For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:…
I. ST. PAUL'S STRAIT. His soul was as a ship between two winds, tossed up and down; as iron between two loadstones, drawn first one way and then another. The people of God are often in great straits. Some things are so exceedingly bad that without deliberation we ought to abominate them; some things so good that we should immediately cling to them; others again are of a doubtful nature, requiring our best consideration, as Paul's here.
II. ONE GROUND OF THIS STRAIT WAS HIS PRESENT DESIRE.
1. I have a desire. When there is anything set before the soul having a magnetical force to draw out the motives thereof we call that a desire, even though for the present the soul desires it not. This desire was —
(2) It came from a taste of sweetness in communion with Christ.
(3) Constant. "I have," I carry it about with me.
(4) Efficacious, not the will of a sluggard, but one which carried him through death itself.
2. I desire to depart.
(1) There must be a parting from the enjoyment of the creature, from the body, from friends.
(2) There was to be a departing also. Here we cannot stay long; away we must; we are for another place (Psalm 90:2). Paul labours to sweeten so harsh a thing by comfortable expressions of it — sleep, going home, etc.
3. I desire to be with Christ.
(1) Why doth he not say heaven? Because heaven is not heaven without Christ, but He is the heaven of heaven. Every creature is best in its own element; Christ is the element of the Christian. If, therefore, death is a passage to Him, what is there in it to be feared? (1 Corinthians 3:22).
(2) There is none but a Christian who can desire death, for to be with Christ is perfect holiness.
4. The consummation of this desire would be far better than anything or everything else. God reserves the best for the last. The Christian is happy in life, happier in death, happiest in heaven.
5. How shall we attain this desire? Let us carry ourselves as Paul did (chap. Philippians 3:20).
(1) He had his conversation in heaven.
(2) He loosed his affection from all earthly things (Galatians 6:14).
(3) He laboured to keep a good conscience in all things (Acts 24:16; Hebrews 10:22).
(4) He had the assurance that he was in Christ by his union with Him (Galatians 2:19).
(5) He had an art of sweetening the thoughts of death, by regarding it as the passage to Christ and life.
III. THE OTHER GROUND OF HIS STRAIT WAS HIS PRESENT CONVICTION that to stay was better for them.
1. The lives of worthy men are very needful for the Church of God, because God's method is to bless man by man.
(1) By their counsel and direction (Proverbs 7:21).
(2) By their reformation of abuses.
(3) By their good example (Philippians 2:15).
(4) By their prayers.
2. Holy men can deny themselves and their own best good for the Church's benefit. Because —
(1) They have the spirit of love, and love seeketh not her own.
(2) The Spirit of Christ who minded not His own things (1 Corinthians 10:24).
(1) Oh that we may have this Spirit to set us a work to do good while we are here.
(2) Set loving hearts full of inventions how to glorify God and do good to man.
(3) Labour to have sufficiency that you may have ability to do good.
(R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: