Philippians 1:23-25 “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.”
One of the great gifts of God we don’t think about very much is a purpose. In serving others, whether our employers, or our families, or our church, or our neighbors, or our community, or our country, our lives find meaning. Some of us may feel like our lives have too much purpose, too much meaning. It is hard to keep up with all the demands that all the people around us put on our time and energy.
But that is why the Lord has chosen to leave us here for now. It is why he hasn’t taken us to heaven yet. He still has a purpose for us. He may well have many purposes. Paul understood this. The Lord hadn’t left him here for himself. “It is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” As he carried out his gospel work, he had come to see that his life was lived for Christ’s people.
For Paul life lived for God’s people resulted in “your progress and joy in faith.” As he wrote to these people, when he got out of prison and could see them again, his teaching and instruction moved them along the road to Christian maturity and strengthened the faith that would save them. That’s a high calling and purpose. It’s not hard to see why Christ’s choice for Paul would be to leave him here and let him live his life for the people he served.
Maybe we don’t feel so important, but that’s not true. Maybe you don’t see how your life is making such a difference. Maybe you aren’t a leader and teacher like Paul. The main way you serve others is by pressing keys on a computer keyboard, or changing diapers and keeping house, or making sure debits and credits all stay in balance, or selling stuff people could get by without. It pays the bills and puts food on the table, but it doesn’t seem to make a big difference, especially not in the kingdom of God.
Wrong. First of all, you have no idea how you fit in the Lord’s grand scheme of things. Your faithful work, no matter how ordinary and mundane it seems, might play a role in someone’s life that puts them in just the right time and place to hear the gospel. Without you and what you do, the chain of events would be different, and the opportunity missed. Second, even if what you do isn’t preaching the gospel directly, your hands are the hands God is using to love the people with whom you work, the people in your family, and everyone else with whom you come into contact. When I see that God is using what I do that way, then I come to see Christ’s choice for me in leaving me here to live my life for his people.
Author and motivational speaker Stephen Covey says that one of the secrets to success it to think “win-win.” It appears from Paul’s words here that he thought of it long before. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” It’s not really my choice. It’s Christ’s. May we glorify him either way.