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.
When we look at what is waiting for us there is a great desire to go to be with the Lord. I am not referring to suicidal tendencies... I am talking about being homesick for our Heavenly Home. We long to be reunited with loved ones who have already gone to that place. There are troubles, trials and tribulations that we long to escape. But greater than that those things that are in Heaven and greater than what will not be in Heaven is the fact that when we leave this walk of life we will forever be in the presence of God our Father and Jesus our Savior.
The Apostle Paul wants to be with Christ but also to remain on earth for the sake of the church. This was his dilemma. However, the outcome is in Gods hands, and Paul is confident that God has further work for him to do among the church.
Though Heaven is enticing we must not forget that we are on Earth for a reason. We were chosen for a purpose, given an assignment. In fact, the reason that we are still on this earth is because God is not finished with us yet! There are people all around you who could (and should) benefit from your life for Christ. There are lost people who need to hear about salvation through Christ and there are saved people who need to be mentored, encouraged and discipled.
So, just like Paul... many of us find ourselves in a dilemma. We are living for Christ here on earth and longing for heaven. That is the subject that I would like for us to consider today. Let's walk through Philippians 1:21-26 and consider some desires of those who are "Living For Christ, Longing For Heaven".
As Paul struggled with this great dilemma, he had several different desires. And I am sure that we can all agree that we too… face the same dilemma.
1) He Had A Desire To Leave.
2) He Had A Desire To Live.
3) He Had A Desire To Labor
For many of us who are born again we have those same desires simultaneously. Look with me to verses 21 & 23 as we see that:
1: THERE IS A DEIRE TO LEAVE:
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.
It is clear that… Paul greatly desired to leave this walk of life and enter into eternity with his Savior. This is understandable considering the struggles that he had endured. He described some of these difficulties in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. He states that he had been in and out of prison, whipped time and again, five separate times he had received 39 lashes, many times he had faced death. On 3 occasions he was beaten with rods, he had been stoned, shipwrecked and lost at sea. He had traveled many weary miles, been robbed and beaten, he was persecuted by Jews & Gentiles. He encountered danger in cities, deserts and on the sea. He did without food when he was hungry and sufficient clothes when he was cold. Along with all of this he carried a heavy burden for all of the churches. It is no wonder that Paul was homesick.
The Apostle had faced even more hardships since he had penned those words in
2 Corinthians. In fact, the words we read in Philippians were written while Paul was bound in a Roman prison. Not only was he imprisoned, he was getting older and his health was failing. Though his body was deteriorating, his soul was getting stronger and every day he longed for Heaven more and more. The same is true for many of us... we look at the troubles of this life and we get homesick for Heaven!
There are several reasons that we are longing to leave. One reason is that:
A: We Are Going To A Place With No More Sorrow: Through God's Word we are told of a place where…
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
WOW!!! Sign me up! I want to go to this place. Who wouldn’t? This life is filled with sorrow. But in Heaven we will never sit in a hospital room and watch our loved ones suffer. Never again will we see our children hurt and struggle. We will not have to stand beside a casket and shed a tear at the loss of a loved one.
There will be no more bad news from the doctor. In fact, there will not be any doctors there. We will not have to deal with Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Arthritis, Strokes, Alzheimer's, or any other ailment. (And of course, the number one enemy of the Fil-Am church…GOUT!!!)
NO MORE ILLNESS!!!
In Heaven, there will be no more hospitals, nursing homes or funeral homes. We will not have to deal with these old broken down, decaying bodies, because there… we will have a new, eternal glorified body! That alone is enough to make us long for Heaven, Right!!! The reason for all of the problems and sorrow that we face in this life can be traced back to sin. But praise God...
B. We Are Going To A Place With No More Sin: Notice what the scripture says in…
27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
How great to know that sin cannot follow us to that wonderful place. I for one, (and Im sure many of you can agree) am sick and tired of sin. I am tired of struggling with sin. I am tired of seeing sin. I am tired of the consequences of sin. I am tired of living in a world of sin. I am glad that we have already been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, and when we get to heaven we will be delivered from the very presence of sin!
Heaven is a place with no more murder, adultery, homosexuality, covetousness, jealousy, greed, pride, anger, hate, war or any other transgression. That is reason enough for us to long to leave. But it gets even better…
C. We Are Going To A Place With No More Satan - Satan desires to defeat and destroy the children of God. He is very powerful and will do all that he can to see you and I, suffer and fail. Peter reminds us in…
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
When we seek to live a life that is Holy and pleasing to God our Adversary will do all that he can to get us to fall. This is his reason for living. This is a daily event for the devil. To make you and I stumble and fall. But when we get to Heaven, never again will we have to deal with Satan. We have confidence in this fact because of what the Bible says in…
10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
That is just one more reason that we and Paul, “Desire To Leave.” But with all of the benefits of leaving this walk of life and gaining our promised reward, there is also a desire to remain here on earth. Let's look to verses 21 & 22 and examine the fact that…
2: THERE IS A DESIRE TO LIVE:
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.
Here Paul states that for him, living means living for Christ. Though he faced extreme difficulty and suffered great hardships and even though he knew that a better place was waiting for him in Heaven, he had an intense desire to live.
There is a natural desire in every human being to continue to live. Many would like to live as long as possible. This is why many exercise, eat right and take care of ourselves. If you are diagnosed with a serious disease you are willing to do whatever it takes to try to beat that diagnosis… There is a natural desire to live.
