Living a Driven or a Called Life

The Third Article in a Series on Calling

Author Gordon MacDonald, in his book Ordering Your Private World, insightfully writes about the difference between living a “driven” and a “called” life. The difference between them is their motivation.

The “driven” person is motivated mostly by self, by their ambition, their desire and need to succeed, their need to win, to climb to the top of the ladder of success. The “called” person, sensing the call of God on their life, pursues a life of obedience to that call. The “called” person is motivated by wanting to please and follow God.

As we continue in a series on calling, especially for leaders of missional enterprises, we want to take a deeper dive into this contrast between the motivation of the “driven” person and the “called” person.

MacDonald lists the following characteristics of a “driven” person:

  • most often gratified only by accomplishment
  • preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment
  • usually caught in the uncontrolled pursuit of expansion
  • tends to have a limited regard for integrity
  • is not likely to bother with the honing of people skills
  • tends to be highly competitive
  • often possesses a volcanic force of anger
  • is usually abnormally busy, averse to play, and usually avoids spiritual worship

MacDonald’s study of “called” people begins with a Bible study about the people Jesus called. The people Jesus called were all characterized by:

  • Listening intently when He spoke . . .
  • Watching carefully when He acted . . .
  • Responding seriously when He asked questions . . .
  • Being obedient to what they were being called to . . .

As a result of following Jesus closely, the called people became people who:

  • Understood and practiced stewardship . . .
  • Developed a strong identity in Christ and knew exactly who they were and what they were becoming . . .
  • Developed an unwavering sense of purpose . . .
  • Practiced unswerving commitment to that purpose . . .

In the Old Testament, Ezra and Nehemiah are great examples of people who lived “called” lives. It is instructive to notice how they describe their accomplishments (emphasis added):

  • Nehemiah 2:8 . . . And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
  • Nehemiah 2:18 . . . I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
  • Ezra 7:6 . . . this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
  • Ezra 7:9 . . . He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.
  • Ezra 7:28 . . . and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
  • Ezra 8:18 . . . Because the gracious hand of our God was on us . . .
  • Ezra 8:22 . . . I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.”
  • Ezra 8:31 . . . On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.

A “called” life is a person living with the deep experience of having “the gracious hand of God” upon them. As we seek to lead enterprises for God’s glory, may we increasingly experience upon us the hand of the God who calls us.

Verse(s) of the Week:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

Leaving behind a driven life in opposition to Christ, Paul presses forward toward his calling in Christ. May God increasingly reveal to us aspects of our driven lives to leave behind, as we pursue his call in Christ Jesus.

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