“But I am hard pressed … having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Philippians i.23.
Life is a great gift from God. Death, however, is far more attractive because it ushers us into life eternal in the very presence of God. If we focus our spiritual sight on eternity and visualize the delights of our Promised Land, our faint hearts will expand with joy and anticipation. None can fault a Christian who yearns to go to Paradise.
Every second of the apostle Paul’s earthly pilgrimage was characterized by a longing to be in Christ’s presence. A Roman executioner’s blade or murderous plots of Jewish opponents of the Gospel or even deadly storms at sea – none of these could terrorize Paul. Death was nothing more than a journey, a journey ‘to be with Christ.’ When he wrote his most personal epistle to the Corinthians, he couldn’t hide his eagerness to reach the shores of heaven. He said he’d rather ‘be absent from the body‘ and ‘be at home with the Lord.’ (2 Cor. 5:8b)
Paul’s eagerness to get to heaven changed the way he lived on earth. He made it a point to please the Lord at all times (2 Cor. 5:9). This is because Paul knew that he would soon have to give an account of his life to Christ. Paul further explains how he went about pleasing the Lord in his day-to-day life: As an ‘ambassador of Christ,’ he sought to ‘persuade‘ men to turn from their sins to Christ (2 Cor. 5:11, 20). Thus, Paul’s longing to go to Heaven and to be with Christ wasn’t a selfish desire or mere escapism. Along with him, he wished to take a whole lot of redeemed and forgiven sinners to heaven.
This desire to ‘depart and be with Christ’ put Paul on the forefronts of Christian proclamation. He gave himself fully into preaching and teaching without any fear of persecution, imprisonment, diseases, hardships, agony and exposure. His health suffered in this process (2 Cor. 4:16); still, he pressed ahead because all those ‘light afflictions‘ were bound to increase the glory that he would inherit in eternity (2 Cor. 4:17).
When was the last time you indulged in a little day-dreaming about heaven? Do you have a burning desire to ‘depart and be with Christ?’ Are you persuading others to join you in this great pilgrimage?