Though we have both known quarantine, I know there’s no comparing my season of life today with that of the apostle Paul’s when he wrote to the Philippians.
I’ve been sheltering in place in a wonderful house, free to leave as I like, go where I want, and pretty much keep working as normal. But the work is harder work. The spiritual battle seems a little more intense. The emotional toll seems to be a bit more emotional. And this somewhat solitary way of doing the day to day is getting somewhat old. What’s more, though I’ve dutifully managed my “bubble”, I continue to monitor the social carnage around me from things outside of my control. From new things that have been with us for just a few months, like COVID, and from old things that have been with us for way too long, like systemic racism. And it results in a heaviness and a weariness. And, I realize this morning, a certain identification with Paul.
But, like I said, no comparison, really. Paul’s quarantine wasn’t self-imposed, unless you consider that Paul knew his appeal to have his case heard before Caesar came with certain probable consequences. Self-imposed or not, while Paul could see how his “imprisonment for Christ” was really serving to “advance the gospel” (Php 1:12-13), you sense it’s getting old for him too. Multiple missionary journeys. Intense persecution. Spiritual battles. Physical beatings. His desire for God’s people, emotionally draining. And so, even as he encourages the saints at Philippi to stand firm in the faith, and strive side by side for the gospel (1:27), because that’s what he intends to do, he can’t help but desire that time when things will be far better.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
(Philippians 1:21-24 ESV)
Far better vs. more necessary. Paul was hard pressed by his desire for the one and his duty to the other. Felt the internal tug-of-war of wanting to move on and be with Christ, while knowing that staying put would benefit his brothers and sisters. And I’m wondering if it’s because of the far better that Paul was able to hang in there and keep on keepin’ on attending to the more necessary.
To live is Christ. Ah, but to die is gain. To depart and be with Christ is better to the nth degree. Far better!
Thinking that taking time to meditate on the far better can help with mustering again the effort needed to get up and get at ‘er with the more necessary. That, in fact, to be heavenly minded can do so much for earthly good. That to keep our heads in the clouds, as it were, really can be useful in keeping our head in the game and our feet on the ground.
It’s the prize we press on for. The ultimate rest we work for. That day when faith gives way to sight. When we depart and are with our Savior. And that really will be far better.
. . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1b-2 ESV)
The Founder and Perfecter of our faith also knew quarantine (think “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”). And for what purpose? For the joy that was set before Him. The far better. Jesus despised the shame and the difficulty of the more necessary, enduring the cross, that He might prepare the way, and promise the day, when those bought through His blood, when those grown by His grace, would stand before the throne where He is seated at the right hand of God Almighty.
And that, my friends, will be far better!
I can only imagine!
Because of grace. For His glory.