1. The Dilemma (verse 22)
2. A Heart to Depart (verse 23)
3. A View to Continue (verse 24-26)

Our text this morning begins in verse 22 of Philippians chapter 1. However, due to my trip to India, it has been over a month since we have been in the book of Philippians. An extensive review would be helpful. Let’s catch up. Let’s review the book up to chapter 1, verse 22.

The book of Philippians is a letter. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi. He came to Philippi on his 2nd missionary journey and established the church there in that city. You can read the story in Acts 16.

It began by the riverside at the place of prayer with a woman named Lydia, who was a “worshiper of God” (Acts 16:14). Paul preached the gospel to her. And “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). She believed and was baptized and invited Paul and Silas to stay with her in her house, which apparently they did for “many days” (Acts 16:18).

Paul and Silas continued to meet with people by the riverside and share the gospel with them. At one point, Paul cast out a demon from a slave girl, who, through the demon, was able to tell the future (Acts 16:16). “When her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone [because the demon had been cast out of her], they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place” (Acts 16:19) where they instigated a riot. To keep the peace, the city authorities threw Paul and Silas into prison. But, God was still working, even there.

Paul and Silas were in prison, but they had such a joy that they were “praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (Acts 16:25). This didn’t go unnoticed by the prisoners nor the jailer. There was something different about these men. Normal people don’t sing praise to God in stocks!

So, when an earthquake loosed their chains and they didn’t run, the jailor of that prison said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). And the famous response came: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). The jailor believed. His whole household believed (Acts 16:34). They were baptized that very night (Acts 16:33).

The church in Philippi was growing. But, soon afterwards, Paul and Silas were told to leave the city, which they did.

We don’t know much more about the church in Philippi, because the narrative of the book of Acts follows Paul’s journey from Philippi to Thessalonica and Berea and Athens and Corinth. Though Paul was far from the city of Philippi, he was near to the hearts of the Philippians, who helped him financially on a couple of occasions (4:15-16), sending him a gift more than once while he was in Thessalonica.

At the writing of this letter to the church, Paul found himself under house arrest in Rome. He was chained to a Roman soldier and unable to travel. When the Philippians heard of his trial, they sent him a financial gift once again through Epaphroditus (4:18). In fact, this is what stirred Paul to write to the church in Philippi (4:10). The book of Philippians is a “thank you” note to the church.

I have identified the main message of the book with these words: “Rejoice in the Gospel.” The book of Philippians is filled with joy. Paul is joyful. On three different occasions, he commands those in Phillip to “Rejoice in the Lord” (3:1; 4:4, 4). But, the joy of the book of Philippians is far more than simply being happy. The joy comes in the gospel. Thus, the phrase, “Rejoice in the Gospel.”

The call of Philippians is a call to “Rejoice in the Gospel.” We need to rejoice in what God had done for us in Jesus. Our boast and confidence isn’t in our own merit of good works before the Lord, but in His work done for us (Phil. 3:4-8). He lived a perfect life and died upon the cross for our sins, so that by faith in Him, we can have a righteousness that is not our own (3:9). Through faith in Him, we will attain to the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:11). That's why we “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3).

When this message takes root in our hearts, we are called to rejoice! (Phil. 4:4). When this message takes root in the hearts of others, we are called to rejoice (Phil. 1:7). We need to rejoice when this message is spread (Phil 1:5). We need to rejoice even when this message is spread by those with bad motives (Phil. 1:18). Whenever and however and wherever the gospel spreads, the book of Philippians calls us to “rejoice in the gospel.”

Now, getting to the letter itself, we will work our way down to verse 22 in review. The letter begins with the facts of who is writing to whom, along with a common greeting.

Philippians 1:1-2
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is writing. Timothy is with him. He is writing to the “saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.” In other words, he is writing to the church in Philippi (the history of which I have already told you).

In verse 3, Paul opens with a word of thanks to the Lord -- thanks for the way that he has worked in the lives of those in Philippi.

Philippians 1:3-5
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

Those in the church believed the gospel. They joined with Paul in the mission of spreading the gospel. The church in Philippi grew as they shared the gospel with others in their community. The church in Philippi helped Paul’s ministry to spread the gospel. And for all of this, Paul was thankful and joyful.

He continued in verse 6 by affirming his love and care for those in Philippi.

Philippians 1:6-8
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

The letter to the Philippians is no impersonal business form letter. No, it’s a letter born out of a strong relationship between Paul and the Philippians. God had begun a work in them (verse 6). God would continue that work in them (verse 7). Paul loved them for this. They had a bond with them because they shared in God’s grace with Paul. And so, Paul prayed for them. We see this in verse 9, ...

