By James Metsger
I took my daughter out for a milkshake the other day. I asked her what flavor she wanted and laid out the options: Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry. Cookies ‘n Cream. Then I immediately removed vanilla from the list because that’s boring. Sorry, vanilla lovers. Truth hurts. I looked at her in the rearview mirror and gave her the new, updated list. Chocolate. Strawberry. Cookies ‘n Cream. She froze, unable to decide. I knew chocolate wasn’t her first choice, so I narrowed it down to two. Ok, sweet pea, strawberry or cookies ‘n cream? She smiled and said, “I can’t decide. You pick.”
Faced with two appealing options, my daughter couldn’t choose. In these verses, Paul also faced two options, two ways out of this situation. And he just couldn’t decide which was better. Option A: I want Christ to be honored in my life. That’s a good option. Paul saw the value in continuing on in ministry to the Philippian church. He called it fruitful labor. I too want my days to count and desire to make the most of my God-given ministry, so this option I can understand completely. Option B: Death. Amazingly enough, he declared, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ. That is far better” (v. 23). Paul honestly sees “Option B” as being better than “Option A”. How can death be better?
I must admit I’m partial to the “fruitful ministry” option. I can empathize with his desire to continue on with the Philippians to help further their “progress and joy in the faith” (v. 25). That is undoubtedly a worthy desire, but Paul recognized an even greater longing. Death. Death is a harder desire to embrace. At least it is for me. Paul seemed further along. In fact, he went so far as to say, “It is far better.” Far better? Really, Paul? How?
For a Christ-follower, death is better because it results in living in the presence of Jesus.
He writes about it in Romans 8:18 when he says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” What we have waiting for us after death is glorious. We will see the face of Jesus in a place that needs no light because the glory of God and the Lamb, who is the lamp, will flood it with warmth and light. For Paul, this Jesus is better than life. Jesus is better than money, sex, success, comfort, or kids. He’s better than your most worthy pursuits and your most selfless deeds. He’s better than anything or anyone this life has to offer. Whatever your biggest and greatest dream might be, Jesus is better. To live here on earth and have fruitful ministry is good. But to die and be with Jesus is far better. Either way, it’s a win-win.
What does “fruitful ministry” look like for you?
Pray and ask God to help you see that life with Jesus is “far better” than anything this life has to offer.