But I want you to consider for a moment your motivation for living. What inspires you to keep pressing on?
Some want to get through college and begin a career. Those who have a career want to climb the corporate ladder. Others are hoping to reach retirement age so that they can "enjoy life". There are others who are hoping to fall in love and get married. Some who are married look forward to having children.
Some want to live long enough to see their children grow up and have a family of their own. Then when this happens they want to stick around long enough to see their grandchildren grow up and graduate high school and then college. Then they want to see them have a family of their own.
There is nothing wrong with having these desires. (Personally) There are many things that I would like to see before my time comes. I want to see my boys grow old and have a family of their own. I want to have grandchildren and hear being called grandpa! I want to help them be successful. Guide them and give them some advice on being husband and a father.
I love the idea of growing old with my wife. (Remind each other that we are forgetting stuff.)
I want to see what God is going to do here in this church. I would love to see our Sunday school kids start on ministries…see what God has prepared for them. Though these desires may be honorable, they should not be our supreme motivation for living.
Paul did not just desire to live out of a fear of dying. He did not desire to remain just to see how things turned out. His desire was to live… but ultimately, he desired to live for Christ. And this should be our hearts desire as well. After all, we owe Him our life.
There Is A Desire To Leave, There Is A Desire To Live and we also see in this passage that:
3: THERE IS A DESIRE TO LABOR:
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.
Though Paul possessed a desire to go and be with Christ, he realized that it was more important that he remain and finish the work that had been assigned to him. He didn't know it, but at this point in his life he had some years left before Christ took him home to glory. What he did know was that there was still work to be done and he was ready and willing to serve his Master. The Apostle wanted to reach people with the gospel. He wanted those converts to be discipled. He wanted the churches to be strengthened.
What is our supreme motivation for living? Is it to fulfill our dreams? It is to mark items off of our bucket list? Is it to make as much money and buy as much stuff as possible? Are we living each day building our kingdom or His? In the kindest way possible let me say... if we are not living every day for Christ, we are wasting our life!
Are the things that we are focused on things that will last throughout eternity? Remember what Jesus said in…
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
The ultimate goal of our life should not be to leave your family a great monetary inheritance when you die.
- Maureen Ebel, 60, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, is a widow who was left millions by her husband. But she lost over 7 million dollars in Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme. Listen to this quote from her in the Philadelphia Enquirer - "This is my fate, I was married, had a fabulous marriage to a man I loved and worshipped, a physician. We travelled. We had a very fine life. And he's dead. He died, and every penny I had in the world has gone." Ebel now spends her days cleaning other people's houses to make ends meet. Her husband thought he would be able to care for his beloved wife even after his death and look at what happened.
- Country singer Conway Twitty left a great fortune to his children in his will. But for years his children and their stepmother fought a lengthy court battle over his estate and the lawyers ended up getting most of what he left behind.
Many other individuals have spent a lifetime earning untold millions and buying everything that their hearts desired and when they died they could not take one thing with them! Some men have neglected their families…building a great business. Their intention was to leave that company as a legacy for their family. Many times, before they are even cold, and in the ground, that business is sold to the highest bidder.
We can spend this life seeking to attain material wealth, but in the end the things of this world will pass away. But it is possible to leave a legacy that will last throughout eternity! When we live our life for Christ we can indeed store up treasures in Heaven.
My family do not have much in this life. God has indeed blessed us, but we are far from what this world considers wealthy. Our newest vehicle is 13 years old, the other is over 18 years old. We live in a house that we are still trying to pay off. For the most part we live paycheck to paycheck. There always seems to be more month at the end of the money. But we are happy, blessed, thankful and yes…rich!!!
Through God's Word I know that there are treasures waiting for us in Heaven. We have been promised Crowns from our Savior. I have a mansion waiting for me in Glory. One day I will literally walk on streets of gold. Because of this, I have A Desire To Leave. But even with this great promise, I have A Desire To Live.
Though Heaven is waiting, there is still work to do here on earth! But my Desire To Live is joined with A Desire To Labor. More than anything this world has to offer, I want to live this life having an eternal impact. When I take my last breath and step into eternity I want to know that my precious wife is going to spend eternity in Heaven. I want to know that my boys know Jesus as their personal Savior. I want my extended family to have assurance that Heaven can be their home.
I want my friends to experience God's saving grace. I want to tell strangers about salvation through Christ. And I want to do all that I can to help those that are saved to grow in their walk with Jesus.
I can honestly say, I have A Desire To Labor! God has…by His Spirit has placed that desire in my heart. As Gods children, we should also have that same desire that Paul had? Do you want to live your life laboring for the King? Ask yourself... "what am I doing with the life I have been given? When God said that, He calls everyone for a purpose, “am I fulfilling that purpose?”
Do you realize that you will one day stand and give and account to your Savior?
2 Corinthians 5:10
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Paul faced a dilemma… he desired to be with Christ in Heaven and to serve Him here on earth. Somewhere around 57 AD Paul mentioned his desire to leave and be with Christ. This is seen in…
2 Corinthians 5:8-9
8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
Paul’s final words were written in…
2 Timothy 4:6-8
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
When time came for him to leave, Paul could do so with confidence. In my heart…Lord willing, by His grace, I would also love to say these words when my time comes. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And I am sure…without a doubt, many… if not all of you feel the same way. We can do this church…but only if we put our faith and trust in our Lord Jesus to see us through to the end! And on to ETERNITY!!!
Pastor Richard Santos
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