What Drives You?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the stories of successful people; finding out what drives
them.  What I find completely amazing (and intriguing) is that most people — those who accomplish the most in their chosen field — are rarely driven by money.

Jay Leno is an example.  He makes about $30,000,000.00 a year hosting the Tonight Show.  If the desire to be wealthy drove him, he could stop right there.  Instead he
performs an additional 100 – 150 concerts per year for audiences across the country.  Why?Because he loves his work.  He loves to write jokes and he loves to tell jokes.  That’s the driving force in his life — he loves to make people laugh (failed miserably with Conan!).

Years ago I remember seeing film of Walter Payton’s summer training regiment.  Part of it consisted of him running hills.  There he was in the July heat struggling to work his way up a steep incline, the earth giving way with each step as Payton fought to maintain his footing, remain upright and keep moving toward the top.  It was absolutely fascinating to watch, because it was obvious that he wasn’t out there for the money – – he already had plenty.  He wasn’t hoping to earn or keep a starting position — he already had a lock on the job.   Why did he do it?  What drove him on?  He had a passion for football, and he had a
passion for being the best – that was what drove Walter Payton.

It is a good practice to periodically ask yourself, “What is the driving force in my life?  What drives me?”   You can find the answer to that question in the answers to a couple of other questions:

  • What do you think about while you’re driving to work/school/carpool?
  • What do you think about while you’re driving home?
  • What do you think about right before you fall asleep?

Answer those questions honestly and you’ll have a pretty good idea about what it is that drives your life.

Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life which has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of a gazillion copies.  What I like about Rick Warren is that before
he wrote the book, he lived it.  As a young man he became consumed with a passion for church planting. He was only 3 or 4 years out of college when he moved to Saddleback
Valley to start Saddleback Valley Community Church (now known worldwide simply as
the Saddleback Church).  He’s been there 32 years now and he doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.  He could, of course.  He could retire and spend the rest of his days relaxing on the beach and never again have to deal with staff problems or contentious church members or zoning laws or critics or any of the other nuisances of life.  But he keeps on
keeping on doing the job he started doing a quarter century ago.  Why?  Because the driving force in his life isn’t to build a nest egg for retirement, it is to bring people to a closer relationship with Jesus. That’s his purpose.  That’s the driving force of his life.  That’s what drives him.

What drives you?  Like Rick Warren says, we should be driven by certain purposes in life. What purpose drives you?  Success?  Money?  Revenge? Sex?  Power?  Leisure? Comfort?

In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul uses a phrase that never fails to get my attention. He says in verse two“My purpose is…” And he goes on to describe the driving force of his ministry.  He mentions three things that drive him.  The interesting thing is that they are all about relationships — how he wants to relate to those he knows and even those he doesn’t yet know.  He says, “My purpose is…” — and then talks about how he relates to others.  I find that very interesting and very relevant to our daily lives.

Whatever our purpose in life, one thing that we will certainly have to deal with is relationships.  Family relationships, social relationships, academic relationships, business relationships, church relationships.  Life is meant to be shared with others.   In many ways the quality of our lives comes down to the quality of our relationships.  So when we ask ourselves, “What purpose drives my life?” we are also asking, “What purpose drives my
relationships?”

Three things drove Paul’s relationships; to offer hope, promote love and bring faith.  Here’s Paul purpose statement:

(Col. 2: 1-5) . . .My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, . . .

I’ll write more about how this passage changed the driving force in my life for the good later.  Right now my purpose is to get to my cardiac rehab session on time (for once!).

An Upset Stomach

I love teaching the CCF Interns each week. I try to make it a priority to be well prepared for the two hour class every Wednesday.

This week’s is especially important since I missed the class last week.  That means we have a lot of material to cover in a short amount of time.  As I prepared my lesson, I became increasingly aware of my own personal need to spend more quality time with God.  I did in a small way on Sunday, but on Monday morning I woke up with an upset stomach. I wasn’t even sure for awhile if I was going to make it (ok, that is an exaggeration but you know what I mean!). But I did and even got a little study on the Gospels done on Monday evening.  Is it only me or is it getting harder and harder to give God reserved and uninterrupted time?

