by Craig von Buseck
In his famous book, Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald contrasts being “driven” by negative or selfish motives, verses being “called” by God. He declares that being “called” should provide our motivation. He explains that yielding to God’s call brings great peace and rest to our lives.
In my life and ministry experience I have been both “called” and “driven.” I believe there is a positive side to being driven – Jesus was “driven” into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted, for example (Mark 1:12). But then there is also the negative side of being “driven” by my own desires, by lust, by fear, by confusion, or by competition.
As Christians, many times our motivation can be from love of the Lord and compassion for His people. But that’s not always the case.
Bible teacher Dudley Hall recounts the story of Jesus’ restoration of Peter, explaining that Jesus never asks Peter if he likes sheep, or feels particularly attracted to sheep. Instead, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” It is this love for Jesus that is to be our motivation to serve Him and the Church. I want to be “called” – and if I am to be “driven,” I want it to be by the Holy Spirit and not by fear or my own selfish ambition or motivation.
A New Testament contrast I would point to in describing the difference between being “called” and being “driven” would be that of the disciples John and Judas.
Judas was, no doubt, a “driven” person. The Bible says that Judas became upset at the woman who poured the expensive perfume over Jesus prior to His crucifixion. In true “driven” form, Judas complains that the perfume could have been sold and the money give to the poor. In John 12:6 the Holy Spirit reveals what was really in his heart, “…not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” The Gospel of Matthew tells us that after Judas and the other disciples where rebuked by Jesus for criticizing the woman with the expensive perfume, Judas goes to the Chief Priest and strikes the infamous deal to betray Jesus.
There is no question that Judas, like the other disciples, expected Jesus to be a mighty political and military leader who would overthrow the Romans and resurrect the nation of Israel. Jesus strongly rejects this notion, telling the disciples plainly that He will not attempt such a revolt. In fact, He declares that He will surrender Himself to these Romans to be put to death.
Judas may have been under the impression that Jesus had lost His mind. This rebuke may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Judas.
So many times before, in Judas’ eyes, Jesus had done just the opposite of what was pragmatic. Perceiving that the ship was about to sink, the driven Judas may have deduced that he would cash in on the process and cover his losses. It was Satan’s possession that sealed the scenario, causing this man who witnessed dramatic miracles at the hand of Jesus to betray the One who loved and ministered to him for three years.
Judas’ drive, combined with Satan’s influence, finally resulted in the horrific suicide of this tragic figure.
In contrast, we see the beloved disciple, John – writer of a Gospel, three epistles, and the Revelation. John had a profound effect on the Church — and still does today. He was human, like the rest of us, and displayed some flaws in the early going — wanting with his brother James to sit on the right and left side of Jesus in Glory – and then asking to call fire down from heaven on the unbelieving village.
But later we see the strength of his character displayed as he followed Jesus all the way to his death on Calvary, risking his own life to be there for his friend and Lord. It is John who stays with Jesus when all the other disciples run in fear. John is in the court yard when Peter denies Jesus. John comforts Mary at the foot of the cross and is given charge over her by Jesus.
After the day of Pentecost, John becomes one of the four apostolic pillars of the early Church, along with Peter, James, and Paul.
It’s little wonder that while the life of “driven” Judas ends in tragedy, “called” John’s final days are filled with the glorious Revelation of the culmination of the ages at Christ’s return.
I believe the point is clear. To be selfishly “driven” to ministry, service, position, power and prestige is to court disaster. To be “called” by God, however, and to serve Him humbly means that we are truly led by the Spirit of God. When we die to our own selfish desires and drive and then ask the Lord to live in us and through us, then as the “called” of God we are enabled to accomplish God’s kingdom plans and purposes for our lives.
Like the “called” Paul – who was formerly the “driven” Saul – we can say, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ…” (Phil. 3:8 NLT).
Craig von Buseck is Ministries Director of CBN.com