But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;Philippians 1:23(NASB)
Paul was a man that loved His Lord with a passion that is rarely seen today, and he simply longed to be with His Saviour, but Paul also had a deep compulsion to tell others about the One Person Who could save and sanctify a lost sinner. Paul had a dilemma. Is it better to live or is it better to die?
Death held no dread for Paul, for he knew that his physical death is simply a gateway into the eternal presence of the glorified Lord, Whom he loved so dearly. But He also knew that God had commissioned him as an apostle of the gospel - indeed he had been entrusted with many important truths for the Church of God - truths which had been hidden in past ages and generations.
Paul's longing to be with Jesus far surpassed his eagerness to remain in this mortal coil. He had a desire to depart this life, knowing that his death would usher him into the presence of the Lord. Most people dread the approach of the grim reaper, and those that do desire death, often view it as the lesser of two evils... in a world that has pushed them to the brink of despair, due to life's cruelties and difficulties.
But although Paul's hunger to be with the Lord caused him to view death as a welcome gift, the stark reality of a lost world, in desperate need of a preacher to bring the good news of the glorious gospel of the grace of God to a fallen race.. and the urgent demand for a teacher to train up the body of Christ in the life of faith, caused this conflict in his thinking. "I am hard-pressed from both directions," he wrote, "having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better." Nevertheless, for Paul to remain in the flesh was more necessary for the Christian Church and lost souls.
Death is generally an approaching reality that most people try to defer for as long as possible, while those who wish to die, are too often overwhelmed by life's problems and pain, gripped by fear, immersed in depression, and weary of the cruelty and aggression with which they are surrounded, but Paul's desire to depart was the blessed hope of leaving this fallen world and going to be with Christ - forever. Paul knew that when we see Him we shall be like Him - dressed in immortality and free from the curse of sin.
Paul was hard-pressed to know which of the two courses would bring the most glory to the Father - and although he longed to depart to be with the Lord Jesus, Whom he loved so dearly.. this faithful apostle knew in his heart that it was to everyone's advantage for him to remain on earth and to finish the good work that God had prepared for him to do.
God had placed Paul exactly in the location that He had chosen for him to preach the Word.. just as the Lord has put each one of us in the place where He wants us to be. And just as God called His chosen apostle-to-the-Gentiles home at his appointed time, so the Lord will do the same for each one of us. But in the meantime, let us like Paul, finish the good work that God has given us to do.. and let us do it in the place where He has planted us.
In Psalms we read, "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints", but how precious for us to know that our times are in God's hands and He will one day call us home, to be with Himself, at His appointed time and in His appointed way.
Let us like Paul, determine to fulfil the work that God has given us to do, while we look for that blessed hope, and watch with excited anticipation, for Christ's any-day appearance to take us to be with Himself. In the meantime, let us occupy until He comes - to His praise and glory as we see the day approaching.
Loving Father, I long to be with Jesus and I long to live for Jesus. Enable me to live a life that is honouring to You. And I pray that I may so set my heart on You, that the things of the world have no attraction for me, as my eyes remain fixed firmly on You. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.