Philippians 1:9-11
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

This was a prayer for growth in godliness. Paul was praying that they would increase in their knowledge of God. He was praying that they would increase in their discernment of how they might love most effectively. He was praying that they would be sincere and blameless and righteous. He was praying for the Lord to continue the work that He had begun in them.

Now, in verse 12, this letter makes a turn. No longer does he focus upon his relationship with those in Philippi. Instead, he addresses his situation. As I said earlier, Paul is under house arrest, chained to a Roman soldier. But, far from being a hindrance to the gospel, his situation has actually caused the spread of the gospel. And he longs that those in Philippi would look at his situation correctly. He writes, beginning in verse 12, ...

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

In other words, because of Paul’s imprisonment, he was able to share the gospel with the whole palace guard. He shared the gospel with the soldiers who were chained to him. Some believed and shared the message of Christ with those off duty. In chapter 4:22, we see that the gospel was even known throughout Caesar’s household--something that never would have taken place had Paul not been imprisoned! What might have looked like a hindrance to the gospel was actually a means through which God spread the gospel.

But, that wasn’t the only way that the gospel was able to have wings. The fact that Paul was in prison emboldened others to speak more boldly. “If Paul was willing to suffer for preaching the gospel, then certainly I can as well,” they reasoned.

Paul’s imprisonment was the means by which the gospel spread even further. That’s how God often works. You give of your resources, and God entrusts you with more than you had before (Proverbs 11:24-25). You plant a church, by sending a third of your church away into a new community, and within a year, you have more people attending your church than before you sent them all away. In an effort to share the gospel with a cannibalistic tribe of people in Ecuador, you and four of your closest friends are speared to death on a beach, and God uses your story to launch a missionary movement among thousands of young people who have the passion to go to the most difficult places in the world to spread the gospel.

These sorts of stories are in the Bible. We read in Proverbs, "There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered" (Proverbs 11:24-25).

We also see God working in Genesis 37-50 with the story of Joseph. You hate your brother and sell him into slavery, and God uses him as the means to rescue your family from the famine that comes upon the land (Genesis 37-50). In Matthew 26-27 and Acts 2-7, you kill the righteous Messiah, and His death is the very means of your salvation.

Paul’s imprisonment was the means by which the gospel spread even further. Now, not all was good. Verse 15, ...

Philippians 1:15-17
Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.

Apparently, there were those who taking advantage of Paul’s imprisonment and were preaching the gospel to build up their own ministries in an attempt to agitate Paul. But this didn’t matter much to Paul. He said in verse 18, ...

Philippians 1:18
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

As long as Christ is proclaimed, Paul was rejoicing. As long as Jesus Christ crucified was proclaimed, Paul found joy. Can you see the theme of Philippians in verse 18? “Rejoice in the Gospel.”

Philippians 1:18
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

Paul rejoices whenever and wherever and however the gospel advances!

The call of Philippians upon our lives is the same. Whenever the gospel is advancing; when people are believing in Christ; when people are spreading good news about Christ, we have reason to rejoice.

Again, in verses 19 and 20, Paul returns to his own situation. He explains how this spreading of the gospel will affect his life. He expects to be released from prison, ...

Philippians 1:19-20
for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul knows that as the gospel continues to have more and more of an influence in society, his opportunity for release from jail is better and better all the time. In fact, Paul has hope that he will be delivered from jail. Throughout the book of Acts, you see two themes develop. First, a Jewish opposition toward Paul and the gospel, and second, a Roman dedication to justice.

The Jews were hostile toward Paul and the gospel, which is the reason why Paul was in prison. They wanted Paul to lose his head for the message he was spreading. But, the Romans were committed to the due process of the law. And over and over and over again, they declared that Paul had done no wrong. [1]

And Paul could see what was going on. He was fully expecting his release from prison. But, you never know what will happen with the court of appeals. And Paul was pondering his own life and death. We see his perspective in verse 21, ...

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

In effect, Paul was saying, even if I am not released from prison, even if I lose my head on the chopping block, it’s not a bad thing. “All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). For the apostle Paul, death wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, he said that it was better to die than to live.

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

In life, there are many wonderful things. And when you know the Savior, it only gets better. You can live free of condemnation. You can live a life free of fear. You can live a life of genuine joy, even amidst some great trials! Because, when the Lord is with you, you are secure in his hands.

