Between a Rock and a Sweet Spot

To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Philippians 1:21-24

Do you remember visiting family when you were a child? Perhaps some visits were met with dread because the person you were visiting wasn’t someone you felt close to or warmed to. But then there were the special visits with those you really loved. Maybe you were greeted at their door with a hug or the smell of freshly baked cookies. You couldn’t wait to see them! They were precious to you, and you looked forward to being in their presence.

For the apostle Paul, Jesus was such a person. Paul was joyful, even while imprisoned, because of what Christ meant to him. He looked forward to the prospect of being ushered into His presence. Jesus was his all in all.

Can you and I say the same about Jesus? Or is our joy earthly, fixed on temporal matters like our marriages, children, livelihoods, or influence? If all that thrills your soul and all that forms your identity is wrapped up in worldly matters, then being with Jesus loses its allure. So we would be wise to remember that our identity is found in Him, because one day everything else will be left behind.

You may have heard of someone being so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly use. Well, we can also be so earthly-minded that we’re no heavenly use. Sometimes, we are tempted to want things like perfect health, an end to sorrow, and life without any uncertainty right now. The reality is that we are going to lose loved ones, receive dreadful hospital reports, or face disappointment and disaster. But that is all part of the now. Paul’s dilemma in this letter was balancing the now with the next. Although he desired to depart, it was not so that he could escape his current circumstances. He certainly endured many difficult trials, but for him, heaven was not simply relief from earthly suffering. He was not shuffling off life to embrace death; he longed to be with Jesus because he knew it would be fantastic.

Living faithfully in the present while anticipating the reality of being with Jesus is something we all have to work out. Paul recognized that while he still drew breath, he was to continue steadfastly in his earthly ministry until Christ called him home to heaven. So spend some moments considering Christ in all His loving perfections. Then spend some time enjoying the great truth that one day you will see Him as He welcomes you into His glory. Then reflect on the truth that the doorway to that moment is death. This is your future. One day, it will be your present. And until then, you can do what Paul did and live all in for Christ, knowing that death will be only gain.


Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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