21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for you sake. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Paul brings two options to the table: life or death.
If death? To dwell in Christ’s presence. A reality that Paul considers much better than life on earth (v. 23b). If life? To be given fruitful labor (v. 22a) benefiting the saints (v. 24). A reality that Paul considers lesser than being present with Christ, but necessary (v. 25-26). It is necessary that he remains on the earth for two primary reasons: 1) for the saints’ progress in the faith, 2) for the saints’ joy in the faith. Progress and Joy – two glorious reasons to continue to run this race. Though I long to see Christ and the fulfillment of promised glorification, I will continue my pilgrimage on this earth for my brothers’ progress and joy. Great humility!
But here, Christ is ultimately the all-important thing to Paul. Though Paul decides that he will stay on the earth, he admits that the greater joy for him would be to be present with Christ. Who is this Christ, that Paul is so enamored with? What is so splendid about this Christ, that Paul is willing to reject life and brave death in order to see face-to-face? It is this Christ:
1) Christ, the reason and purpose for living (v. 19-20; Gal. 2:20)
2) Christ, the hope and peace from death (v. 21; Rom. 8:38-39; 2 Cor. 4:14)
3) Christ, the prize greater than living (v. 23; Phil. 3:1-11)
4) Christ, the basis for confidence (v. 26; 1 Cor. 15:58; Eph. 2:6-7)
If life meant for Paul wealth, power, self-gratification and the like, then death would loom in front of him with terror. But life for him means Christ. He is one with his Lord. And he knows that death itself cannot break that union, it can only make it more complete… Paul has sought to convince them that death has no terror for him; that, on the contrary, it is pure gain.
– Rev. H. A. A. Kennedy, D.Sc.
Is Christ a reality to you, in such a way that you find your purpose for breathing in Him? Is He your motivation? Is your love for Him the reason why you do what you do, or is it your sense of obligation to Him?
Is Christ a reality to you, in such a way that the thought of sharp pain beneath your rib-cage – death – is drowned out by the hope and peace that awaits you when indeed you finally meet Him face-to-face?
Is Christ a reality to you, in such a way that the life you are living – the Bible knowledge, wealth, family, friends, free-time, sleep – looks like crap compared to the greater prize which is knowing and seeing Christ? (also Phil. 3:1-11)
Is Christ a reality to you, in such a way that in all you do – no matter how fiercely man sends forth opposition – you have the utmost confidence in your mission, simply because Christ is your reason for believing?
Is Christ a reality to you?