Philippians 1:19 "For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again."
Is Paul the mighty apostle and evangelist suicidal?
I absolutely love this passage of Scripture. It reveals truth most of us can't comprehend. Most of us are happy about the thought of having heaven to look forward to at the end yet we're in no hurry to rush to the end. We like life. We see death as an inevitable enemy and heaven as a hope that softens the lethal blow of mortality. Too often our thoughts of heaven center in the where and the what as if we're going on an eternal vacation to a place we've never been and we nervously wonder if it will satisfy. Cheesy images of harp playing and floating on clouds have warped our picture. Fanciful dreams of mansions and opulence appeal to our lustful greedy nature. The truth is the Bible for all that it says in its 66 books and letters and collections of poetry spanning thousands of years of history says little about the place.
Reread what Paul says and we start to see why. Paul isn't suicidal. Paul is anxious. Paul doesn't care about the place. Paul cares about the Person. Paul has no unhealthy desire to escape his present reality or earth in general. Paul just wants to see His Best Friend face to face. For him to live day by day is to walk in connection with Christ and to die is the knowledge that the next voice he will hear is His.
Why I love this passage is twofold: First it speaks to how real Paul’s relationship with Jesus was. He wasn't a religionist clinging to theories as an insurance policy for the afterlife. Paul knew Jesus personally and his "religion" was simply sharing with the world the reality of Who his Saviour was.
When my wife and I got married it was at Christmas time and was supposed to be followed by beginning life and ministry together on January 1. However a mix up in courses meant a return to school for a final semester for me while she finished school 6000 km away. That's right. We spent the first 4 months as newlyweds 6000 km apart. Do you think I looked forward to that semester being over? Do you think I wanted to be somewhere other than where I was? And do you think that desire had anything to do with trying to escape my current physical location or to get to another physical location? I didn't want to go to a place. I wanted to go to a person. I would have wanted to be where she was wherever that was. Had she been with me I would have been content to stay where I was.
The second reason I love this passage is the reason Paul gives for why he is ok with staying on this earth and why ultimately he believes he will live and not die. The church in Philippi had reason to fear for Paul’s life. Following Jesus at that time was a potential death sentence. Others had been killed already. However Paul writes that he thinks he will live because God has work for him yet to do and he is ok with it. He is thankful for the privilege to serve. His love for Jesus has given him a heart of service to others. His life has become one of self sacrifice. He lives in the trenches of the cosmic war and is willing to stay in them for as long as is necessary for the furtherance of the gospel.
It wasn't that many years before that Jesus Himself faced a similar situation. Facing the cross as He prayed in Gethsemane Jesus had the choice between staying for our sake or fleeing for His own sake - stay in the trenches or flee the battlefield. He chose us and Paul demonstrates he is a true follower by making the same choice.
How about you? What is your life about? Are you here to get or to give? Are you pouring your life into others for His sake or striving to get more here while hoping for gold and palaces in the life beyond.
Heaven is not a destination or an insurance policy. Heaven is the continuing of our walk with Him that begins here in the trenches of the cosmic war that will end in eternal peace.