To live is Christ, but something better awaits all of us who are in Christ Jesus: Death. And death is better than life! As Paul says, “To die is gain!” Because, when we die, we go to be with Jesus. When we die, we are freed from our sinful bodies. We will be given spiritual bodies. When we die, we will go “to the heavenly Jerusalem", where there are pearly gates and streets of gold. When we die, we will know the presence of God, where there are “pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11).

For those of us who have trusted in Jesus for our salvation, when we die, we will go to paradise. That’s what Jesus told the thief on the cross, who believed that Jesus was sinless. This theif was a man who sought to enter the kingdom. He said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”


Philippians 1:21
... to live is Christ and to die is gain.

This promise only applies to those who are trusting in Jesus alone for their salvation.

I have attended many funerals over the years. One of the things that I heard more times than I can count is this: “He is in a better place," or, “She is in a better place.” It’s a way that people find comfort. And many times, it’s a lie.

I say that because, many times the deceased didn’t believe in Jesus. They had no interest in Jesus or His word. They had no interest in Jesus or His people. They had no interest in living a life unto His glory. Instead, they lived for their own pleasures. And yet, I have heard it over and over again, “He is in a better place,” or, “She is in a better place.”

No, they aren’t. Jesus told of the rich man who lived in luxury in this life, but paid no attention to the poor. He said that when the man died, he was in torment (Luke 16:23). He cried out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24). So terrible was his torment that He begged that others might go to the land of the living and warn his brothers, “so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Such is the fate of those who die without Christ.

Jesus constantly spoke of those who refused to believe in His name spending eternity in the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [2] In fact, Jesus spoke more of the terrors of hell than He did of the glories of heaven.

I say that to say this: dying is gain only when your living is Christ. If your living is not Christ, then your dying is not gain. If your living is not Christ, then you have lived your best life now, Your worst life awaits you.

Now, I know why people say, “He is in a better place,” or, “She is in a better place.” They are trying to find comfort in a comfortless world! There is only one group of people that can genuinely say, “He is in a better place,” or, “She is in a better place.” It’s those who had died faithful in the Lord.

Well, that’s Paul’s circumstance. I can only hope that it is your circumstance. The opportunity for salvation is there for all of us to have. We simply need to trust in Jesus with our whole heart. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). And for those who truly believe in Jesus, we can look forward to a better place once we die.

In our text this morning, Paul considers his life and his death. After saying that, “death is gain,” he goes on to say this, ...

Philippians 1:22
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.

This verse forms our first point this morning. I’m calling it, ...
1. The Dilemma (verse 22)

Because, it is Paul’s dilemma.

He is ready to die. Perhaps you remember those famous words that Paul said to the elders in the church in Ephesus, as he traveled to Jerusalem, knowing that bonds and afflictions awaited him (Acts 20:23). He said, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Long before he was ever arrested, long before he ever stepped foot in Rome, Paul knew that his life wasn’t his own. He had entrusted himself to the Lord. He had been bought with a price, therefore, he was seeking to glorify God in all that he did (1 Cor. 6:20). He knew that he was expendable. He was ready to die.

And yet, living wasn’t too bad an option for him either. He said, ...

Philippians 1:22
... if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; ...

Dying is gain, but living is fruitfulness. Both of these are good options.

Now, sometimes as we speak with one another, we will use the phrase, “Catch 22.” It means that you are in a tight spot, and anything that you do will be bad. Remember when the chief priests and the elders of the people were accusing Jesus? They asked Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (Matt. 21:23). Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:24-25a).

This put the chief priest and elders into a “Catch 22.” If they said, “From heaven,” Jesus would say, “They why don’t you believe me?” (Matt. 21:25b). If they said, “From men,” the people would rise up against them, because they all regarded John as a prophet (Matt. 21:26). Either option would put them in an unfavorable position. And they didn’t know which to choose, because both answers were bad for the religious leaders.

So they chose neither and said, “we do not know” (Matt. 21:27). So, Jesus refused to tell them by what authority He was doing those things as well.

Paul’s dilemma here is the opposite of a “Catch 22.” Paul’s dilemma is a choice between two good options. Living is Christ. Dying is gain. Living is fruitful labor. Dying is better. Paul didn’t know what to choose. He was in a dilemma.

This is what he says at the end of verse 22, “And I do not know which to choose.” Now, it’s not that Paul had a real choice in the matter. It was Caesar who had the choice. Paul was in prison awaiting trial. Caesar would hear his case and hand down the verdict. He would either let Paul go free. Or, he would order Paul to be put to death.

