Who’s More Important? (originally posted January 19, 2011)

Picture the scene, based on Philippians 1:19-25. The Apostle Paul is imprisoned. In the midst of his incarceration, he knows he will be delivered: either out of his bonds or through death (see verse 20). Either way he wins. If he is released from prison, he will bear fruit for the kingdom in this life. If he dies, he gets to go and be with his Savior.

The words that Paul chooses almost sound as though God has offered him an option. “Which one do you want, Paul?” There is no question in Paul’s mind. First choice is heaven. He has apparently had enough of this life and caught a glimpse of what’s on the other side. He really wants to “depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (verse 23). However, he realizes there is still work he needs to do here on earth. He recognizes that his fellow-believers still need him here and now. So what does he do? He changes his answer. Talking directly to the Philippian believers Paul says that “to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (verses 24-25).

Paul is saying, “I really want to go home. But I know that you need me here, so I’ll stay.” What a selfless attitude! Later in the same letter Paul says, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). These were not just spiritual sounding words. Paul lived those words. He cared more for others than for his own well-being. Do we do that?

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