Philippians 1:23, 24
For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:…
St. Paul is in a strait between his personal desire to depart and be with Christ, and his unselfish willingness to remain on earth for the good of the Church.
I. THE PERSONAL DESIRE TO DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST. This is no mere sentimental yearning for death, such as very young people sometimes dream about. St. Paul is an old man, and old men commonly cling to life. He is in bonds, however; he has fought a good fight; he feels the weariness of a life of extraordinary hardship and toil; soberly, earnestly, reverently, he longs to be with Christ.
1. St. Paul had a gram! faith in the future life. He was not; simply resigned, he longed for the great change. His was not Hamlet's wish -
"To die, - to sleep,-
No mere; and, by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to." Many have devoutly wished for this consummation, longing only to be at peace, "where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." St. Paul's great desire was positive - life with Christ.
2. The essential Christian blessedness is to be with Christ. We know exceedingly little about the future life. When we pass from rhetorical images to distinct facts, the chief, almost the only, thing we know is that Christians will be with Christ (John 14:3).
"My knowledge of that life is small, -
The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him." Note:
(1) Only they who have followed Christ on earth can dwell with Christ in heaven.
(2) Only they who have loved Christ on earth can rejoice to depart and be with Christ in heaven. It is far better to depart, just because, and only because, Christ is far dearer than all earthly things; for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.
II. THE UNSELFISH WILLINGNESS TO REMAIN ON EARTH TO SERVE THE CHURCH. St. Paul was resigned to life. His conception of Christianity was unselfish service. Men sometimes ask - Why are not Christians taken straight to heaven out of the troubles and temptations of this world? One reason for remaining here is their own discipline. Another is the work they have to do. As Christ came into the world to bless mankind, Christians are retained in the world that they may be the salt of the earth. But they should remember that they are pilgrims and strangers; in the world, but not of it; serving the world, but looking for their greatest joy above it. Let every man ask him-self - Is it for the good of my fellow-men that I should be continued in life? How many useful lives are cut down! How many cumberers of the ground are spared by the long-suffering mercy of God, in the hope that they may yet bear fruit, though at the eleventh hour! - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: