Go Read Philippians 1:21-26
<> Read it out loud and imagine that you are Paul writing this passage. Imagine that you are writing to a young church plant. What’s going through your brain? What effect do you want this passage to have on your audience?
<> Are you gaining depth of understanding as you read this passage over and over?
In vs. 23 Paul writes that he “desire[s] to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far”. This is not just some religious cliché Paul is throwing around. He claims that it would be better to leave this planet, his friends, his life, his churches and his work to be with Jesus. Not just better. Better by far.
The funny thing about this is that it is contrary to the very core of the deep-seeded human desire to survive at all costs. Ask an evolutionary biologist what the one single law of living organisms is and he’ll tell you, survival of the fittest. Ask a sociologist why impoverished and homeless people often act in socially deviant manners, and he’ll tell you he’s acting out of survival mode. We are wired to survive. Suicide is a psychologically impossible pill to swallow because it contradicts what may be the deepest of all goals: survival.
Paul seems to be defying the laws of nature. Facing his immediate possible death, he writes that he would rather die and be with Jesus. There are two options: 1.) Paul’s life isn’t all that good or 2.) Being with Jesus must be amazing. The problem with number one is that Paul’s all the time talking about how joyful he is.
<> Do you honestly believe that being with Jesus is better than all else?
<> What would change about your life if you began to make every decision through the grid of “will this choice get me more of Jesus?”
The Tension Caused by Our Deepest Desire
The truth is that Paul makes two interesting claims in this verse. The obvious one is that to him dying to be with Jesus is better by far than living. The second one is “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two”. Despite the fact that intimately being in the presence of Jesus would be better by far according to Paul, he is still torn. The way he addresses it is odd because he’s not really in control of whether he dies or not but he treats it as if he has a tough choice to make. It’s tearing him up.
<> When is the last time you got torn up thinking about your desire to be with Jesus that is in conflict with your very life?
<> What does this passage reveal about Paul as a person?
In this very honest and vulnerable passage, Paul reveals his deepest desire. Despite any personal desires he has, Paul’s deepest desire is to be with Jesus. Just to be with Him. It’s causing him tension as he considers other desires.
Can you imagine living in the freedom of being torn up about how equally good the options of dying and living are? If I die, I get intimacy with Jesus right now, and if I keep living I get to labor towards other people knowing Jesus right now. If you are a Christian then you have new deepest desires. There shouldn’t be any hesitation in you when considering the ultimate joy of being with Jesus in physical death. That is so much better that I’m almost walking in tension of whether or not I even want to keep living anymore.
<> How much do you desire to be with Jesus?
<> When you boil everything in your life down, what is your deepest desire?
<> What would have to change for Jesus to be your deepest desire? What’s getting in the way?