“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
Life or death? Tough choice. Or, is it? Not for me. I’d rather live. I have a fabulous family, a profitable career, wonderful neighbors, and good church friends. I am happy. I’d rather live.
Life or death? For the apostle Paul it was a tough choice. It tore him up. “I am torn between the two”, Paul lamented. He truly desired to “depart and be with Christ”. This was Paul’s obvious best choice. If it were not for the people he loved and led to Christ, the apostle would rather die.
Life or death? The choice is easy for the happy and well-adjusted modern Americans. They’d rather live. So much left to do; so many places to go; so many people to network with. But the stark finality of life’s end looms ahead as we unwillingly advance toward the mystery and darkness of death.
Life or death? Most people I know don’t want to think about it. They hope to make the most of their lives while there is still some of it left. The prophet Isaiah well described the ‘live for the now’ mentality of his generation and ours:
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Isaiah 22.13; 1st Corinthians 15.32
Life or death? The choice may be easier for those less fortunate than me. The weary, elderly, impoverished, sick, hungry, imprisoned, seriously depressed, lonely, grieving, emotionally battle-worn, terminally ill, and dying may cry from their soul, ‘Let’s get on with it. The game is up. My time has come. It’s over now.’ Their souls send a suicidal message of resignation, like the wounded King Saul who fell on his sword when defeat was imminent (1st Samuel 31.2-4)? For some, it’s less about being with Christ and more about ending the pain. Their choice is also easy… they’d rather die.
Life or death? An easy choice may signal the need for further growth in Christ. That is to say, the more spiritually mature we are, the harder the choice between remaining and leaving becomes. This was evidently true for Paul. The choice between life and death was not his to make but had it been, Paul would remain “torn between the two”. He was incapable of making the ultimate decision.
Life or death? For most of us, the choice is easy. One option is better than the other. For Paul, however, both options were equally attractive and compelling:
“Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty.
Life versus even more life. I can’t lose!”
Philippians 1.21 “The Message”
Philippians 1.21 “The Message”
Life or death? Is that really the only choice? Perhaps like Paul, God desires me to achieve an attitude of neutrality about my final demise and try to wrap my brain around the real choice…
“Life versus even more life”!
The excellent illustration at the top of this post is by Luke Flowers and used with his permission. The piece is called "Life After Death: The Evidence" and was an editorial illustration for a series of articles by Focus on the Family targeting college students.