Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Living with a Magnificent Obsession

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:1-2)

Pentecost Sunday is in a few days' time, this coming Sunday to be precise. Occurring about 50 days after Easter, this day is remembered as the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples who were meeting together as a church. It stirred up a great revival and led to a movement that changed the world forever. This is what turned out to be a magnificent obsession. A passion for sharing the glory of God with anyone, and everyone.

The American author, entrepreneur, and a philanthropist called Napoleon Hill calls the "magnificent obsession" as one that uses one's entire resource to help make the world a better place for all. In his book of the same name, he writes,

"Develop an obsession — a Magnificent Obsession — to help others. Share yourself without expecting a reward, payment, or commendation. And above all else — keep your good turn a secret. And, if you do this, you will set in motion the powers of a universal law. For, try as you will to avoid payment for your good deed — blessings and rewards will be showered upon you." (Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1987, 228-9)
Wow. What a legacy of giving. What a way to desire to bless others with all.

I am not crazy over success seminars. Yet, I am keenly aware that many of the inspiring thoughts are essential for good mental health. If in doubt, always let the Bible be the reference. I have two thoughts with regards to such 'magnificent obsession.' Firstly, I support this attitude of desiring to help others. It is a noble thing. One does not need to justify having such a desire. It is an in-built emotion in all of us. It is a reflection of us being made in the image of God. I like Hill's attitude of not expecting anything in return even as we give all of ourselves away. It reminds me of how Napoleon Hill himself, bequesting his money away through the Napoleon Hill Foundation, which expressly states its mission as: "Our mission is to make this world a better place in which to live."

Secondly, we need to take a step back periodically to check our motives. Like the popular saying, too much of a good thing is not that good, just like having too much honey or salt on our food. The wise proverbs teach us.

"Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint." (Proverbs 23:4)

This proverb will help us put things and life in perspective. Even when we have a "magnificent obsession" to do all the good that we can, we need to show restraint by letting the Holy Spirit direct us always. How much to make? When to earn? What to give? Who to share? It is one thing to make it our ambition to give away all our possessions. It is yet another to trust the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. Far better than having riches in our hands to give away is to have a rich heart that we learn to give not only our possessions, but ourselves away. This is the way of Christ. Disciples are to follow Him in thought, word, and deed.

When the Spirit of the Lord moves, great things happen. It is far better than a magnificent obsession. It becomes a great mission. While the efforts of Napoleon Hill tries to make this world a better place to live in, the efforts of disciples of Christ go much farther. It includes a world that is beyond the current world.


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