Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Great Reward

Paul said  "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
People have always asked me why I talk about Heaven so much. Why do I seem so excited about going there? This is one of my favourite verses because it sums up the way I feel perfectly. So many people and yes, even Christians, view death as the booby prize, certainly not a reward. But Paul knew that death is a reward and I tend to agree with him. I believe in praying for the sick, because we are taught in Scripture to do so, but I think it is even more important to pray for God's will to be done. I believe that sometimes God chooses to bless a sick person with the great reward of being with Him instead of healing them and making them live here on this earth even longer still separated from Him. 

When Jesus was in the garden before His crucifixion, He prayed  “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me. But I want your will, not mine.” 
Matthew 26:39. Even Jesus asked to have His trial taken from Him but more importantly He prayed for God's will to be done. We may not want to go through the process of death but according to Paul 'to live is Christ and to die is gain'. 
You don't have to be a seminary graduate to understand this little verse. Its simply stated but to apply this verse in your life does require faith and commitment and listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It means that your eyes are not on the temporary but on the permanent. 
Jesus had become everything to Paul. Paul didn't need anything or anyone else in his life. He was completely saturated with love for the Lord Jesus Christ and his only desire was to live for Him and eventually live with Him.  Paul lived to please Christ. He told others about Him. He preached the gospel. He lived his life in such a way as to bring honor and glory to God. Nothing else mattered to Paul but Christ.
But Paul didn't only speak of living for Christ but he said that to die was gain. In other words to die was a reward. To gain something means to get something better. Paul knew that when he died he would see his Saviour face to face and live with Him eternally. Wow! That IS a reward. 
In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Paul tells us why. “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Did you see that word 'prefer'? He said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord! Oh my! How contrary that is to our thinking sometimes! 
We live in a world where we do everything we can to prevent aging and eventual death. The beauty industry with its skin creams and anti wrinkle creams is a multi-million dollar industry. We are afraid of growing old. We're afraid of death. But for the child of God, death is a reward, the great reward!
 I can imagine Paul yearning to be with the Lord, thinking along the lines of “Oh to be in the presence of the Lord my God, the One who loves me so much that He died for ME and pardoned all my sins and saved me from eternal death even though I don't deserve it”!
Do you see what I mean?  Is it better to be down here on Earth or up there in Heaven with the Lord Jesus and God the Father? If you have to think for a moment about YOUR answer to this question, then you need to examine yourself, your faith and where your heart is in relation to the Lord. As Christians, our desire should be for the Lord, to be with Him. BUT, that does not mean that we sit back and do nothing while we are here on Earth. Like Paul, we are meant to build an intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus and to live out that life outwardly in words, thoughts, actions, attitude, service – because we love Jesus.
Does it mean that like Paul,we SHOULD not raise a family or enjoy a good career or have hobbies or whatever else that Paul denied? No, that’s not what the Scriptures are talking about here. BUT, if those blessings become so important to us, that we are consumed by those desires and our efforts to pursue them and it gets in the way of our relationship with the Lord Jesus, loving Him and serving Him out of that love, that we begin to want to stay on Earth and live longer for those reasons, THEN it is a BIG PROBLEM that needs to be dealt with! If Earthly things begin to make you want to stick around longer and to enjoy what this world has to offer, then you need to rethink who you are and your relationship with Christ! Why? Because God has a purpose and a plan for you and wants to use you while you are here on Earth! God makes this clear in Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
While we are here on Earth, we can make plans and serve the Lord but our eyes should be on the great reward: being with Jesus in Heaven. 
So, 'to live is Christ' means that while we are alive and here on Earth, we pursue the Lord with a passion and serve Him because of our relationship with Him, ensuring that every other area of our life (family, work, relationships, hobbies etc..) is directly influenced by that relationship we have with Him.
 And 'to die is gain' means that even though we have the opportunity to pursue the Lord and enjoy all these wonderful blessings from Him here on Earth, we must not hold on to everything so tight that we wouldn’t want to leave (depart/die) and join the Lord Jesus in Heaven! We must be eager for that day to come so that we can be with Him, because we love Him and He loves us dearly. We should prefer being there with Him rather than being here on earth. We are only here on this earth such a short period of time in the scope of all eternity, so we need to make every minute here on earth count for Him and someday we will receive the greatest reward and will spend eternity with Him. 

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