by R.C. Sproul on Youversion
Good Versus Far Better
Jonathan Edwards once commented that no pilgrim en route to a glorious and exotic place will take up permanent residence at an inn along the way. Yes, the pilgrim is glad to have a resting place during his journey, but as soon as possible he is on his way again, drawn by eager anticipation of the joys that await him at his destination. Edwards’ point, of course, is that Christians are to emulate this pilgrim. Sadly, however, believers tend to take too much pleasure in their temporary accommodations and allow themselves to be distracted from pressing on toward their final destination (heaven). The solution, as Edwards suggests, is for Christians to keep in mind that while the accommodations may be good, the destination is far better.
Paul displays this outlook. Writing to the Philippians from prison, he confides that he is unsure of what is going to happen to him. It very well may be, he says, that he will be put to death. On the other hand, he might be set free. But this uncertainty really means nothing, he says, because either outcome will represent a “deliverance” and will magnify Christ. Thus, he is absolutely serene about his future. For Paul, to live on “is Christ.” In other words, Christ is his one consuming idea, his one passion in life. He is focused on Christ and on serving Him to the full. But he has no fear that death will spell the end of that passionate pursuit. Indeed, his fellowship with Christ will be enhanced by death. “To die is gain,” he proclaims. His only ambivalence has to do with the Philippians. It is “needful” that he continue ministering among them; he truly wants to be there for them. But death would be “far better” for him, for it would usher him into the presence of Christ, where he most wants to be.
Obviously it was a good thing for Paul to live and minister among the Philippians. But going on to heaven, he said, would be “far better.” By comparison, there was no comparison. Nothing in the world could entice him to stay if heaven beckoned. This is the attitude that every Christian should have. Instead of seeing death as a loss, as the loss, we should understand that it would be boundlessly better to exchange the temporal, limited glories of this world for the ageless, boundless glories of heaven, where dwells the lover of our souls, the Triune God. The inn is just an inn; the Celestial City lies ahead.
CORAM DEO Living before the face of God
If you were told that you would die without pain tonight, would you be excited? Obviously you would have pangs at the thought of leaving your loved ones and of the sorrow your death would bring them. But you would be about to see heaven! As we study the joys that await believers, pray that God will help you see heaven as “far better.”
for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.Philippians 1:19-26