Bro. James brought a challenging and convicting message from Philippians chapter 1 on New Years’ Eve. Here’s the gist of the sermon.
Philippians 1:21-24 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
As Christians, we can understand what Paul expressed as his desire to depart and be with Christ. We all have a certain longing for the day when we are absent from this body and present with our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Many times, when faced with a terminal illness or the onset of old age or some tragic accident, God’s children testify of a readiness to take that journey through the valley of the shadow of death, knowing the Good Shepherd will lead them safely through.
Oftentimes, they also testify of what makes that departure so difficult. Understandably it’s the loved ones they’ll be forced to leave behind – a husband, a wife, a child, a grandchild, a parent, etc. We know that death is but a temporary separation for those who know the Lord, but the love we have for the people with whom we share our lives day in and day out kind of serves to counter that whole desire to depart and be with Christ thing. And I don’t believe there’s anything necessarily wrong with that.
Here’s what’s amazing about Philippians 1. Paul was in a strait betwixt two. His desire to depart and be with Christ is evident throughout the book of Acts and the other epistles he penned, but he was torn between that and the need to abide in the flesh. But by what? What tied him to this earth when he had a “far better” situation awaiting him in heaven? It wasn’t a husband. It wasn’t a wife. It wasn’t a son or daughter. It wasn’t father or mother. But it was a love as strong as FAMILY for his brothers and sisters IN CHRIST. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful FOR YOU.
The passage goes on to read, And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue WITH YOU all for YOUR furtherance and joy of faith; That YOUR rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming TO YOU again.
To Paul, “Brother” was more than a name he used when he couldn’t remember someone’s name. It meant FAMILY. And the love he had for his spiritual brethren was enough to tie him to this earth. “Yeah, I’d sure like to go to heaven and be with the Lord, but if it means a temporary situation from my brothers and sisters, then I’ll just stay down here a while longer. I’ve gotta help further their joy and their faith.”
Wow! Talk about convicting! I don’t know about you, but I don’t even come close to measuring up to that mark. God grant that my attachment to this earth be due to more than just flesh and blood relationships. God give me that kind of love for my brothers and sisters in Christ.