Which is best?

“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
Philippians 1:22-24 (NIV)

I well recall a senior citizen friend of mine who had a close encounter with death. Having enjoyed good health all his life, he suddenly and unexpectedly became gravely ill. The family and the rest of the Christian community prayed for my friend and he recovered.

Everyone was truly excited to have my friend back from the brink of death to enjoy us—and we him—for some more years. I recall my friend's own comment on his surprise recovery. He said, "Gordon, the Lord was so kind to spare me."

Now I knew what my friend meant, and yet a lingering thought haunted me for weeks after that conversation. My dear friend was a fine Christian and he had that great hope of being with Jesus when he passed from this life. Yet he was excited to be staying here.

Do you see the thought here that conflicted me for several weeks? Was God really "so kind to spare" my friend? Is that the Gospel truth? I think not!

What is it that causes Christians to avoid death as though death was a one way trip to hell itself? All through Scripture we see that the death of a believer is a glorious event that brings the individual into Paradise itself.

Those who die in Christ are the most blessed of all people. They have perfect freedom from the cruelty, the suffering, and all the other limitations of this life. Is this not better than to linger here?

Those of us who have parted from aging parents who died in Christ have been happy though sad, joyful yet tearful. We have no lack of understanding about the heavenly wonders they saw when they closed their eyes in death here.

Paul says, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NIV) However, as it is written: “'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived'—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God."

So the wonders of heaven, which are beyond imagination, have been revealed by the Holy Spirit to those who love God. Is it not true that if we really look long and hard on eternal things we shall get homesick for heaven?

I did not ask my elderly friend, "Which is best?", but I thought to myself that the Lord would have been kinder to him if He had taken my friend away from sickness and all the other problems of old age and given him the total freedom and joy of heaven itself.

You who have lost a loved one, can you comfort yourself with this knowledge that your sorrow now means your loved one's unbelievable joy and happiness?

The riddle of life is that death to this world for the believer is instant transport to the eternal joys and glory of heaven itself. Ask yourself today, "Which is best?" The correct answer will bring peace and comfort to your heart.

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