We of all people have reason to look forward to the future. That’s not to say we wish to hurry life along to it’s culmination. And looking forward to heaven doesn’t mean we want, to quote an elderly gentleman I heard once, to “get on the bus today.”
But we have a hope. Paul struggled through much of his life and during one lengthy imprisonment, wrote to some friends who had been sending him support to feed and clothe him while incarcerated. In that letter he was very confessional, and said “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far….”
Those were not the words of a despondent, hopeless suicide. It was not the words of a man who had given up on this life or who had lost reason for living. It was not a statement by a man with a death wish.
In fact, just before these verses Paul had said, “For to me to LIVE IS CHRIST, but to DIE IS GAIN….” (Philippians 1:21) He said, “I am torn (in a straight) between the two….”
When hope is secured, one may speak like that with assurance and confidence. Paul knew where he was going. He knew how the story ended. In fact, he had already been taken to the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12: 2) and seen things that should not be shared or spoken about while there.
He knew he was going to that place when the trials of this life were over. You know, it’s amazing how our hope in eternity affects life today. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”
Paul thought much of “the next world.” His plan was to go and I’m sure there were days that he wished the bus would hurry! But he stayed and served and wrote and taught and loved and even followed Jesus to a martyr’s death.
And precisely because he couldn’t wait for heaven, he changed his world.
So can we.
FOR MEMORIZATION: “For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
FOR REFLECTION: Can thinking about eternity for five minutes a day change how you live your life? If it did, would five minutes be worth it?