21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.
23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.
24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Philippians 1:21-24 (NLT)
This passage was written by Paul when he was in a prison. He was pondering the option of life and death. According to the above passage, Paul considered Christ as the purpose of his life. However death is even better. Why is that so? Let us look in detail.
The main focus of Paul’s life was Jesus. He wanted to tell everyone he met on what Jesus did at the Cross. At the Cross, Jesus took all our sins for us to live righteousness before God. Jesus took all our sicknesses so that by his stripes we are healed. Jesus died poor for us to live rich. Once we are aware of this truth and believed in Jesus as our savior, we will live in prosperity in every area of our lives. Jesus is the source of our prosperity. The moment you have Jesus in your heart, you have the power to overcome every limitation in your life and to prosper beyond your wildest dreams in this world and beyond this world.
No wonder Paul was so enthusiastic on proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wanted to bring hope to the world. This commitment gave him the courage and perseverance to endure and overcome various trials in his life. He had experienced arrests, hunger, nakedness and other forms of abuses. Yet he was determined to share the greatest hope to the world. Jesus had become the reason for Paul to live.
However, Paul also said dying is even better. Why? When we die, we go to heaven. No matter how good your life on earth is, heaven is even better. Here, we keep gold in safes but over there gold is only a material to make roads. Paul must have realized that he would have a better life in heaven than on earth. Therefore death was certainly a welcoming relief for him.
In Verse 23, he was torn between living and dying because both were good. In the next verse, he decided to stay because his people needed him. He chose to live on for the sakes of his people.
There are several lessons we can learn for this passage:
Paul had the right to choose between life and death.
The world, including religious people do not believe they have the power to choose between life and death. In their minds, they have no control over their lives. They can die anytime. No one can tell when you meet your end. A car might knock you down. You might get a disease. You may be in a place where a suicide bomber presses the button. A stray bullet might hit you. These folks become a good source of income for insurance agents. Insurance companies love insecure people who think they can die anytime.
However, Paul had a different attitude. He wrote like he had full control over his life and death. Insurance agents will have a tough time selling to him. Paul must have truly believed that he could choose the date of his death, the way we choose the dates for our vacations. So, the lesson here is, we have the right to choose how long we want to live.
Paul chose to live for his people.
He knew death is an easy way out. After he died, he will be in a better place. However, he knew there were people on earth who still needed him. So, he chose to stay for the people he loves. The same can apply to all of us. If you are a Christian, you will go to heaven when you die. Over there, you will live in perfect health and have great wealth. However, you will not be able to help the people on earth anymore.
You will not be able to come down to comfort and encourage your loved ones. You will not be able to use your riches in heaven to buy food for the starving people on earth. This is why it is extremely important for Christians to be rich on earth. The riches on earth can do something the riches in heaven can’t – helping the poor.
As Christians, our place in heaven is secure. Heaven is a great place to spend our eternity in. We will get there during the Rapture or death, whichever comes first. However, there is no hurry to get there. There are many things we can achieve on earth which are not available in heaven like proclaiming the Gospel and helping the poor. So, we should consider our stay on earth as our last opportunity to fulfill our dreams. What are your dreams? Do you want to eliminate poverty? Do you want to proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to every corner of the world? Do you want to provide sufficient medical care for every human being on earth? Do you want to end war?
Whatever you want to do, do it now before it is too late.