Paul wasn’t contemplating life or suicide. Paul was contemplating his upcoming trial. He would either get the thumbs up and be released. Or he would get the thumbs down and be executed. The choice really wasn’t his. But, if he was to make a choice, he didn’t really know what he would choose, because both options were good.

A month ago, I used the illustration of the option between candy and ice cream. Do you want candy? Do you want ice cream? After the service, a four-year old who was in the service came up to me and said, “Where’s the ice cream?”

This was Paul’s choice. It was between candy and ice cream. He didn’t know which he preferred. And so, he presents both sides.

In verse 23, we see that Paul had ...

2. A Heart to Depart (verse 23)

Philippians 1:23
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

He says, "I have a desire to die." Again, this is not that he’s going to kill himself. But, he would die as a martyr. He would die in service to the Lord.

And he says, “that is my strong desire.” “I want to depart this life.” Because, I know that “absence from the body is presence with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). And I want to be with the Lord.

By the way, we see here what takes place when you die in the Lord. You go immediately into his presence. Paul wanted “to depart and be with Christ.” There are some, particularly Seventh-Day Adventists, who advocate the doctrine of “soul-sleep.” That is, when you die, your soul goes to sleep, until the final judgment, when you awaken and stand before Christ. But, that’s not the teaching of the Bible.

Rather, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will go into His presence the moment you die. You will have a conscious state until the final judgment. Like Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16). They were fully conscious, awaiting their judgment. Like the martyrs underneath the altar in Revelation 5. They were fully conscious. They were begging that God would avenge their blood! (Rev. 5:10). Like Moses and Elijah, who visited Jesus upon the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17). They were fully conscious. They were speaking with Jesus about his upcoming death in Jerusalem. When you die, your soul doesn’t sleep. Rather, when you die in the Lord, you are with him, awaiting the final judgment and your ultimate redemption.

And Paul wanted to be with Jesus. And so, Paul was desirous to hear Caesar say, “Put this man to death.”

Paul preferred death to life. In fact, look at what he says. “That is very much better.” It is a triple superlative. The New American Standard translation shows this well. Paul didn’t say that his death was “better.” He didn’t say that his death was “much better.” He said that his death was “very much better.” Three modifiers to make a point. Death for the Christian is gain! That’s why Paul had A Heart to Depart (verse 23)

I remember John MacArthur telling the story of when he had knee surgery and there were some complications with clotting in his knees. For a while, the doctors didn’t know if he would make it or not. John MacArthur said, “I awoke ... and was disappointed.” He was fully ready to die and to cast off all of the worries of this life. He was wanting to meet Jesus face to face. And yet, since that time, God has given him 20 more years of fruitful labor.

This was Paul’s dilemma. Verse 22, “to live on in the flesh, ... will mean fruitful labor for me.” On the one hand, Paul had A Heart to Depart (verse 23). And on the other hand, Paul had my third point, ...

3. A View to Continue (verse 24-26)

Look at verse 24, ...

Philippians 1:24
yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

In other words, Paul says, “dying is better for me.” But, “living is better for you.” In fact, in his situation, Paul says that his living is “more necessary” for you. In some way, the Philippians needed Paul -- his ministry, his labor, his life, his love, his prayers.

Paul would play a crucial role in their lives. We see this in verses 25 and 26, ...

Philippians 1:25
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,

Paul was convinced that God would preserve his life for the sake of others. Paul’s life would lead the Philippians to further progress in the faith. Paul’s life would lead the Philippians to further joy in the faith. There it is again. Paul’s life would lead the Philippians to “rejoice in the gospel” (verse 25).

In verse 26, Paul knew that in his release, he would see the Philippians again. And seeing them would lead to their greater faith.

Philippians 1:26
so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

The New American Standard here has misplaced two words. I don’t know why the translators placed the words, “in me,” where they did. More literally, verse 26 reads like this. “So that your proud confidence may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my coming to you again.” In other words, it’s not that they Philippians will have more confidence in Paul if he comes again. Rather, it’s that they will have more confidence in Christ Jesus through Paul, as he comes to them again.

And Paul has this in mind as he considers his life and death. He says, “My death is better for me. But, my life is better for you.”

Why did Paul want to live? Because of the spiritual benefit that it would bring to the Philippians. You have to catch this. The reason why Paul wanted to live was because he put the interests of others above himself. This is what Paul will call us to in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

This is what Paul lived. He considered the interests of the Philippians above his own interests. “My death is better for me. My life is better for you. You are more important than I am. So, I will live on!”

