Do you have a magnificent obsession? This was the question posed to me recently by a Professor addressing my grad school. He impressed upon us this quote:
We communists suffer many casualties. We are those whom they shoot, hang, lynch, tar and feather, imprison, slander, fire from our jobs and whose lives people make miserable in every way possible. Some of us are killed and imprisoned. We live in poverty. From what we earn we turn over to the Party every cent which we do not absolutely need to live. We communists have neither time nor money to go to movies very often, nor for concerts, nor for beautiful homes and new cars. They call us fanatics. We are fanatics. Our lives are dominated by one supreme factor-the struggle for world communism. We communists have a philosophy of life that money could not buy.
We have a cause to fight for, a specific goal in life. We lose our insignificant identities in the great river of humanity; and if our personal lives seem hard, or if our egos seem bruised through subordination to the Party, we are amply rewarded-in the thought that all of us, even though it be in a very small way, are contributing something new and better for humanity.
There is one thing about which I am completely in earnest-the communist cause. It is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife, my mistress, my meat and drink. I work at it by day and dream of it by night. Its control over me grows greater with the passage of time. Therefore I cannot have a friend, a lover or even a conversation without relating them to this power that animates and controls my life. I measure people, books, ideas, and deeds according to the way they affect the communist cause and by their attitude to it. I have already been in jail for my ideas, and if need be, I am ready to face death.1
This was written by an American communist in Mexico City a few decades ago in a letter he wrote to his fiancee, breaking his engagement with her.
Notice the passionate commitment which governed this mans’ life.You may read this man’s words and disagree with his cause. But one thing you can’t disagree with is the extraordinary level of passion he had for the cause he believed was worth dying for.
Do you have anything worth dying for in your life? Do you have a magnificent obsession?
A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak at my church on the cost and worth of following Jesus. I was nervous to the point of shaking just before I spoke. It was the first time I spoke a full message at a church in my life. Given the topic I was speaking on, I knew that I was making myself accountable to practicing what I preached. If I didn’t, I would bring dishonor to the name of Jesus. Then I remember listening to the song a musician at our church sang just before I was about to go up. Nervous, shaking, I heard these words which clarified the meaning of my life: “You can have all this world, you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” What I sensed then and know today is that Jesus is of greater worth to me than all this world has to offer me. Jesus has become my magnificent obsession.
Jesus uses the example of someone who has discovered the kingdom of heaven in order to describe a magnificent obsession. “The kingdom of heaven” was a phrase Jesus used often to describe God’s work of opening us up to the meaning of life, so that we experience life as it was meant to be. Here he describes the incomparable worth of discovering his kingdom. He says:
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it (Matt. 13:45-46).
It may seem irrational to us for this man to sell everything he has to obtain one precious pearl. Yet this is exactly the point Jesus is making, that it is irrational to us because we can’t see the value, the surpassing worth and beauty of what this man sees. And so we cannot understand his obsession. Jesus is describing what’s it like for someone to discover him and his kingdom. It is like coming across the most valuable thing you’ve ever seen, only it is far better. In beholding the beauty, worth, and glory of Jesus and his kingdom, one becomes changed, transformed by the most magnificent of all obsessions.
Do you have a magnificent obsession?
1 White, John. The Cost Of Commitment. Leicester : Inter-Varsity Press, 1976. Print.