In a world replete with a myriad of options, Oklahoma Baptist University Provost Stan Norman challenged the OBU student body to buck the trend and simplify, choosing to focus on one life goal only: knowing Jesus Christ.
Speaking to an auditorium full of students on the first day of classes, Norman presented the first chapel message of the 2009-10 academic year Wednesday, Aug. 26, in OBU's Raley Chapel. Drawing from the Apostle Paul's writing in Philippians 3:7-16, Norman urged the students to seize the pursuit of the knowledge of Christ as life's unending passion.
"It's remarkable to me when I consider who the Apostle Paul was," he said. "If anyone in the New Testament should be able to say, 'I have arrived. I have attained the ultimate expression of a life of passion of knowing (Jesus), I think it would be Paul."
In the Scripture passage, Paul confesses that he has failed to attain such a level of knowing Christ, and that it will be a lifetime quest to know Christ fully.
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"We all stand at the same place," Norman said. "This is life's unending passion - and we're not there. This is a lifetime pursuit. As long as you are breathing, you will be on this journey if you're a professed follower of Christ."
Norman indicated the passion to know Christ is not only a lifelong mission, but it also is an insatiable pursuit. He said the Scripture indicates pursuing personal knowledge of Jesus Christ is cyclical - the more a person knows, the more a person hungers to know about Jesus.
"When we are on this pursuit - this lifetime, passionate pursuit of knowing Christ - you never get full of Him. It is intense, it is life-consuming and it is God-induced."
In a contemporary example, Norman referred to the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who had trained both as a vocalist and a teacher. Pavarotti said upon graduating from teaching school, he asked his father if he should be a singer or a teacher. His father replied that, for life, a person must choose one chair.
"I chose one," Pavarotti had recounted. "It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book - whatever we choose - we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair."
Norman told the students that being at OBU - attending classes, participating in extracurricular activities and other aspects of student life - is no excuse for not moving forward in the pursuit of Christ. He urged the students to put aside the impression that a hectic lifestyle is a sign of spiritual maturity. He said the singular pursuit of the Apostle Paul was to know Christ.
"We tend to think spiritual maturity in life is having multiple 'chairs,'" Norman said. "Paul said those of us who are mature in life understand it's not about if you have a lot of 'chairs' in your life. It's if you have the one (that matters.) Once you become aware that the main business you're here for is to know God, life's problems fall into place of their own accord.
"One chair. One thing: to know Him. That is the purpose for your life."