I got up this morning and proceeded to get sick even more (I’ll spare you the details), but it was in this condition I felt convicted to give God more and better time in prayer and interacting with His Word.  I began to feel better in the afternoon but this conviction is still fresh in my mind.

And that brings me to tomorrow’s Intern class. The Gospels are so powerful and focused on God’s greatness and Christ’s worthiness. The Book of Acts records the impact of the central event of the Gospels – the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  That impact will last for eternity – because Jesus is the foundation we’re building on.  I want these Interns to know the importance of building on the appropriate foundation with the appropriate things. I have the knowledge but my conviction led me to dip back into the Word not just as a teacher but as a learner at the feet of The Master.

And all it took to slow me down enough to spend more time with God was an upset stomach.

Feelings and Faith

I have had a number of “conversions” in my life.  I first confessed Jesus as my Savior and was baptized when I was 8 years old.  I can’t say I really experienced an incredible change in my life because I was blessed with a wonderful Christian family so I had been in church all my life. 

During High School two contradictory things happened in my life simultaneously.  I began to preach on a fairly regular basis and I began to develop an alternate set of friends who had no idea that I was a Christian, much less a “preacher boy”. 

 The summer after High School graduation I experienced my second “conversion”.  My contradictory lifestyle had caused me to loathe myself and at church camp I admitted to myself that I had become a “Christian atheist”.  That is, I talked a lot about God but didn’t consider Him at all in my decision-making and I certainly did not feel close to Him at all.   I was a “good moral man” externally but internally I was alienated and rebellious.   During that week at camp I realized that I couldn’t go on living “two lives” anymore.   It was either go all the way with God, or get rid of Him entirely.   Fortunately, I decided on the former and made a public confession of what a hypocrite I had become.   I wanted to go all the way back to the basics, so I chose to be baptized again.   I consider that my actual baptism into Christ because it was a decision that I made of my own free will and volition as a young adult.   It was humiliating to be baptized in front of some of those that I had baptized myself but afterwards I felt great.   In fact it was like I became a new person. The most profound change was a sense of God’s presence that followed me everywhere I went.

 I had this incredible “bubbly” feeling inside — knowing that God loved me with all His heart, that I was right with God, that I was committed to doing His will, and that all was well in my world.  As I went through the day I sensed God’s presence; I could see evidence of Him in everything that happened.

 At this point, my experience was consistent with everything I had heard about the Christian life.  This was the mid sixties, at the beginning of what was called “the Jesus Movement”, and the Christian youth slogans that were popular were phrases like “Turn on to Jesus…Get high on Jesus…Jesus is a natural high…Jesus is the eternal high.”  So, naturally, I thought that since I had given my life to Jesus, I would feel good all the time.  And at first I did.

But after a few months things began to change.  I came down from my high.  The bubbles evaporated.  I didn’t sense God’s presence as I had before.  Suddenly there seemed to be a distance between us.  Where before God had spoken to me so clearly, he now seemed to be silent. Where before I had felt wrapped up in God’s love, now my heart felt cold.

 I thought “There must be something wrong.”  Specifically my thinking was, “There must be something wrong with me.  God’s feelings for me must have changed, or I wouldn’t feel this way.”  I went to see my preacher, and told him what I was going through.  He wrote on a piece of paper some Scriptures for me to memorize. 

At the bottom of the page he drew a picture of a train — an engine and a caboose.  On the engine he wrote “Faith.”  On the caboose he wrote “Feelings.”  He gave me the piece of paper and said to me, “In the Christian life, your feelings will go up and down, and will sometimes run hot and sometimes run cold.  You can’t be driven by your feelings; faith has to be the engine of your Christian life.  It is faith that drives you forward.”

The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I’ve realized how common this experience is.  Every Christian I have talked with about my experience has told me they have gone through times when they experienced the highs of the mountaintop, and when they all had faced the lows of the valley.  And this pattern doesn’t happen just once — it happens again and again throughout the course of our lives.  The thing that’s important to realize is: Even during the valley-lows, God’s presence is just as real as it is during the mountaintop highs.  In fact, during the times we’re going through the valley — when we don’t feel God’s presence — we have the opportunity to grow by leaps and bounds in our walk with Jesus, because these are times for us to learn to walk by faith:  To let the engine pull the caboose.

