When I was struggling in my Greek class in college, my professor gave me an article from the Omaha World Herald titled “Top Performers Success Linked With Drive, Not Talent.” The date was February 18, 1985. I still have the article. The article explains the results of a 5-year study of 120 of the nation’s top artists, athletes and scholars and concluded that “drive and determination, not great natural talent, led to their extraordinary success.” Many brilliant mathematicians were rarely the best in their class. Olympic swimmers reported memories of getting clobbered in races as 10-year old’s. But these swimmers went on to get up at 5:30 every morning to swim two hours before school, and then swim two hours after school to reach their Olympic goals.
So, I think my Greek professor could tell that although I struggled with the Greek language, it was not beyond me to do well, so he gave me that article. That was a significant moment it my maturity (there were many!).
So, drive and determination may help in passing Greek, but are they helpful spiritually? It depends on what you are driven and determined to do.
No matter how many times I read the book of Judges, I’m still shocked at the utter abandonment of God by Israel. As we read their shockingly sad and dysfunctional stories from over 3,000 years downstream, and half a world away, it’s hard to fathom the how’s and why’s of what happened.
It’s as if they thought successful possession of the Promised Land was based on their own drive and determination. It was not. Their success was based on their obedience to the covenant God has established with them.
“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).
They were not to be disciplined and determined to conquer the Promised Land. They were to be disciplined and determined to remember God and His Word. That’s easy to get backwards.
Having forgotten to be devoted to God and His covenant, they devolved into the likeness of the godless nations that surrounded them. The bottom line is that Israel forgot. They forgot to remember what God had said about success.
Remembering isn’t an accident. If we don’t intentionally try to remember, we’ll inevitably forget.
No one wakes up with a solid marriage of 50 years, with children and perhaps grandchildren that love and respect God and their parents on accident. Of all the times I’ve stood on the podium after a mountain bike race, it was never an accident. No, our best achievements come as a result of intentional drive and determination - a series of deliberate focused choices of a narrow path over the broad path, of a more difficult path over an easier path, and saying “no” to many other good things. Victors are driven by a bigger “yes” that helps them make sacrificial decisions on a daily basis. Those daily choices of discipline shape us and pave the path to a very distinct future that is very different from the easy or popular path that leads to defeat and despair.
As Believers, we are to remember who God is and what He’s said. True victory comes not from our own drive or determination, but on dependence on God. We are not to be driven to own sense of victory, but driven to be dependent on Him.
What are you driven or determined to do today?