way to lessen his work load. His "complaining" is really nothing more than bragging.

When drivenness is described in this way, I can see that it is anything but positive. Even though many organizations value driven people (including churches) because they get things done, it is done at the sacrifice of relationships and other things that are important. It occurs to me that even though King Saul was a driven person and we typically see him as a dismal failure, most of the people under his rule probably saw him as a successful king. He had a string of leadership victories even after we begin to see the signs of drivenness. The call of God is not what motivated Saul, but his own drive to hold on to what he had and to accumulate more. As I look over the characteristics of drivenness in this list, and can point to events in Paul's life that can be placed under all eight of them.

I have spoken to people that worked long hours into the evening because they wanted to be successful. It is humiliating for your boss to indicate that he thinks you are not dedicated enough. I remember reading a book several years ago by Paul Faulkner entitled, Achieving Success Without Failing Your Family. It never really became a popular book in the business world because Faulkner makes it clear that you cannot have it all. Contrary to what others had been saying, you cannot be a huge success in your career AND a huge success in your family. You have to choose. If you are going to be a huge success in your career, it will cost you. I have also met ministers who were driven. I met a guy whose goal in ministry was to become a minister at the Richland Hills Church of Christ, one of the largest Churches of Christ in the country. It was all he ever talked about. Everything he did was geared toward that. There were signs of drivenness in his ministry. His family paid the price. I have known students who were driven by the desire to be better than everyone else in whatever they did. They chose their friends on the basis of their status. They dated people who would help their image. They fought tooth and nail for the lead parts in the play, or on the cheerleading squad. I have known a housewive who were driven by the desire to have the postcard house and the postcard family. This is what mattered more than the emotional well being of her children. And the list could go on.

There were those in scripture that were driven. In addition to King Saul, there was Peter, James, John, the Apostle Paul, and others. Out of these folks, we probably have a clearer picture of Peter and Paul. Both of them had agendas. Both of them were go getters. Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees and had an immaculate record. He was sharp. However, Paul calls his pride and confidence in these things as putting confidence in the "flesh." Paul experience a transformation from being driven to being called. Paul's motivation was no longer the desire to accumulate success and notoriety, but the desire to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his suffering and be conformed to his death. There is no notoriety in these things. He endeavored to live as Christ did. He wanted to humble himself as Christ humbled himself. He wanted to become the least of these. This was the call of God. If someone tried to overshadow Paul and his accomplishment from self-centered motives, Paul could rejoice because the name of Christ was still being preached. The call of God is not about Paul's accomplishments, but about God's accomplishments, regardless of who God accomplishes them though.

It occurs to me that if I have the right attitude God can use me in a more effective way. But then again, he may choose not to. I don't want to be like King Saul with all his driven tendencies. I want to be motivated by God's call, not my desire for significance as the world defines significance. It seems that what this boils down to is a question of motivation. Am I motivated by the call of God, or am I motivated by the desire for my own significance and notoriety? Where is my focus?

If God's calling orders my life, then everything else becomes secondary. I think Paul is a good example of a man who made the move from driven to called. When he reflects on his life before he came to Christ, he gives an impressive list of accomplishments and things to be proud of (Phil 3:4-6). Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees and stood above the rest in his zeal for Judaism's ancestral traditions (Gal 1:14). Saul, as he was called then, was sharp. His accomplishment outshined everyone else. Paul's resume appeared to have given him pride and confidence.

It is interesting to note that Paul calls this having confidence "according to the flesh." He now considered those shining accomplishments as loss (Phil 3:7). In other words, he put them away. They no longer define him. He threw them out as trash for the sake of knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, and being conformed to his death (Phil 3:10). The call of God through Christ changed Paul from the inside out. Paul considers himself to be "least of the Apostles" and "not fit to be called at Apostle" (1 Cor 15:9). Paul made it clear that his motivation was not to be a man-pleaser, because if that were his motivation, he would not be a slave of Christ (Gal 1:10). After all, Christians were on the margins of society, they were ridiculed, hated, and persecuted. Having rank or status was no longer something important to Paul (Gal 2:6). Paul had his share of critics who denounced him for his simple way of ministry (2 Cor 10:10). But this was not a threat to his identity. All that mattered to him was doing God's will (Gal 2:20), which he could do regardless of the critics. So when Paul was thrown in prison, he was not distressed (Phil 1:12-14). He found that he could live out God's calling no matter where he was. Even when some ambitious rivals preached the Gospel, trying to "one up" Paul, who was in prison and probably an embarrassment to them, it did not cause Paul to feel threatened or competitive (Phil 1:15-18). His sense of identity was wrapped up in Christ, not in his accomplishments, which were really not his anyway. He recognized that he could do nothing without God being at work in him to will and to work for Him (Phil 2:13).

What a change we see in Paul before and after! The major difference appears to be Paul's motivation. As a Jew, Paul seemed to be motivated by his desire for personal achievements and success. After being called, his motivation underwent a radical change. Paul's sense of identity and purpose was wrapped up in the person of Christ, not in his job, role, abilities, or anything else. He could comfortably be with people in weakness and fear and much trembling (1 Cor 2:1-4), because it was not about Paul, but about God in him. He recognized that the power of God works through his weaknesses (2 Cor 12:7-10). He comfortably realized he was nothing, and the God whom he had dedicated himself to was everything. In this, he found peace and joy.

As I look at John the Baptist, I see the same sort of thing. At one point, the people had stopped following John and were now following Jesus. John was a popular preacher and many people had been going to him. In fact, Josephus says more about John the Baptist than about Jesus, which indicates the amount of popularity that John had. But now, people were leaving John to follow Jesus.

"And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.' John answered and said, 'A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent ahead of Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease' " (John 3:26-30).

Some of John's followers felt threatened, but not John. John had a clear sense of God's calling in his life, and it had more to do with God and his purposes than about John himself.

One of the characteristics of God's calling that stand out to me in both John and Paul are that they both understood stewardship. John recognized that his followers were not his, that his ministry was not his, and that nothing he had accomplished was truly his. "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven." God gave him everything, including his ministry. Because they belonged to God, John was only to happy to give them back when his Lord wanted them. This was no threat to John. The same could be said for Paul. Paul understood his ministry as a "stewardship of God's grace" (Eph 3:2). There was no need to compete with rival preachers for notoriety. His ministry was not his, but was God's.

Losing notoriety was no threat to Paul's identity when rival preachers tried to "one-up" him for selfish ambition. Followers leaving John to follow Jesus was no threat to John's identity. In fact, it is probably that John's role changed some when Jesus began his ministry. His identity was not wrapped up in his "career" so-to-speak. His identity was wrapped up in the calling of God. His role, surroundings, and situation in life changed, but his calling did not. Paul understood this, which he why he never missed a beat, even when thrown in prison.

I suppose my role and situation will change. The time will come when my kids will grow up and leave home. I may get too old to preach from the pulpit. I may get out of what we typically call "full-time ministry," and take a so-called "secular" job. However, if I understand my calling correctly, than any job I do will be sacred, whether it is flipping burgers of preaching from the pulpit. It all belongs to God. His calling remains constant even though my situation in life may change. It all belongs to him, and I serve him through everything I do. Therefore, whatever my hands find to do, I will do with all my heart as for the Lord and not for man. My motivation should always be to please God above all else.

I remember reading some words from brother Lawrence in Practicing the Presence of God. He came to realize that to serve God, you don't necessarily have to change "what" you do, but change "why" you do. All we do should be for the love of God, whether it is something small and menial, or something huge. God is not impressed with "what" we do. God is more concerned with "why" we do. My highest calling, then, is to love God, to be with him, to be like him.