3. What Drives Your Life?
Everyone’s life is driven by something. Most dictionaries define the verb drive as “to guide, to control, or to direct.” Whether you are driving a car, a nail, or a golf ball, you are guiding, controlling, and directing it at that moment. What is the driving force in your life? Right now you may be driven by a problem, a pressure, or a deadline. You may be driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief. There are hundreds of circumstances, values, and emotions that can drive your life. Here are five common ones: Many people are driven by guilt. They spend their entire lives running from regrets and hiding their shame. Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories. They allow their past to control their future. They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success. In the Bible, when a man named Cain killed his brother, his guilt disconnected him from feeling God’s presence, and God said, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” 20
That describes most people today—wandering through life without a purpose. We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it. God’s purpose is never limited by your past. He turned a murderer named Moses into a compassionate leader, and a coward named Gideon into a courageous hero, and he can do amazing things with the rest of your life, too. God specializes in giving people a fresh start. The Bible says, “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven... What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.” 21
Many people are driven by resentment. They hold on to their hurts and never get over them. Instead of releasing their pain through forgiveness, they rehearse it over and over in their minds. Some resentment-driven people “clam up” and internalize their anger while others “blow up” and explode it onto others. Both responses are unhealthy and unhelpful. Resentment always hurts you more than it does the person you resent. While your offender has probably forgotten the offense and gone on with life, you continue to stew in your past, perpetuating the pain. Listen: Those who have hurt you in the past cannot continue to hurt you now unless you hold on to the pain through resentment. Your past is past! Nothing will change it. You are only hurting yourself with your bitterness. For your own sake, learn from it, and then let it go. God’s Word says, “To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.” 22
Many people are driven by fear. These fears may be a result of a traumatic experience, an unrealistic expectation, growing up in a high control home, or even genetic predisposition. Regardless of the cause, fear-driven people often miss great opportunities because they’re afraid to venture out. Instead, they play it safe, avoiding risks and trying to maintain the status quo. Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be. The only way to defeat fear is to move against it with the spiritual weapons of faith and love. The Bible says, “Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” 23
Many people are driven by materialism. Their desire to acquire becomes the whole goal of their lives. This drive to always get more is based on the misconception that having more will make me more happy, more important, and more secure—but all three ideas are untrue. Possessions only provide temporary happiness. Because things do not change, we eventually become bored with them and then want a newer, bigger, better version. It’s also a myth that if I get more, I will be more important. Self-worth and net worth are not the same. Your value is not determined by your valuables. God says the most valuable things in life are not things! The most common myth about money is that having more will make me more secure. It won’t. Wealth can be lost instantly through a variety of uncontrollable factors. Real security can only be found in that which can never be taken from you—your relationship to God.
Many people are driven by the need for approval. They allow the expectations of parents or spouses or children or teachers or friends to control their lives. Many adults are still trying to earn the approval of unpleasable parents. Others are driven by peer pressure, always worried by what others might think. Unfortunately, those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it. I don’t know all the keys to success, but one key to failure is to try to please everyone. Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God’s purposes for your life. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” 24
There are other forces that can drive your life, but they all lead to the same dead end: unused potential, unnecessary stress, and an unfulfilled life. That’s why nothing matters more than knowing God’s purpose for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing it— not success, wealth, fame, or pleasure. Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. Without a purpose, life is trivial, petty, and pointless. This booklet will introduce you to the five purposes you were created for, but first let’s look at some of the practical benefits of living a purpose-driven life:
Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life. We were made to have meaning. This is why people try dubious methods, like astrology or psychics, to discover it. When life has meaning, you can bear almost anything; without meaning, nothing is bearable. Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope. In the Bible, many different people expressed this hopelessness. Isaiah complained, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” 25
Job said, “My life drags by—day after hopeless day” 26 and “I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense.” 27 The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose. A young man in his twenties wrote, “I feel like a failure because I’m struggling to become something, and I don’t even know what it is. All I know how to do is to get by. Someday, if I discover my purpose, I’ll feel I’m beginning to live.” Hope is as essential to your life as air and water. You need hope to cope. Dr. Bernie Siegel found he could predict which of his cancer patients would go into remission by asking, “Do you want to live to be one hundred?” Those with a deep sense of life purpose answered yes and were the ones most likely to survive. Hope comes from having a purpose. If you have felt hopeless, hold on! Wonderful changes are going to happen in your life as you begin to live it on purpose. God says, “I know what I am planning for you.... I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.’” 28
