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Are You Driven Or Called?

He called those who were drawn to Him and avoided those who were driven and wanted to use Him. – Gordon McDonald

McDonald goes on in the next several pages to describe the “driven” person. Some of the traits he describes we might find attractive. Yet, taken together, these traits describe a person who does not have Jesus living at the core of his own being. McDonald lists eight different characteristics of the “driven” person.

  1. “A driven person is most often gratified only by accomplishment.” If he is not “getting things done, he does not feel good about himself. (p. 31)
  2. “A driven person is preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment.” He looks for power so he can use it – to accomplish more things, of course. Status and notoriety are important to him. (p.  32)
  3. “A driven person is usually caught in the uncontrolled pursuit of expansion.” Bigger and better is his mantra. If it’s not growing, something is wrong. He defines success in terms of growth you can see. (p. 33)
  4. “Driven people tend to have a limited regard for integrity.” The end justifies the means. They are so preoccupied with “success” and “accomplishment” they have little time to consider how they are gaining these goals. (p. 33)
  5. “Driven people often possess limited or undeveloped people skills.” They are hard to work with, even though they “get things done.” In the wake of their achievements, there is often a trail of bodies of people whom they have run over to make it happen. (p. 34)
  6. “Driven people tend to be highly competitive.” Life is a “win or lose game” – and they intend to win. “Winning provides the evidence the driven person desperately needs that he is right, valuable, and important.” (p. 34.)
  7. “A driven person often possesses a volcanic force of anger….” This can flare and lash out when anyone disagrees, offers an alternative solution, or hints at criticism. (p. 35)
  8. “Driven people are usually abnormally busy.” Many are too busy to nurture relationships in their homes or with friends. They do not have a relationship with God – though they may worship Him. They never think they have done enough, and so drive themselves to do more to prove their worth. (p. 36)

Taken together, these do not make an attractive, lovable, person who is in the image of Jesus. I see myself in some of these traits, but not in all. What this list gives me is a call to return to the inner core of my life and nurture relationships.

Some of these traits are at the center of what legalism is all about. It is about knowing and doing so that the person consumed with these things can feel superior to those “other people” who just don’t “get it.”

Of course, it is tempting to put someone like Paul into this category as well. Some historic-religious novels about Paul picture him as having a temper that lashes out when others (Peter, for instance) may disagree. We could also point to his self-assessment in Philippians 3:12-14 as evidence of his being driven.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do. forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Is he driven? In some ways, I have to respond that he is – but in a way that puts his Lord on the throne. He is not obsessed with his own success so much as he is with being a faithful witness to Jesus. The righteousness he seeks is not his own, but that which comes through trusting God and His Son.

He was driven to his knees. He can teach us all about fervent prayer – both in its frequency (always), its scope (how many he prayed for), and its depth (what he asked God for those on his “prayer list”). When I compare my prayer life to his, I do not pray at all.

He had a sense of urgency about him that few have. He was concerned about the salvation of those who did not yet know or accept Jesus as Lord. He was concerned about the growth and development of the churches he planted. He was concerned about the relationships between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. He had deep concerns for others – but not for himself.

Was he obsessed with his own authority as an apostle? Some might think so. He did defend himself against those who would deny his authority so they could turn people to a different  gospel. He did not obsess with his own authority except when that was necessary to uphold the authority of Jesus Christ.

In the epigram above, Gordon McDonald distinguishes between those whom Jesus called and those who are driven.

While the called bear some similarities to the driven, they are also dissimilar. Those who are called follow Jesus. They do not have their own agenda, but recognize Jesus as Lord. Their goal is to be like Him, not in “lordship” but in character and priorities. Like Paul, they seek to have the mind of Christ – the mind that made him a humble, obedient servant who would “empty” himself for the sake of others.

This attitude of humility is not found in those who are driven. The person who is driven does not ultimately seek the good of others, but does what he does so he can take pride in himself. The people he may even boast of serving mean little to him, except as symbols of his own achievements – as in how large his congregation is or in how many he has converted. Sooner or later, the focus comes back to him.

Those who are called and who follow Jesus are always “other” focused – on Jesus and on those whom Jesus seeks to belong to Him.


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