Summary: Our hope and confidence
To Stay or not to Stay, That is the Question
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
I was driving down the road the other day when this verse of scripture came to my mind.
As I began to think about these words of the Apostle Paul, I got a little inspired!
As we all know Paul was a great Christian leader taking a vital part in the establishment of the early church.
Paul saw many victories and successes, but he also experienced a lot of disappointments and failures.
His ministry played a vital role in the propulsion of the early church, giving the church encouragement, edification and spiritual direction and supervision.
He endured numerous conflicts and oppositions because of the gospel of Jesus Christ in which he preached so passionately.
You see, Paul had an encounter with Jesus Christ! He had a clear and precise understanding of who Jesus was. He understood the purpose for which Jesus came to earth to do.
So his ministry was important and essential to the early church.
They needed his spiritual discernment and sensitivity to help the church push forward.
So here in our text Paul is writing to the Philippians with a bit of indecisiveness.
He can’t make up his mind what he wants to do!
He says, “I find myself in a unique situation here. I have a burning desire to depart and be with Christ, but at the same time I know I am needed here.”
You see, Paul knew that to depart from this earth was to be immediately with the Lord.
2 Cor. 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Paul was persuaded beyond all doubt that when his life ended he would be walking the streets of gold in glory land.
In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul writes, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
Paul had no doubt that to be absent from this body was to be present with Lord.
Paul had seen this place called the third heaven in 2 Cor. Chapter 12.
Paul says he was caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words that were unlawful for him to utter, or words that were so holy that he could not speak them on earth.
You see there are three heavens, there is the first heaven, or the aerial, including the clouds and the atmosphere, the heavens above us, until we come to the stars.
(2.) The starry heavens--the heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars appear to be situated.
(3.) The heavens beyond the stars. That heaven was supposed to be the residence of God, of angels, and of holy spirits. It was this upper heaven, the dwelling-place of God, to which Paul was taken, and whose wonders he was permitted to behold--this region where God dwelt, where Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, and where the spirits of the just were assembled.
No wonder Paul had a desire to depart, which he said is far better.
Oh church, if we could get this into our spirits today!
To understand what Paul is unfolding here!
You see Paul lived a life of beneficial value to God.
He looked forward to being in heaven with Christ where there is no more sorrow, no more pain, no more struggles, no more battles, no more persecutions, no more trials, no more tribulations, no more troubles, no more sickness, and no more death!
But he knew that until God called him to enter into that rest, he had an obligation to live for Christ down here.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he said.
Commentator Phillip Doddridge wrote concerning our passage text, “For I am, as it were, borne two different ways, having, on the one hand, a more earnest I desire, out of regard to my own immediate happiness, to be unbound; to weigh anchor, as it were and quitting these mortal shores, set sail for that happy world where I shall be immediately with Christ, which is better, beyond all comparison and expression than a longer abode here would be, were I to regard only my own immediate comfort and happiness.”