“I am hard pressed between living and dying. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23)
Are you eager to die? That probably sounds like an absurd question. After all most people assume the whole point of life is to avoid death and live as long as possible. That idea is partially true. We should take care of ourselves and not live reckless and pointless lives. But surprisingly enough, we should have a bit of a death wish. Not because we are miserable and wish to avoid suffering, but because our desires for Christ should so far exceed our desires for anything this life offers that we long to be with him forever.
The Apostle Paul seemed to wrestle with this more than most. He was literally torn between staying on earth and serving Christ; or dying and being with Christ. We desperately need to emulate Paul’s mindset and see our lives as something to be spent for God’s Glory and Christ’s kingdom. And we should rejoice at the thought of our Lord calling us home when our service on earth is complete.
This type of mindset will only be accomplished if we daily fight to loosen ourselves more and more from the enslavements of this temporal world. In many ways this is why God ordains so much suffering for us. It loosens us from the world and drives us to him as we are frequently reminded that this world is passing and true joy only comes from an eternal relationship with him.
Please don’t misunderstand me; the day of our death should be God’s call rather than ours. He decides when our service ends, not us. But with that said, a healthy death wish should be the ultimate goal of all true Christians. Though this might sound insane to the world, Christians are not of this world. Our true home resides in Heaven from where we “await a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.” (Philippians 3: 20)
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23)
In the Bible, Jesus warns his followers that there will be a price paid for following him. When we suffer for being Christians, our typical reaction is surprise. Yet when we examine the life of our Lord we should not be surprised at all. He was persecuted. He was mocked. In fact he was killed.
The Apostles and early Christians who followed Christ were likewise often persecuted, mocked, and many were killed. So what has changed in our day? Very little if you look at Christianity worldwide. Although persecution in America may not be at a fever pitch right now, it is in other countries. It’s been said that the 20th century produced more Christian martyrs than all previous centuries combined. Christians are killed every day, just for being Christians. Christians are persecuted. Christians are mocked, just for being Christians. Have you faced any persecution lately? Or perhaps and better question would be: does anyone around you even know you’re a Christian? Do you speak of Christ? Do you act like Christ? Are you actively seeking to follow Christ with your life? If so, then there will be times at which you will suffer at the hands of others because of it. The persecution may be mild in comparison to others, but it will be there nonetheless.
And when it comes, don’t be sad. In fact, Jesus says to rejoice because your reward is great. What better situation could there be than to realize someone hates you…because you love Jesus.
If Christ is not Lord of your life, I encourage you to turn from your sin and place your faith in him today. Don’t fear persecution. In fact you can embrace it. But only if Christ is truly Lord of your life and the Holy Spirit indwells you giving you the daily strength to follow your Lord and suffer for his Name’s sake.