Paul, the author of the book of Philippians in the Bible, had to go through a lot of physical challenges (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). However, despite all of this, he still retained a “glass half-full” attitude. The way he saw it, he couldn’t lose – whether he remained alive, or if he was killed (dying of natural causes didn’t seem likely, given his history of making an impact in the world). Here’s what he wrote:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21 NASB
While Paul remained alive, he could serve Christ, and do the work he was called to perform here on earth. This included teaching and serving other people in ways that would not be possible in Heaven. But, Paul knew that the end of his mortal life on earth would result in a much more glorious life with God.
He expounds on this in subsequent verses:
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Philippians 1:22-26 NASB
While we may sometimes feel like we must choose between equally-unpleasant options, Paul’s situation was the opposite: he was sufficiently aware of his situation that he had two positive alternatives.
However, he could only appreciate this situation by choosing to be selfless, and caring about others, rather than only about himself. Had he been concerned only about his own well-being, it would be easy to ask God for a quick journey to the afterlife. But, Paul knew that there was more to following Jesus than the benefits he would receive in eternity.
While he served God on this earth, Paul knew that he had a divinely-ordained purpose, and that other souls (themselves each loved by God) could be blessed by his contributions. Even though the prospect of spending eternity with Jesus was something to look forward to (and probably something Paul wished would come soon), Paul’s love for other people allowed him to find value in remaining on earth.
For those whose sins have been covered by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice, our destiny in Heaven will be better than we can imagine. However, from our earthly viewpoints, we don’t always know where we will be called to serve next, nor how much work God has remaining for us before we are called to our eternal home.
May you find joy in your mission from God today, serving Him among others in ways that cannot be done from Heaven, even as you look forward to being in God’s presence for eternity…someday.
See also Nothing to Prove