Summary: Paul's point is that when your life is devoted to the highest you can't lose, for even if you die it is not loss, but gain. Fanaticism for Christ is the only perfect fanaticism, for it is the only fanaticism that is a no lose situation.
In Tiger Of The Snows Tenzig Norgay is a fanatic for mountain
climbing. He and a British companion were going to climb Mt.
Everest. His wife did not share his enthusiasm, and she felt he was
obsessed. "You are a dare devil," she said, "And you care nothing
about what your death would do to me or the children." He
responded, "Of course I care...but this is my work-my life." She
said, "But you are crazy. You will kill yourself on this mountain.
You will die." "All right," he said, "I will die!" For to him, to live
was to climb Mt. Everest. His life revolved around that mountain,
and it was better to die than not to climb it.
This is the kind of fanaticism that gives us our adventurers and
heroes. You have to be something of a fanatic to be spectacular at
anything. In sports, in music, in art, in education of all kinds, and in
business, the best are people who are obsessed with their field of
expertise. Show me the half-hearted heroes; show me the goof-off
gold metal holders; show me the lackadaisical super successes in any
realm of human endeavor, and I'll change my tune. But until then
I'll face this reality-fanatics are the winners.
The explorers, trailblazers, pioneers, and prophets of history
have always been called fanatics. But before we leap on this
fanatical band wagon, we need to see the other side. Fanaticism is
also the curse of history as well as the source of great blessings.
Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were also fanatics, as were most of the
tyrants of history. So we see that fanaticism works for evil as well as
for good. So the value of fanaticism is determined by the cause. If
you are fanatical for an evil cause, you will be successfully evil. If
you are fanatical for a superficial cause, you will be successfully
superficial. If you are fanatical for a good cause, you will be
This makes Paul the supreme fanatic, for in Phil. 1:21 he sums up
his life in this simple statement, "For to me-to live is Christ and to
die is gain." This is the ultimate fanaticism, for it is an all out
commitment to the highest cause. Paul's point is that when your life
is devoted to the highest you can't lose, for even if you die it is not
loss, but gain. Fanaticism for Christ is the only perfect fanaticism,
for it is the only fanaticism that is a no lose situation.
History is filled with religious fanatics who did not please God,
but brought His wrath down on them. Jesus blasted the Pharisees
for being religious fanatics in Matt. 23. Listen to just one of the 7
woes in that chapter. In verse 15 Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers
of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and
sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him
twice as much a son of hell as you are." Religious fanatics are the
worst, and they make earth a part of hell. Paul was one of these
Pharisee fanatics. He persecuted Jews who loved Jesus. He
imprisoned them and killed them in his zeal for his religious
convictions. For him to live was the law. This led him to be a cruel
and violent man. This is a test of the valued or vicious fanatic. The
vicious fanatic will bring horror to others, but the valued fanatic will
bring healing and help to others. Paul hurt people by his
pre-Christian fanaticism, but when he came to Christ, he became a
fanatic who brought life and health everywhere he went.
Paul meant by this statement, "For me to live is Christ," that his
life would be an extension of the life of Christ. He will use me as an
instrument to keep doing in this world what He did when He walked
this earth in the flesh. He will give life and health, and be merciful
in aiding all who cross His path. For me to live is Christ means my
body is His body, subject to His Spirit, and doing what He would do
in the same situation. That is the beautiful fanaticism that God
wants to see in each of our lives. This is radically different from
being a religious fanatic, and one who is obnoxious because you are
obsessed with trying to force everybody to buy into your agenda.
Even your Christian friends do not like this kind of offensive
fanaticism. It is one part of the body trying to get all the other parts
to conform to it. This is offensive because it is counter to God's will
which is for the body to be diverse with many gifts. And eye that