"Magnificent obsession." I read that expression recently, describing Paul's use of the phrase "in Christ".
Selwyn Hughes wrote: "Paul just couldn't refrain from using it (the phrase "in Christ"). We have 13 letters written by Paul, some of which are very short. Philemon is no more than a page. And yet, in this precious collection of letters, this myriad-minded man, whose writing was at times of a high literary standard, uses this one phrase no less than 164 times. What a great deal it must have meant to him."
The phrase sums up a core of Paul's revelation - that the final divide in our fallen world is not race, colour, economic status, political party or whatever. The divide is in or out of Jesus. For time and eternity that is the only dividing line for each and every human being.
That statement and the magnificent comments by Selwyn Hughes surrounding it at the same time cause two fundamental questions to spring to my mind.
The first question is to ask whether Paul had any other "magnificent obsessions". I think he did. In Romans 15:15-16, Paul states: "Because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." Then in verse 20, he adds: "And so I have made it my aim to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named..."
That was another magnificent obsession of Paul's. It was something he was so adamant about, this call of God on his life to reach the unreached of other nations. Towards the end of his life, in one of my favourite verses, he states: "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19). That was the vision that was given to him on the road to Damascus and later in the city in Acts 9. He was passionate about this costly, courageous vision, and willing to die for it. He lived to fulfil this "obsession" that the Spirit of God had placed in his heart.
My second question follows naturally. What is my "magnificent obsession"? On this website you can read of some of our team's "magnificent obsessions". For example, Ian's passion to serve our ministry by putting Christian teaching books into the hands of Chinese believers, whether dealing with individuals in need, or with hundreds of thousands of believers hungry for the Word of God. Ian has been faithful to that vision for so many years.
You can read of David's passion to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the forgotten in Chinese society. The team that works with him is making a difference in so many lives as they carry in their hearts and actions that vision and passion.
You can read of ‘M & C's vision to reach young students with the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ, to parent those students into what it means to be "in Christ" through the blood of the cross. As they sometimes carry their ageing limbs into the Chinese countryside to reach students and their families, they are not comfortable. But the passion drives them on.
And you can read of other "magnificent obsessions" in these pages. The team that prepares these articles also runs with their vision to help the cry of China's church and people to come to you.
But that brings me back to my second question, in a slightly different form. What is your "magnificent obsession"? In another place recently I spoke of the OMF DVD "Breakthrough" which tells how, facing huge odds, J O Fraser reached the Lisu people of China and saw an amazing move of God amongst them, which lasts till today. That passion came because God spoke to him as a university student and challenged him as to what answer he would give concerning the unreached in his generation. That caused him to give up a successful career that he was about to begin as an engineer in the UK and possibly as a concert pianist. It is my prayer as you read this magazine and the testimonies in it that God will speak in your heart in the same way as he spoke into J O Fraser's heart. And that He'll do it again in my heart and the hearts of those who serve in Antioch Missions-Chinese Church Support Ministries.
"Lord, please don't just visit us with Your blessing. Visit us with "magnificent obsessions" in our day."