I have been thinking about what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-26.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit for my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
Though I am no Paul, and my circumstances are somewhat different, I feel some of the tension that he must have felt - he longed to die and to see His Savior face-to-face. This is the "gain" he speaks of in dying. I know that if I die, I have the confidence that comes from being "in Christ" - having a genuine personal relationship with Him . . . Paul expresses this confidence in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8:
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith., not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Paul often refers to his life, the life of being a follower of Christ, as being "in Christ." He is in Christ and Christ in Him. As MacArthur says: "For Paul, life is summed up in Jesus Christ; Christ was his reason for being . . . Death would relieve him of earthly burdens and let him focus totally on glorifying God . . . Paul knew that if he died he would have complete, conscious, intimate, unhindered fellowship with his Lord."
Paul's tension was between his desire to be with the Lord and his desire to remain and help build the church. While I cannot even pretend to equate my ministry to Paul, I have a desire to remain and do all I can to encourage my good friends and brothers in Christ - couples such as the Woodalls and Wolfes (and others) - who are laboring daily to build up the saints and answering God's call to build His church. More so, I have a desire to be here for my family - to do more to help strengthen their faith, to teach them the things that I am learning, to encourage them to live whole-heartedly for Christ.
At the same time, I am confident that, when I am gone, all will go well without me. God's work will continue. My family will have the care and encouragement they need.
Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthian 5:9,
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
This is our motivation for making a prior determination to please the Lord. Each day that I wake up, I pray that the way I use my time, the way that I interact with those that God places into my life - family, friends, even strangers - is well pleasing to the Lord. And I pray that I leave behind a legacy that is well pleasing to the Lord as well. That, as Steve Green sings, all who come behind [me] find [me] faithful.
It is now a little after 1 p. My wife, older son and I have just experienced a very emotional time as my body is showing signs of weakening. The two of them have ministered to my needs lovingly and patiently, but I know that it is difficult for them to see me in such pain and discomfort. These times are also a reminder that they will soon have to deal with the reality of my passing - and that I will not be able to provide them with encouragement through it - but I remind them that the Lord Himself will be with them. He will walk with them through the process. And He has already provided friends and family for that support.