Now, with the Lord Jesus, the exact opposite was true. His death was better for us. That’s why he “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). The death of Jesus was the very means of life for us. Jesus died for us. And as Jesus set his heart upon our interests, and not his own, He willingly faced death on the cross. I look forward to going into more detail with these words on the Sunday before Christmas.

Getting back to our text, Paul had A View to Continue (verse 24-26), motivated totally by his heart to serve others.

Now, my message this morning is entitled, “The Christian Dilemma”, because Paul’s dilemma is really the dilemma of every Christian. This is the dilemma of everyone who has placed their hope in Jesus Christ.

If we would really believe the realities of the glories that await us in heaven, we would all long for death. Its glories are too much for us to describe.

I’m reminded of the conversation that Christian had with Pliable as he was starting out on his journey to the Celestial City. Pliable asks Christian, ...

Pliable: Come, neighbor Christian, since there are none but us two here, tell me now farther, what the things are, and how to be enjoyed, where we are going.

Christian: I can better conceive of them with my mind, than speak of them with my tongue: but yet, since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my book.

Pliable: And do you think that the words of your book are certainly true?

Christian: Yes, verily; for it was made by Him that cannot lie. (Titus 1:2.)

Pliable: Well said; what things are they?

Christian: There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us, that we may inhabit that kingdom for ever. (Isa. 65:17; John 10: 27-29.)

Pliable: Well said; and what else?

Christian: There are crowns of glory to be given us; and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the firmament of heaven. (2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 22:5; Matt. 13:43.)

Pliable: This is very pleasant; and what else?

Christian: There shall be no more crying, nor sorrow; for he that is owner of the place will wipe all tears from our eyes. (Isa. 25:8; Rev 7:16, 17; 21:4.)

Pliable: And what company shall we have there?

Christian: There we shall be with seraphims and cherubims (Isaiah 6:2; 1 Thess. 4:16,17; Rev. 5:11); creatures that will dazzle your eyes to look on them. There also you shall meet with thousands and ten thousands that have gone before us to that place; none of them are hurtful, but loving and holy; every one walking in the sight of God, and standing in his presence with acceptance for ever. In a word, there we shall see the elders with their golden crowns (Rev. 4:4); there we shall see the holy virgins with their golden harps (Rev. 14:1-5); there we shall see men, that by the world were cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten of beasts, drowned in the seas, for the love they bare to the Lord of the place (John 12:25); all well, and clothed with immortality as with a garment. (2 Cor. 5:2).

Pliable: The hearing of this is enough to ravish one's heart. But are these things to be enjoyed? How shall we get to be sharers thereof?

Christian: The Lord, the governor of the country, hath recorded that in this book (Isaiah 55:1,2; John 6:37; 7:37; Rev. 21:6; 22:17); the substance of which is, if we be truly willing to have it, he will bestow it upon us freely.

Pliable: Well, my good companion, glad am I to hear of these things: come on, let us mend our pace.

And if we would truly grasp the realities of what awaits those of us who have trusted in Christ, we will have a healthy longing for death. We would “mend our pace” to the grave. But, if we truly understand the purpose of our lives here upon the earth isn’t for ourselves, but for others (Philippians 2), then we will have a healthy longing for life. We would serve each other to our dying days.

This is the dilemma that we should face, each and every day. We should have a healthy longing for death, for the day when we come face to face with Christ our savior. We should have a healthy longing to serve others in this life. And the longing to serve others is greater than our longing for death.

Note, again, this is not suicidal death. That’s eminently selfish, not thinking about the others that you will leave behind. Rather, we are talking about death in the service of the Lord. It’s death like Stephen, who preached the gospel and was stoned to death. In his death he said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). It’s death like Revelation 12:11, “and they overcame [the accuser] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” That’s our dilemma.

Do you know anything about this dilemma? Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9, ...

2 Corinthians 5:6-9
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord -- for we walk by faith, not by sight -- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

And here in the book of Philippians, Paul is merely working this out. He is in real danger of losing his head for preaching the gospel. And he’s OK with that. But, he knows the benefit that his life will bring to others, and he will point them to Jesus. And he knows that this is better.

How about you? Are you ready to die? When the plane lands smoothly, is there any bit of disappointment in you? When you awaken from surgery, is there disappointment in your heart?

It may be that you haven’t placed your faith in Christ. You don’t know where you are going when you die. So trust him, and your fear of death may fade away.

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on December 1, 2013 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] Acts 24:25-26; 25:25; 26:31-32.

[2] Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30