Is the engine pulling the caboose or the caboose pulling the engine in your faith walk?

Daily Time with God

I don’t watch the news in the mornings. In fact, except for the Weather Channel, I seldom even turn on the TV in the mornings. I also don’t listen to the radio, or read the newspaper in the mornings. Why not?  I quit watching the morning news or reading the morning newspaper because it so rarely lifted my spirits. Think about it: Do you really believe Good Morning America can get your day moving in the right direction?  Do you really want to begin your day armed with depressing news and mindless chatter?

There’s a better way to get your day up and running. Now, I realize you need to know what’s going on in the world, but you have the rest of the day to hear about it.  Whether you’re a morning person or not it is important how you start your day.  It is important to fill your mind with things that will empower you. Listen to music that inspires you. Read something that uplifts you. Make sure that you start your day by putting into your mind things that will strengthen you and make you receptive to God.

If you are a music person, spend some time each day listening to good music — whether quiet, peaceful, reverent, uplifting, worship music, or loud, joyful, celebrative, uplifting, praise music – it will make you receptive to God.  Iam not much of a music person myself, especially when it come to Christian contemporary music. (The O Band that my son in law Eric leads is an exception!)  So listening to Christian music seldom has the desired effect on me.  For years I felt guilty about that.  Then I realized that what I needed was not to learn to appreciate Christian music but to find something that would make me receptive to God.  So now sometimes in the morning but more often in the afternoon or evening I read something that I know will inspire me.  Sometimes, I get out my Bible and read a Psalm or a Proverb to myself.   Psalm 23 is one of my favorites.  So is Psalm 16, and Psalm 30.  No doubt as you read through the Psalms, there will be some that speak especially to you.  After I read the Psalms, I usually read a passage from the New Testament.  I usually read a few verses each day as I work my way through a book of the Bible. Right now, I’m reading one of my favorite epistles Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  As I read the short passage I’m reading that day —usually 6 or 7 verses— I ask these questions:

What is this God telling me to do today through this Scripture? Is He using it to pointing out a sin in my life?  Is He using it to  challenge me to step out in faith? Is He using it to tell me to take a certain action? It never fails: when I read the Bible God teaches me something.   He shows me something I need to do, or something I need to know.   As I close my Bible, I know God has something in mind for me to do THAT DAY.  Maybe it’s to spend time talking with my wife or calling my daughters or emailing my grandsons.  Maybe it’s to call my mom or dad.  Maybe it’s to apologize to someone I’ve offended.  Every day, through reading Scripture I receive God anew into my day.

Sometimes I turn to the Gospels and read an incident from the life of Christ or one of His teachings.  Sometimes I read a familiar section from one of the many writings of C.S. Lewis.  I love reading C.S. Lewis!

What you need to do is find what makes you want to praise the Lord.  If music, great; if reading Scripture, great; if watching a video, great; if listening to a podcast, great!  The idea is each day to do something that makes you want to  praise the Lord.

I am not a morning person but I do have a morning prayer that I’ve said each morning for probably 30 years — almost every day I pray this same prayer before I leave my bedroom:     “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.  Take me today and make be totally Yours.  From the top of my head to the bottom of my feet fill me with your Holy Spirit today.  Help me to overcome the Evil One and to stand as a covering for all those whom You place under my pastoral care. Father, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others as much as I love myself.  Please let others see You because of the fruit of the Spirit that you bring to maturity in my life today. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Often I end my day by reading (and praying) an old prayer that dates back to the fifth century.  I find its words to be a great blessing to me.

“This day I’ve called to me: God’s strength to direct me, God’s power to sustain me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s vision to light me, God’s ear to my hearing, God’s word to my speaking, God’s hand to uphold me, God’s pathway before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s legions to save me:  from snares of the demons, from evil enticements, from failings of nature, from one man or many that seek to destroy me a near or afar.”

This prayer reminds me that not only my day but my life are entirely in God’s hands.

During my priority time with God I don’t want to see anyone or to talk to anyone. Whether it is in the evening or in the morning I want to spend it entirely alone in the presence of God.

Time with God to speak my mind and fill my heart  is one of my core values. Try it and it will become one of yours!