By Jess DrummondWednesday 8 Mar 202396five DRIVEBooks & LiteratureReading Time: 3 minutes
If you’ve ever doubted that kindness and encouragement have the power to change the course of history, Bill Sutcliffe’s story is a reminder of the life-changing impact that each of us can have on another person.
In his memoir, Driven, Bill Sutcliffe shares his journey of overcoming a rough start in his life to achieve extraordinary things and help thousands of people along the way.
He’s told 96five’s Jess Drummond it was initially very confronting to reflect on his experiences, but he felt it was important to do so.
“For the wider readership’s sake [it’s important] for there to be an understanding of not just the what of happenings, but why – and in life and ministry, I’ve found that also,” Bill Sutcliffe said.
From a young age, Bill experienced a turbulent home life marked by poverty, petty crime, and various forms of abuse from certain family members. After losing an eye as a toddler in an act of domestic violence, Bill was also bullied throughout his school years. In the midst of overwhelming distress and feelings of worthlessness, an act of kindness towards Bill changed his life.
“It was Mr Godfrey who sowed again vital seeds in my life by telling me finally, ‘Bill, prove them wrong. People have been putting you down all your life and you have reacted – often counterproductively – but what you need to do is prove them wrong. They think that you’ll never do anything much or become anything much – prove them wrong!’ And that’s why I think I’ve been driven ever since, really – for that purpose.”
Despite an initial aversion to Christianity due to what he perceived to be hypocrisy among churchgoers, Bill came to faith in Christ just after his 21st birthday, with the support of a caring group of youths in St George, Queensland. Bill and his brother had intended to use the town as a temporary stop on a working holiday, but it was there that Bill met Bev, who would later become his wife.
“It was Bev who pointed me in the right direction of real life, of Christian life, of life with Jesus as the real, deep, only lasting resource in my life, as far as I’m concerned,” Bill said.
After Bill’s conversion, he studied at Melbourne Bible Institute, and during that time he realised that he particularly had a heart for people that society had written off, including the marginalised, the homeless, and those with drug and alcohol addictions. After spending some time working at a Melbourne drop-in centre, he worked at Ballarat City Mission, where he became the youngest superintendent in its history. Although Bill says it was confronting to see elements of his past playing out in the people he worked with, he says it has also been therapeutic.
One of the profound impacts that Bill’s faith has had on his life is the ability to forgive the people who mistreated him.
“In a sense, it wasn’t even me – it was Jesus’ Spirit in me Who was doing the forgiving and doing the loving.”
“Jesus is so faithful – He is the deep resource that everybody needs. Without Him, we can do nothing of lasting value.”
Bill’s wisdom has been hard-earned, and one of his key messages in the book is that when you realise that someone else thinks you have potential, you’ll start believing it yourself.
Driven deals with confronting topics including domestic and family violence, alcoholism, [physical and sexual] abuse of a minor and suicidal ideation/thoughts of self-harm.
Driven by Bill Sutcliffe is available now.
Listen to the full interview in the player above.