21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Philippians 1
Most of the time I can’t help but believe that Christians are full of it. By that I mean they are completely inconsistent. To a man they claim to await eagerly the return of Christ, praying for it to promptly occur. On the other hand, they cling to life ferociously. If we really, want to be with Christ, shouldn’t we as eagerly await death as we do his return?
Nevertheless, we pray for miracles for ourselves and others. We seek healing even after our lives have been full, our mission obviously complete, and we lay racked with pain and the despair of uselessness. I don’t get it. Well, maybe I do.
Is it that we don’t really believe the promises of Christ that to die is gain and to leave this life is to join Him in the next? I suppose upon His return we will have the evidence of His presence and we will be all in it together. The return itself being proof of the validity of the promise.
Death is more murky. Even if we trust the promises, we doubt we have completed the required checklist that assures that the promises apply to us. We scoff at the theology of once-saved-always-saved, but earnestly hope it is true. We demean the universalist, yet hope the love and forgiveness of God is broad enough to include us.
What we really need is the assurance of Paul that to live is Christ and to die is gain. With that assurance there is no fear. Lives of courage flow from such assurance. Yet such assurance eludes most of us. It ebbs and flows like the tides. In good times, we feel assured. When things go south, not so much.
It’s the central issue of the Christian life for which I wish I had the answer.