A Magnificent Obsession Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
We’ll know it when Jesus has become everything to us, since He will become as natural to our lives as breathing. And He will take all the struggles of life away. Oh, the problems will be there, but they won’t defeat us any more. The question will no longer be “How big is the problem?” Rather, it becomes, “How big is my God.” Friends, nothing, and no one is as big as He is.
I used to go to a church in Iowa that had a pastor whose favorite saying was, “Your arms are too short to box with God.” Just think about that for a moment. It is amazing that the King of the universe is on our side. I have already stated that PAUL WAS OBSESSED WITH JESUS, so now let’s see what happened to make him that way.
Before he met Jesus on the way to Damascus, Paul had been obsessed with the legalism of the Pharisees. He must have come from a well to do family, since he attended the best school and was taught by Gamaliel, who was a highly regarded teacher. He had studied the Old Testament his whole life, and he did his very best to keep all the commands of God. He said of himself that he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, meaning he was obsessed with being a good Pharisee. However, this obsession made him hard, critical and mean. He believed that the new religion called Christianity was of the devil and that it was his job to stamp it out. The result was that he became the most feared persecutor of Christians of the first century. He dragged Christian men and women from their homes, and put them in prison or saw to it that they would never again be a problem, as he did with Stephen. Paul’s priority in life became defending Judaism against what he saw as a threat by this new religion. It’s no different today; whatever has the major priority in our lives determines our attitude towards everything else.
Let me return to the story of the girl who wanted to be a champion gymnast. She was obsessed with the idea, but her mother was also possessed by the same vision that her daughter would someday win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. What did she do? She went in debt to pay for lessons, and the cost of traveling to contests. She mortgaged their home so her daughter could live close to her coach. By-the-way, that was hundreds of miles away, therefore, she wasn’t able to see her very often. She gave up everything, because she was obsessed with the vision she shared with her daughter. It’s clear that this mother thought only of her daughter’s future. If things don’t work out, the way she wants them to, her life may come to an end.
Paul’s attitude changed at the same time his life was changed. It happened on the Damascus Road, just outside that great city. That’s where he met Jesus in a face-to-face encounter. He was struck blind by the Lord. He couldn’t see for several days, until God sent a man to restore his sight. That was a miracle, but there was an even greater miracle that took place as Paul knelt on that dusty road and cried out to Jesus and called Him “Lord.” That’s when he lost sight of a lesser goal and gained the greater one. Later, he had this to say, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ."
Jesus makes everything else cheap and unimportant, by comparison. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Paul says that since the moment of his conversion he lived for Christ. He had suffered the loss of all things. But, Jesus Christ is uppermost in his thinking.
The things he used to consider most precious he now considers to be garbage. In the King James Bible, the word used here is “dung.” That’s strong language. He says he flushes his religion down the drain. He flushes away all the things he used to trust. Now he trusts the Lord Jesus and Him only, for his salvation. Today a great many people need to lose their religion and find Jesus the way Paul did.
Finally, I want you to see that Paul became obsessed with Jesus.
Paul talked about Jesus everywhere he went. Today, people have a lot of different interests and they are ready to talk about them. Sports, families, the war on terrorism and politics are always topics that interest Americans. But, I have discovered that the closer a person is to God, the more he wants to talk about Jesus. I find that it is difficult to talk to anyone very long, before I bring up Jesus. That’s the way it is when He is on your mind and in your heart.
Paul burned out his life running around the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the epistles he wrote, he talks about all the hardships he faced, and it’s a long list. He suffered for Jesus, but he never complained, since he was obsessed with Him. He had set his sights on a higher objective; he wanted more than anything to gain heaven and to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
One illustration of Paul’s obsession with Jesus is that it inspired him to make the missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts. He would never have worked so hard and placed himself in so much danger, unless he was obsessed by the idea of serving the Lord.
Everything Paul did had one goal, and that was to lift up Jesus. Oh, he had opportunities to promote himself, if he chose to do so. For instance, there was the occasion when those in one of the cities he visited thought he was a god, because of a miracle they witnessed. But Paul said, “I am just a man the same as you.”
There must have been some who looked at Paul’s life and said, “He had such great potential as a Pharisee, why did he waste it all by becoming a Christian?” But Paul didn’t see it that way, and neither do I. You see, Paul’s activity was not meaningless effort from the head. It was the burning ambition of his heart.
We need to be people like Paul—obsessed by the desire to experience more and more of Jesus. The more we become obsessed with Jesus, the more we will share Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:7-11. There’s a hymn we sing that reflects our desire to know more about Jesus.
Let’s conclude with the words of that hymn.
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.