You may feel you are facing an impossible situation, but the Bible says, “God . . . is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of— infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” 29
Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. It defines what you do and what you don’t do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren’t. You simply ask, “Does this activity help me fulfill one of God’s purposes for my life?” Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which to base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at that moment. People who don’t know their purpose try to do too much—and that causes stress, fatigue, and conflict. It is impossible to do everything people want you to do. You have just enough time to do God’s will. If you can’t get it all done, it means you’re trying to do more than God intended for you to do, or, possibly, that you’re wasting your time in some way. Purpose-driven living leads to a simpler lifestyle and a saner schedule. The Bible says, “A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.” 30 It also leads to peace of mind: “You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” 31
Knowing your purpose focuses your life. It concentrates your effort and energy on what’s important. You become effective by being selective. It’s human nature to get distracted by minor issues. We play Trivial Pursuit with our lives. Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of “quiet desperation,” but today a better description is aimless distraction. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere. Without a clear purpose you will keep changing directions, jobs, relationships, churches, or other externals—hoping each change will settle the confusion or fill the emptiness in your heart. You think, Maybe this time it will be different, but it doesn’t solve your real problem—a lack of focus and purpose. The Bible says, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” 32 The power of focusing can be seen in light. Diffused light has little power or impact, but you can concentrate its energy by focusing it. With a magnifying glass, the rays of the sun can be focused to set grass or paper on fire. When light is focused even more as a laser beam, it can cut through steel. There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose. The men and women who have made the greatest difference in history were the most focused. One of the most effective leaders in the Bible, St. Paul, said, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” 33 Have you done that? If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop dabbling. Stop trying to do it all. Do less. Prune away even good activities and do only what matters most. Never confuse activity with productivity. You can be busy without a purpose, but what’s the point? “Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.” 34
Knowing your purpose energizes your life. Purpose always produces passion. Nothing motivates like a clear purpose. On the other hand, passion dissipates when you lack a purpose. Just getting out of bed becomes a major chore. It is usually meaningless work, not overwork, that wears us down, saps our strength, and robs our joy. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity. Many people spend their lives trying to create a lasting legacy on earth. They want to be remembered when they’re gone. Yet, what ultimately matters will not be what others say about your life but what God says. What people fail to realize is that all achievements are eventually surpassed: records are broken, reputations fade, and tributes are forgotten. I once read of a college student whose only goal was to become the school’s tennis champion. He felt proud when his trophy was prominently placed in the school’s trophy cabinet. Years later, someone mailed him that trophy. They had found it in a trashcan when the school was remodeled! That man said, “Given enough time, all your trophies will be trashed by someone else!” He was right. Living to create an earthly legacy is a shortsighted goal. A wiser use of time is to build an eternal legacy. You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.
One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity. The Bible says, “Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. . . . Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.” 35 Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test, so he has given us the questions in advance. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions:
First, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” God won’t ask about your religious background or your doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 36 God wants you to get to know, love, and trust his Son, Jesus, whom he sent to earth to show us what God is like and to forgive and save us.
Second, “What did you do with your life?” What did you do with all that God gave you—all your gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them to fulfill God’s purposes for your life? Preparing you for these two questions is the goal of this booklet. The first question will determine where you spend eternity—with God or separated from God. The second question will determine what you do in eternity—your responsibilities and rewards in heaven. By the end of this you will be ready to answer both questions.
Point to Ponder:
What drives your life?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
If you asked your family and friends to describe what drives your life, what driving force or motivations would they mention?
Why do you think most people are not driven and guided by the purpose of their lives?
What habits, or hurts, or hang-ups, or fears might keep you from beginning to live out and enjoy God’s purpose for your life?