A Verse That Exposes My Weaknesses
By David Ettinger
A Matter of Conviction
Becoming convicted about something can take decades. Such is the case with one particular verse of the Bible I have read numerous times, but never brought me to the point of self-examination while at the same time exposing my weaknesses.
The verse is Philippians 1:23: “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
A Closer Look
Let’s look at the setting for this verse. Paul, in a Roman prison and writing to the Church at Philippi, mentions his desire to glorify Jesus “in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). He follows this up by writing:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 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 (vv. 21-24).
What Paul is saying is that his deepest hope is to die and proceed immediately into the presence of Christ. However, he knows that the churches he has planted need him. So, personally, he prefers death in this life and to begin his new life, but he knows he still has a purpose here.
What hit me so hard about Paul’s proclamation is his resolution, faith, and love.
First, his resolution. Notice how utterly certain Paul is of what he wants. There is no desire to cling to his final allotted breath here on Earth. Rather, Paul wants Jesus. He knows that life with Christ will be glorious, and he wants it now!
Second, his faith. Paul absolutely believes in Jesus’ promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; John 14:3). Whereas most believers have at least an ounce of doubt, Paul has none. Jesus promised him eternal life, and Paul is ready to get on with the next phase of it!
Third, his love. To me, this is the most crucial. The primary reason Paul wants to be with Jesus is because he loves Him so much! Paul can’t stand to be away from Him. To Paul, if being with Jesus means death from this life right now, then so be it!
As I recently read this passage, I realized how extensive my weaknesses are.
How resolute am I to be with Jesus? Am I willing to say to Jesus, “Take me home, NOW, Lord; I want to worship at your feet!”
Instead, I choose to cling to this life with everything I’ve got. And how much faith am I exhibiting in Jesus’ promise of eternal life? Do I truly believe my soul will go to be with Him immediately, as He vowed, or am I harboring doubts?
And ultimately, how much do I really love Jesus? Do I love Him enough to die for Him? This is one of my most fervent prayers. “Lord,” I pray, “please give me a love for You which would inspire me to gladly and willingly die for you should the circumstances arise.” But how far I am from it!
I realize how short I fall from Paul’s attitude, and perhaps you feel the same. However, there is a point of balance.
In Chapter 2, Paul speaks about his fellow-worker Epaphroditus, who had fallen ill, but has recovered. Paul writes in verse 27: “Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.”
So yes, there is that point of human existence which finds it worthwhile to cling to life. As much as Paul wanted to die and be with Jesus, he certainly wasn’t wishing the same for Epaphroditus.
The Bottom Line
I suppose it all has to do with attitude. I don’t want to die yet, but I am concerned about the level of resolution to, faith in, and love of Christ I really possess.
I want to be at the point where Paul was, where I can say without hesitation: “Lord, I love you and will be honored to die for You right here and now if this is what You so will. Indeed Lord, I desire to depart and be with You.”
I am not there yet (and perhaps neither are you), but it is an attitude worth seeking.
David Ettinger was born and raised in a Jewish family in New York. After moving to New Mexico as an adult, he suffered through many trials. The nudge of the Holy Spirit caused him to examine his heart and in 1986 he surrendered his life to Jesus and has walked with Him ever since.
David holds a BA, and MA, in English from New Mexico State University. He began his journalism career writing for The Roundup, the university paper. After graduation he became the sportswriter for the El Paso Times. He has held many other positions as both writer and editor with major publications.
David is active in providing his skills with Zion’s Hope, Inc., in Winter Garden, Florida. His publications include Lifeway publications, Single Parent magazine (Focus on the Family), Zion’s Fire magazine, and Real Life magazine. In addition, he served as managing editor for Zion’s Fire and Real Life. David’s book, Overcomers: 30 Stories of Triumph from the Bible, is available online.
David is proud of his son and grandson.
Please read his testimony here:
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You’re not alone, David, I think we’ve all had those thoughts. And it’s not illogical, because none of us that are still living, have gone that way before. But there is peace, there is no fear, of what is on the other side of that door. I share your thoughts on the beauty of Paul’s statements. And God will supply all our needs, even there. Blessings brother.
I have to agree with you David AND Bruce. I just turned 70 and the last couple of years especially have been ones of longing for home. Though I have things to continue to do for the Lord as long as He is willing to use me, my desire is to be in our true home!! God Bless for this!!