Phil. 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 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. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Much of this post is my condensed versions of "Dying Thoughts"- "what is desirable in this present life" by Richard Baxter. I was very encouraged and I hope you are as well and I also hope that I am clear in my interpretation and re-delivery.
Paul lays out in this passage something I think about often. We are to number our days and we are to think about the prize of Heaven. He is weighing 1 against the other and considers that the prize is the best, but he also is torn between the 2. Not that he thinks earth itself may be better than Heaven, but that the 2 options are both good; but good for different reasons. Heaven is better because it is the end to which we are striving; eternal joy and perfection with Christ. To live on earth is to live on to do the work has called us to do; to think about Christ's interest, rather than his own. This is the ultimate in delayed gratification. The end is worth the wait. Everything has its season and harvest doesn't come unless planting is done first. Planting, in and of itself, is not necessarily joyous work, but with the harvest in mind it is joyous. Why would we plant if we knew we would never sow? We wait with great anticipation for the harvest, but we know we must first sow.
Heaven is won or lost on earth. The possession is there, but the preparation is there. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith", comes before "there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing". Christ's will is for us to do the work that He has planned for us to do. We don't get the reward until we finish. The reward will be amazing, but we must labor and fight and run before we can attain the prize.
We are to work out our own salvation, but we are also to be making disciples along the way. While we are here we are to be concerned for our own souls and also for the souls of others. How will they here without a preacher and how will they hear if the preachers are all in Heaven? We must be about our Father's business while He leaves us here.
I believe that most people think less about Heaven than they ought, because Heaven is our home and we are strangers here. But even though Heaven will be amazing when we arrive, we must still travel through this life to get there. When, on a long trip headed home, home is a delightful thought, but there is still the journey to get there and if we are not thinking about the journey we can be tripped up, no pun intended. Today you can get lost in the airport, stuck in security, rerouted, delayed, flight canceled and so many other things, but it is the journey and the end is what we are looking toward, but the delight is supposed to also be in the journey.
We must be thankful for the measure of health we have while in our earthly tents. If we are very healthy we are able to serve w/o bodily hindrances, but may also be more susceptible to wandering because we can quickly lose sight of our dependence on God. If, while we are in our tents, we are not given great health we are also to be thankful, as this does remind us of how dependent we are on God. It also should make us more thankful when, and if, we do regain our health. When we see death right around the corner, we are not easily distracted by the things of this earth.
The Prize will come when the time is right and eternity is long enough to enjoy it. So for now we must be doing the work that God has ordained for us to do from eternity past, and when He is ready to take us home, then we will have joy in that day that we could never imagine, here on earth. Until then, we must try to bring as many souls into Heaven with us; that is our Father's business that we are to be about. Jesus was not here on earth because it was such a great place to vacation, but because He had work to do here. He had tilling and planting and watering and weeding to do before the harvest. He came to suffer and die and be our sacrifice and now He waits for His Bride.
If, while I am here on earth,
"my God shall supply all my needs according to His riches" and,
if He knows the number of hairs on my head and,
if He knows the number of my days and,
if He He is the Rewarder of those who seek Him and,
if He has ordained all my work for me to do,
Then I am in a great place to "win" whether I am here on earth or with Him in Heaven. Either way I am where He would have me and I should be doing exactly what He wants me to do right where I am. I need to fill my days with His work, with joy, and let Him decide when my work here is finished.
This is really a freeing thought. He will give us every measure of health we are to have to carry out the work He has for us to do. If we have less health, then He knows we will not be able to do all the things we would have been able to do if we were completely healthy; He knows. He supplies all we need to do the tasks He has planned for us to do. He keeps our calendar perfectly, so if we are "delayed" He must have some divine appointment for us to meet. He provides all things for us, so if we are being good stewards of what He has provided we will have everything we need to complete the work He has for us. When He decides it is time for us to go Home, then He will perfectly provide the way. There is no fear in death when the Prize is Heaven. There is no dread in life when the work is the Father's. For me to live is Christ, and His will, and to die is gain.